Are you about to apply for a marriage green? If so, you’ve probably heard that the green card process can be expensive.
But first, we would like to congratulate you on your marriage! This is a huge step, and we ensure you that you are at the right place to look for the information you need about applying for a green card through marriage so you can continue realizing your life plans.
Here, we will discuss costs for applying for a marriage-based green card that primarily includes application fees, attorney fees, a medical exam fee, and more.
If, after reading, you feel that you have many other questions that are not answered here, or you couldn’t find more about it on our blog, be free to contact us at any time. We support our clients in all phases of the green card application process.
Green Card- Short Overview
In the U.S., there are two categories of visas for foreign nationals: immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. An immigrant visa is for foreigners who intend to live permanently in the United States, and nonimmigrant visas are for those who intend to enter the United States temporarily.
A green card through marriage allows a U.S. citizen spouse to live and work in the United States. Having a green card or a Permanent Resident Card will ensure your spouse “a lawful permanent resident” status until they decide to apply for U.S. citizenship, which they can do after three years.
Are You Eligible for A Green Card?
The first thing to check is whether you are genuinely eligible to go this procedural route. Being physically in the U.S. and technically eligible for permanent residence is not necessarily enough.
If you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a green card as an “immediate relative.” If you are currently in the U.S., to be eligible for a Green Card as an immediate relative, you have to meet the following requirements:
Inspected and Admitted or Inspected and Paroled
To be eligible to adjust status, you have to be physically present in the United States. Also, you have to be “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by U.S. government officials when entered the state. There are some exceptions to this requirement that you can find more about in USCIS Policy Manual.
Eligibility to Receive an Immigrant Visa
We already mentioned that to be eligible, you have to be inspected and admitted, or inspected and paroled into the U.S. to receive an immigrant visa and be physically present in the United States. Besides, your presence is required at the time you file your Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
At the time you file your Form I-485, an immigrant visa is immediately available to you.
Bars to Adjustment
There are cases when an immigrant may be barred from adjusting status. It depends on how the immigrant entered the United States or committed a particular act or violation of immigration law.
If one or more bars to adjustment listed in section 245(c) apply to you, you cannot apply for permanent residence or adjust status. More about this you can see in the Manual we mentioned above, as well.
Applying Under INA 245(i)
You may be able to adjust status under INA section 245(i) even if you are subject to one or more adjustment bars and are therefore ineligible for adjustment of status under INA section 245(a). See the separate Instructions for Form I-485 Supplement A, Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i) (PDF, 559.26 KB) for more information.
Grounds of Inadmissibility
To get a Green Card, you must be admissible to the United States. Reasons for inadmissibility are listed in INA 212(a) and are called grounds for inadmissibility.
As the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, some of the listed grounds will appeal to you.
If you are inadmissible, you may apply for a waiver or other forms of relief. USCIS may approve your green card application if a waiver or other form of relief is granted, and you are otherwise eligible.
Marriage Green Card Cost
According to the phases of the process and costs you need to have in mind, we divided green cards expenses into the following categories:
- Government Filing Fees
- Attorney’s Fees
- Adjustment of Status Medical Exam Fee
- Postage to Mail Adjustment of Status Application to USCIS
- Immigration Photos
- Costs of Travel
You can also calculate required fees using the USCIS calculator.
Government Application Fees for Adjustment of Status
Before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will let you apply for a green card, your sponsor, in this case, your spouse, will have to file an immigrant petition, the form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, to classify you as potentially eligible.
The filing fee for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $535.
The applicant also has to pay the filing fee for an adjustment of the status application which is $1,140.
Also, there is a fee for USCIS to take “biometrics” (fingerprints and so forth). Currently, this fee is $85.
Adjustment of Status Medical Exam Fee
A medical examination is required for all immigrant and some nonimmigrant visa seekers and adjustment of status applicants. The purpose of providing the medical exam is to determine if an immigrant has a medical condition(s) that can pose a risk to public health in the United States.
This means that the applicant has to submit a Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693). Besides, it is good to bring medical history, records of vaccinations, or any prior conducted chest X-rays (if any), and a letter from your doctor discussing any health problems or treatment for an ongoing problem.
Your medical exam should show that no health-related grounds of inadmissibility will prevent you from green-card approval.
There is a limited number of approved physicians to choose from, so the fee for the medical exam report varies by doctor. The costs are between $75 and $350 for the basic exam and filing out Form I-693. There can be additional costs if any vaccination is needed.
You don’t have to do the exam before you get the date for the interview, since if too much time pass (over one year), the examination is invalid, and you would have to pay again.
Within your application package, you will need to include some documents that can be in other language than Enlish. This is usually case with documents you prove your nationality, such as a birth certificate or a passport.
If you intend to submit within your green card application package any documents in a foreign language, you have to include a translation of each document. This translation needs to be certified as accurate by the translator.
W cannot exactly tell how much you will pay for these services fee, but for example, for a certified translation of a birth certificate or a passport you will probably pay between $20 and $40.
Attorney’s Fees to Assist With Adjustment of Status Application
Hiring an attorney is not obligatory in this process. You can handle it on your own. Still, it’s highly advisable to have an immigration attorney by your side in each phase of the process. An immigration lawyer will go through your case and provide you with an in-depth analysis and define the best strategy to implement.
Also, your attorney will do necessary paperwork that can be overwhelmed and ensure you haven’t missed providing any important evidence and filed all applications properly. If needed, the attorney can accompany you to the green card interview at USCIS facilities since marriage-based applications require an in-person interview.
The costs for an immigration attorney vary but usually depend on the complexity of the case and any particular complications (post criminal conviction), which the attorney must additionally analyze and help you prepare to deal with it, whether you’d like the attorney to accompany you to the USCIS interview, etc.
Although it can seem that the process is already expensive enough and that an attorney is just an extra cost that you can avoid, bear in mind that if anything unexpected comes up during the application process, the costs will go up. Also, it will take more time to deal with these changes, but a good lawyer could have prevented it.
Sending the Application to USCIS
After you collected all the forms and supporting documents of your green card application and made sure you filled it correctly, make sure to put it in order neatly. It would be safest to send the application package to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by certified mail or courier service to avoid loss. You’ll likely pay at least $10 for mailing.
The immigrant, and sometimes the U.S. petitioner, will need to submit photos with the applications. These costs will vary depending on the number of applications, but it will be around $15 per set.
Costs of Travel and Parking Near USCIS Offices
Travel costs are related to attending biometrics appointments and a green card interview at a USCIS office. Both the petitioner and the sponsor have to attend it, so your transport costs will depend on how you will get there and if you need to spend the night if it’s too far from your home.
Most USCIS offices are in big cities, so keep in mind that the parking can be expensive.
Marriage Green Card Cost for Spouses Living Abroad
There are two different methods of applying for a marriage green card: the ‘Adjustment of Status’ procedure and the ‘consular processing’ method.
In case that you are not in the United States, you will take the route through consular processing, the only method available to people who are not physically present in the United States.
First, you need to file Form I-130 which costs the same as for spouses in the U.S. After the National Visa Center NVC approves the petition, you will receive the notice stating that a visa is available.
This is the time for you to may apply your application at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident.
The consular processing doesn’t require the applicant to submit Form I-485, but after the approval of Form I-130, you have to submit the Form DS-260, Immigration Visa Application. The filing fee for DS-260 is $325.
Your sponsor will have to submit the Form I-864, or Affidavit of Support to ensure that he or she will be able to financially support you in the U.S. if the sponsored immigrant files this form with USCIS or abroad with the Department of State (DOS) there is no filing fee to pay, but if you file it in the U.S. it costs $120.
How long does it take to get a marriage green card?
We know that you would like to know the exact time span of the process of getting the green card, but the truth is there is no specific time frame. Each case is different, meaning that the processing time will depend on various circumstances (where the marriage took place, provided evidence provided, etc.).
However, we can say the expected time ranges between 10 to 38 months.
One good thing about a marriage-based green card is that there is no cap on the number of available visas per year.
Immigrant Spouses Married to U.S. Citizens
The time frame is 10 to 17 months, but it’ll be shorter if the spouse lives in the U.S.
Immigrant Spouses Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder (Permanent Resident)
For the spouse living in the U.S. as a permanent resident, the expected time is 29-38 months. But, if the spouse is outside of the United States, it’ll be issued within 23-32 months.
Marriage Green Card Timeline
Now, let’s look at the time frame for each phase of the process.
As stated above, there are two types of processing:
- Consular processing
- Concurrent filing
As earlier mentioned, this process is for spouses living abroad, and it involves three steps:
Filing Form I-130 (7-10 months)
To establish the validity of the marriage, a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident has to submit this application. The USCIS will take between seven to 10 months to approve it.
Green Card Application (3-5 months)
When the USCIS forwards your approved immigrant petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), NVC officials will take about three to five months to gather relevant forms and required documents and then forward them to the relevant embassy or consulate. Being asked to file an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and Form DS-260, an online immigrant visa application can add up to two months.
Marriage Interview and Approval (1-2 months)
When the U.S. consulate or embassy receives your documents, you will get a date to come to the green card interview. But before attending the interview, you have to get a medical examination, lodged an address where your passport will be delivered, and scheduled a fingerprinting appointment.
The approval will take up two months.
Concurrent Filing With the USCIS
When a spouse is living in the U.S., the entire process is faster because you only have to prove the legitimacy of the marriage.
File Form I-485,(1 month)
To change your K-1 visa to conditional resident status, you will have to file the forms and supporting documents we mentioned above:
- Form I-129
- I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-130A
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence
- Form-I765 Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-864, (or Affidavit of Support, ensuring that the U.S. spouse will be able to financially support his/her spouse in the U.S.)
- Form I-693
When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your application package, you will wait at least one month.
Interview and Approval (10-13 months)
The last step is attending the green card interview after you get the approval of your package. Upon providing firm answers to the USCIS officers and all supporting documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, sponsoring spouse’ passport, a U.S. passport of the sponsor, etc), you can expect that it will take at least 10 to 13 months to receive a marriage-based green card.
To conclude: Arm yourself with patience. Although the process can take a long time, and you can go through it yourself, hiring a lawyer from the beginning can be a good idea. Having an attorney to advise you and take concrete actions at the right time and in unpredicted events can speed up the process, prevent you from making some common mistakes, and prolong the time to obtain a green card.
If you get a conditional residence status, you will have to obtain approval on Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions. It costs $595 along with the $85 biometrics fee. The processing time is usually 12 to 18 months.
At Herman Legal Group law firm, we practice an individual approach to our clients, meaning that we are aware that each situation is different and make the strategy accordingly.
If any questions have arisen about the green card process or are sure that we can work together on your application, contact us with no delay! Richard Herman has over 20 years of experience in an immigration matter, so you can book a consultation by calling us at +1-800-808-4013 or use an online form to request legal consultation on our site.