What is a marriage green card?
A “marriage green card” refers to the lawful permanent residency status (also known as a green card) obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). It is one of the ways individuals can obtain the legal right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.
When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen or an LPR, they may be eligible to apply for a green card based on their marriage relationship. This process allows the foreign national spouse to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., which grants them many of the rights and privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens, including the ability to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, travel freely, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship, if eligible.
Here’s an overview of the process to obtain a marriage green card:
- Petition (Form I-130): The U.S. citizen or LPR spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the qualifying relationship between the petitioner and the foreign national spouse.
- Priority Date: Once the I-130 petition is approved, the foreign national spouse is assigned a “priority date,” which is used to determine their place in line for a visa number.
- Visa Availability: The availability of visa numbers depends on the relationship category (immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have unlimited visa numbers) and the foreign national spouse’s home country.
- Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or Consular Processing: If a visa number is immediately available, the foreign national spouse can either file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, if they are already in the U.S., or go through “consular processing” if they are outside the U.S. The I-485 application is the final step to obtain the green card.
- Biometrics and Interview: If applying from within the U.S., the foreign national spouse will attend a biometrics appointment and, in many cases, an interview at a USCIS office. The interview aims to verify the authenticity of the marriage and assess the eligibility of the applicant.
- Conditional vs. Unconditional Green Card: If the marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, the foreign national spouse will receive a “conditional” green card valid for two years. They must apply to remove these conditions within the 90-day period before the card expires.
- Permanent Green Card: If the marriage is more than two years old at the time of approval, the foreign national spouse will receive an “unconditional” green card valid for 10 years. This card can be renewed.
It’s important to note that the process can vary based on individual circumstances, and there are eligibility requirements and documentation involved. If you’re considering applying for a marriage green card, it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or refer to official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resources to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.
How much does it cost to apply for a marriage green card?
The cost of marriage green card in the United States can vary depending on several factors, including the specific forms you need to file, whether you’re adjusting status from within the U.S. or going through consular processing, and whether you’re applying for a conditional or unconditional green card.USCIS fees are subject to change, so it’s important to check the official USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information before submitting your application.
Here’s a breakdown of the typical fees associated with applying for a marriage-based green card:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) Filing Fee: This is the fee to file the petition that establishes the qualifying relationship between the U.S. citizen or LPR petitioner and the foreign national spouse. The fee for Form I-130 is $535.
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) Filing Fee: This fee is for the application to adjust status to lawful permanent resident. The fee for Form I-485 is $1,140 for applicants aged 14-78. There is also a separate fee of $85 for biometrics (fingerprinting).
- Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) Filing Fee: If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, you will need to file Form I-751 to remove the conditions on your green card. The fee for Form I-751 is $680.
- Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) Processing Fee: The sponsoring U.S. citizen or LPR spouse needs to submit Form I-864 to demonstrate financial support for the foreign national spouse. There is no specific filing fee for Form I-864; however, there might be a fee associated with Form I-864A if required.
- Medical Examination and Vaccination Costs: As part of the green card application process, you will need to undergo a medical examination conducted by a designated civil surgeon. The cost of the medical examination can vary but is typically several hundred dollars.
- Optional Forms and Costs: Depending on your circumstances, you might need to file additional forms, such as Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) or Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document). These forms can have separate filing fees.
Remember that USCIS fees can change, so it’s important to check the USCIS website or contact USCIS directly to verify the current fee amounts before submitting your application. Additionally, if you’re going through consular processing, there may be fees associated with the visa application at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Consulting with an immigration attorney can also help you understand the complete cost structure and potential additional expenses.
Tips on reducing the cost of a marriage green card application
Reducing the cost of a marriage green card application can be beneficial, especially considering the various fees involved in the process. Here are some tips to help you manage costs while navigating the application:
- Understand the Fee Structure: Familiarize yourself with the USCIS fee schedule and the specific forms you need to file. This will help you plan for the expenses and avoid any surprises.
- Submit Accurate and Complete Forms: Avoid errors on your application forms, as mistakes can lead to rejections and additional fees. Double-check all information and consider seeking professional guidance if needed.
- Bundle Forms: If you’re eligible to submit multiple forms (e.g., I-130, I-485, I-765, and I-131), consider submitting them together. This can reduce the number of separate fees you need to pay.
- Fee Waivers: Some applicants may be eligible for fee waivers based on financial hardship. Check the USCIS website for details and eligibility criteria.
- Check Eligibility for Low-Income Programs: Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for certain low-income programs that can help offset application costs.
- Avoid Unnecessary Forms: Review the application requirements carefully to ensure you’re not submitting unnecessary forms that don’t apply to your situation.
- Self-Preparation: While hiring an immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance, if you’re confident in your ability to understand the application process and requirements, you can choose to prepare your forms yourself to save on attorney fees.
- Timely Filing: Make sure to submit your applications within the specified timeframes to avoid potential delays and additional costs.
- Gather Documentation: Collect all necessary supporting documents before starting the application process. This can help prevent delays and additional costs associated with requesting missing documents later.
- Submit a Complete Package: Ensure that your application package is complete, including all necessary forms, fees, and supporting documents. Incomplete packages can result in additional time and fees.
- Avoid Delays: Follow USCIS instructions carefully and respond promptly if you’re asked for additional information or documents.
- Consider Consular Processing: If applicable, compare the costs of adjusting status within the U.S. versus consular processing. Depending on your circumstances, one option might be more cost-effective.
- Prioritize I-751 Removal of Conditions: If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, be prepared for the additional cost of filing Form I-751 to remove conditions on your green card.
- Explore Payment Options: USCIS accepts various payment methods. Choose the one that best suits your situation.
- Plan for Medical Exam: If required, budget for the medical examination, which is a necessary component of the green card application process.
Remember that investing in accurate and timely applications can prevent additional expenses in the long run. If you’re uncertain about any aspect of the process, seeking advice from an immigration attorney can provide peace of mind and help you avoid costly mistakes.