A green card through marriage to a US citizen is the most common way to become a permanent resident. The spouse of a US citizen is an “immediate relative”. There is no limit on the number of people who can obtain a green card through marriage to US citizens. The US citizen starts the process by submitting a form I-130 visa petition on behalf of his/her spouse. If the spouse entered the US lawfully, he/she can file for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) at the same time. He/she can get a green card without having to leave the US.

If the marriage is less than two years old when the green card is granted, it will expire in two years. The couple must submit a form I-751 joint petition during the 90-day period prior before the expiration of the green card. This way, the foreign-born spouse can obtain a ten-year green card.

Please see our video about How to Obtain a Green Card Through Marriage before you submit any paperwork to the USCIS. If you have a two-year green card, but get divorced, see our video I-751 Waiver Where Marriage Ends in Divorce.

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Green Card Through Marriage is divided into the following subtopics:
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Procedure if Spouse Legally Entered the US


The US citizen must submit a visa petition (Form I-130) to prove that the marriage is bona fide. The foreign-born spouse should file an adjustment of status application (I-485 packet) together with the I-130.

Attach the following items to the I-130: (1) Proof of the citizenship status of the U.S. citizen (A U.S. Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen’s birth certificate); (2) A certified copy of your marriage certificate; and (3) Certified copies of the documents that ended any previous marriages of you or your spouse. These may be final divorce decrees and/or certificates of annulment or death.

Include the following items with the I-485: (1) Photographs; (2) Affidavit of Support (Form I-864); (3) Application for an EAD work permit (Form I-765); and (4) An Advance Parole travel permit (Form I-131).

Don’t forget to include a check for USCIS filing fees ($535 for the I-130 and $1,225 for the I-485 packet). The USCIS will accept your application for a green card through marriage, cash your check and issue you a receipt. After about six months, they will issue an EAD work permit and an AP travel document. It may take over one year for USCIS to schedule you interview. We link to the USCIS Processing Times for all 80+ District and Sub-Offices.

Procedure if Spouse is Outside the US

The process begins when the US citizen spouse submits a visa petition to the USCIS. The same items which are listed above should be attached to the I-130 form plus $535 for government filing fees.

Once the I-130 is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a packet from the US National Visa Center (NVC). The packet will list various documents which must be submitted to the NVC (e.g., passport, police clearances, results of medical examinations, etc.). The packet also includes certain forms which must be completed. A check for $445 is required. Usually, the foreign-born spouse is interviewed and granted an immigrant visa within a few months of your submission of the required documents to the NVC.

Green Card Through Marriage: Additional Resources