If like thousands of other American citizens who marry foreign spouses each year, you are looking to make a new beginning in the United States with your spouse, you came to the right place.
We prepared this guide to help you understand the basic timeline of the complete application procedure to be aware of how long your marriage-based green card procedure will take and how to make life plans accordingly.
By marrying a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, a foreign-born spouse becomes eligible for a marriage green card, also called a marriage-based green card.
So, how long does it take to get a green card? Well, it depends on different situations. Still, it should take anywhere between 7-15 months once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS has everything it needs. But, let’s look at what will apply to your situation when it comes to obtaining a U.S. green card through marriage.
The main factors that will impact the Marriage Green Card Timeline
On average, to get a green card through marriage, you will need between 11 months to 14.5 months. So we can say that to get a marriage green card depends on three main factors that impact the green card timeline.
The green card timeline will be impacted by:
- The status of the petitioner (a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident),
- Whether the beneficiary lives in the U.S or outside the U.S., and
- Which service center the applicant sent the application to.
Also, a great deal of this waiting period can depend upon other factors such as Visa number availability (Visa Bulletin), USCIS application center’s processing time, NVC processing time, U.S. embassy or consulate interviews scheduled, and similar.
So, depending on the main factors, we can have four possible situations where the marriage green card processing time will differ:
- The spouse seeking a marriage-based green card lives in the U.S. and is married to a U.S. citizen;
- The spouse seeking a marriage-based green card lives abroad and is married to a U.S. citizen;
- The spouse seeking a marriage-based green card lives in the U.S. and married to a green card holder;
- The spouse seeking a marriage-based green card lives abroad and is married to a U.S. green-card holder.
Since many other factors can impact the green card processing time, filing documentation properly can play a significant role no matter which category you belong to.
That is why you should consider hiring an immigration lawyer to help you out with defining the strategy, gathering and filing all necessary documentation. We at Herman Legal Group are available to our clients 24/7, so do not hesitate to use our online form to contact us or call us to schedule your consultation.
The Spouse Seeking a Green Card Living in The U.S. and is married to a U.S. Citizen
For the applicants applying for a marriage-based green card living in the U.S. and are married to a U.S. citizen, the processing time of the green card application will be the shortest.
In this case, the waiting period to get a marriage green card is about 10-13 months since:
- The application processing time takes about 9-11 months,
- Scheduling interviews and approval takes 1-2 months.
Whatsmore, you can apply for a marriage-based green card through a procedure called “Concurrent Filing, “meaning you can save plenty of time by filing two forms at the same time.
There are four steps to follow in this process.
Step 1. Filing Green Card Application
Firstly, U.S. citizens file a marriage petition for their foreign spouse. The marriage green card package contains:
- Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary
- Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional)
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional)
When USCIS receives your Form I-130 application package, it will issue a receipt notice in about 2-3 weeks containing a set of case numbers. You can use the number to track your case status online- USCIS Case Status.
Step 2. Biometrics Appointment
Upon receiving your immigrant visa application, USCIS will issue a biometrics appointment notice for the foreign spouse. This will take about 3-5 weeks before your marriage interview is scheduled.
Step 3. Attending the Interview
From 4 to 12 months after applying, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS will send you a green card interview notice with the date, time, and location you and your spouse will attend.
Step 4. Green Card Arrival
You can expect that your green card will arrive 2-3 weeks after the green card interview, but it can take longer in some cases.
The Spouse Seeking a Green Card Lives Abroad and is Married to a U.S. Citizen
If you are a spouse who is married to a U.S. citizen but lives outside the U.S., then you will have to apply through a USCIS procedure called “Consular Processing. “
Step 1. Form I-130 Processing
The sponsor will need to file Form I-130 and Form I-130A along with supporting documents and, in about 2-3 weeks, will receive a Receipt Notice from USCIS.
Step 2. National Visa Center Processing
Upon approval, USCIS will transfer the case to the National Visa Center (NVC), process it for 3-5 months, and forward it to the U.S. embassy or the consulate.
Step 3. Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
You will attend the interview in about one month after receiving the interview letter. Then, when a consular officer approves your immigrant visa application, you will obtain a visa that allows you to enter the U.S.
Step 4. Green Card Arrival
The green card will arrive within six months after the applicant’s spouse arrives in the United States.
To conclude, an estimated processing time for the green card, in this case, will be from 11-17 months.
The spouse seeking a green card lives in the U.S. and is Married to a Green Card Holder.
If you live in the U.S., and your spouse has a lawful permanent resident status, then you will need to apply through a USCIS procedure called “Adjustment of Status. “
Step 1. Form I-130 Processing
Firstly, the petitioner, a green card holder, must submit Form I-130 and Form I-130A.
It takes USCIS about 11-15 months to process your Form I-130.
Step 2. Visa number availability
When USCIS approves your Form I-130, the spouse seeking the green card must wait until the visa number for category F2A becomes available. You can check its availability in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
Step 3. Form I-485 processing
When the visa number is available, the spouse can file Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, and supporting documents and wait another 9-11 months for USCIS to process it.
Step 4. Green Card Interview and Approval
When USCIS completes your green card application processing, it will send you a scheduled interview appointment notice, usually to attend it within a month. Both you and your spouse will have to attend the interview.
Note that the petitioner must see a USCIS-approved doctor for a medical exam in the country where the interview is scheduled.
Step 5. Green Card Arrival
Your green card will arrive by mail within 2–3 weeks of case approval.
However, the entire process can take from 29 to 38 months.
The spouse seeking a green card lives abroad and is married to a U.S. green-card holder.
If you live outside the United States and your spouse is a U.S. lawful permanent resident, then you’ll apply through a ‘Consular Processing.’ In this case, you will use an online green card application- Form DS-260 (officially called the “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application”).
Step 1. Form I-130 Processing
The petitioner (green card holder) has to file the Form I-130 package and Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, and wait for the approval of the green card application, usually about 7-10 months.
Step 2. Visa number availability (F2A category)
Upon approval of your I-130 petition, USCIS will transfer the case to National Visa Center NVC.
When NVC identifies the case, the spouse of a U.S. green cardholder needs to wait until the visa number in the F2A category becomes available. As we mentioned earlier, you can check this in the Visa Bulletin.
The waiting time of foreign spouses can vary depending on the country of origin.
Step 3. NVC Processing
Once the visa number is available, the foreign spouse can apply for a green card.
All the required forms and documents should be submitted with NVC, typically taking 3-5 months to make a decision.
Step 4. Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
The next step is attending the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview in the spouse’s home country. After 1-2 months, a foreign spouse will attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
Step 5. Green Card Arrival
The spouses living abroad will receive the physical marriage green card to the U.S. address, usually within six months upon arrival in the United States.
In this case, the estimated time of the green card process will take a bit longer, so after the marriage interview and approval, the green card will arrive within 23-32 months.
What if the beneficiary spouse entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visa?
If a foreign spouse lawfully entered the U.S. but overstayed a visa, applying for an adjustment of status still may be possible as long as marrying a U.S. Citizen.
The overstayed period will play a significant role. So, if you overstayed your marriage visa for more than:
- 180 days (but still less than 1 year), you are subject to a 3-year bar if you depart the United States.
- 1 year, you are subject to a 10-year bar if you depart the U.S.
So you may conclude that given bars may exclude consular processing and your only option is to adjust status from within the United States so that the correspondent processing times would apply.
What if the beneficiary entered the U.S. without inspection?
If you entered the country without inspection, you would have to leave to be eligible to be granted a Green Card. Unlawful presence in the U.S. can lead to 3 or 10 years of bars from coming back if you leave. This is when you will need to file an I-601A waiver. If approved, you will be granted a pardon for your unlawful presence. This way, the consulate officer will not deny your application based on the grounds of unlawful presence in inadmissibility.
You can file the I-601A waiver while you are still in the U.S. Once approved, you will receive a notice for a scheduled interview, and then you may leave the country.
So, how long does it take to get the approval of I-601? It depends, but the processing time of the I-601A waiver can take about 12 to 18. In addition, it takes another three months for the interview to be scheduled.
But note that the I-601A Waiver can only be filed after your I-130 is approved.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help?
Immigrating to the United States is a worthy but complicated process, and supporting a loved one to come to the U.S. can often be overwhelming.
Identifying and managing the proper immigration documentation (I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, I-485 application to register, ds-260 online application, and similar) and procedures (concurrent filing, medical examination, getting a conditional green card, consular processing, etc.) is very complex, so you might consider taking help from a specializing immigration law firm.
Richard Herman and the dedicated immigration attorneys at Herman Legal Group have helped thousands of couples unite in the U.S. and get green cards.
By looking through your case, assisting you in filling out necessary forms, and filing proper documentation, our immigration lawyer will lead you through the process, making sure you meet important deadlines. This will ensure you are well prepared at any phase of the process.
You can book free online consultation via Skype, WhatsApp, or ZOOM if you are overseas, or you can call for telephone consult +1-800-808-4013 or use the online form to request your consultation with us and discuss how to get a marriage green card for you or your spouse.