A green card through marriage to a United States citizen is the most common way to become a lawful permanent resident. The spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative”. This means that there is no limit on the number of people who can obtain green cards through marriage to US citizens.
A marriage-based green card can also be a quick way to become a permanent resident in the United States. As a result, the marriage green card process has been prone to fraud by certain individuals that feign or “fake” a marriage to gain immigration benefits. Therefore, getting a green card through marriage is closely scrutinized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). As a part of the application process, you’ll need to prove that you have a real, or bona fide marriage.
The basic steps involved in obtaining a green card based on marriage are as follows:
Establish the Marriage Relationship (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative)
The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident sponsor files this form with USCIS, along with the necessary supporting documents, including a marriage certificate and proof that the marriage is bona fide (e.g., joint bank accounts, joint leases or mortgages, photos together, etc.). A filing fee is required. If the spouse has already entered the U.S. lawfully, he/she can file a Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) at the same time and get a green card without having to leave the U.S.
Wait for Approval
USCIS will review the submitted package. If approved, USCIS will send an approval notice.
Apply for a Green Card (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status or DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application)
The next step depends on where the foreign spouse is currently living:
- If they are living in the U.S. (having entered legally), they can file Form I-485 to adjust their status to a permanent resident without leaving the U.S.
- If they are living abroad, they would go through consular processing. This typically involves filing a DS-260 application for an immigrant visa, attending an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and entering the U.S. with the immigrant visa.
Attend Biometrics Appointment
After filing Form I-485, the foreign spouse will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where fingerprints are taken for criminal background checks.
Attend the Interview
Both spouses will generally be required to attend an interview at a USCIS office or, in the case of consular processing, at a U.S. embassy or consulate. At this interview, a USCIS officer will ask questions to confirm the validity of the marriage and the eligibility for the green card. You and your spouse will be asked a variety of questions during the interview process. These questions will primarily attempt to validate the authenticity of your relationship. The list below contains some examples of the types of questions they might ask, but keep in mind that the actual questions may vary:
- Basic Information:
- How did you meet each other?
- When and where did you get married?
- Can you describe your wedding ceremony?
- How long have you been married?
- Information about your relationship:
- What do you like the most about your spouse?
- What do you like the least about your spouse?
- How do you resolve disagreements or arguments?
- What was the last disagreement you had and how was it resolved?
- Living situation:
- Can you describe the layout of your home?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms does your house have?
- Who does the household chores?
- What is the color of your spouse’s toothbrush?
- Shared activities and inter