Marrying someone with a Green Card or US Citizenship is the easiest way to get a Green Card. However, it can take a long time.
How long does it take to get a green card after marriage?
The amount of time that it takes will depend on many factors about your situation and also how smoothly everything goes. However, you should expect it to take at least 10 weeks and can take up to 3 years (or more!)
The Timeline Required To Get A Marriage-based Green Card
There are thousands of couples getting married every year. Among those that do are foreigners that marry American citizens who want to start their journey towards U.S. citizenship. A foreign spouse is eligible for a marriage-based green card.
There’s no specific timeline available. Every situation and every marriage is unique. Different factors influence the timeline, including:
- the documents submitted
- whether you’re married to a green card holder or a U.S. citizen
- where you currently live
- the current location of the American spouse
The entire wait time for a marriage-based green card lasts between 9-36 months.
The USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) offers four types of green cards, and the marriage-based green card is one of them.
The American spouse starts by submitting a petition for the foreign spouse. A petition for an immigrant visa is presented first, followed by one for a green card.
Before the visa and green card are issued, an in-depth verification process is done by the USCIS. Therefore, processing the visa depends on how quickly the agency verifies the documentation.
One of the best things about the marriage-based green card is that there’s no limit to how many visas are issued per year, which means not waiting for a space in the quota. Nonetheless, you’ll still have to wait at least ten months for the entire process to be completed.
Marriage-based Green Card for Those Married to a U.S. Citizen
If you’re a foreigner and get married to a U.S. citizen by birth or via neutralization, then the visa process might take 10-17 months. But, of course, it takes a much shorter time if they live in the United States.
Marriage-based Green Card for Those Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder
It takes much longer for someone married to a U.S. green cardholder. If your spouse has a permanent residence in the United States as a green card holder, the approximate wait time is 29-38 months. If they don’t live in the U.S. due to personal or professional reasons, the approximate time frame is 23-32 months.
Marriage-based Green Card Process
This section explains the process from beginning to end to understand better what happens within the timelines.
In two scenarios, a green card can be applied for either through consular processing or via a concurrent filing with the USCIS.
1. Consular processing
If you’re a United States citizen married to a foreigner who lives abroad, you must undergo consular processing. The following are the steps one should expect.
Petition for Alien Relative (File Form I-130)
The first required step is filing a petition with the USCIS to bring an alien to America. Your spouse will be categorized as an “immediate relative.”
Form I-130 establishes the validity of a marriage to avoid fraudulent marriages. A citizen or the green card holder can sign the form as the sponsor, and the foreign spouse is termed the beneficiary. It takes approximately 7-10 months for the USCIS to confirm all the details in the documents.
Green Card Application
Officials at the National Visa Center get the form once the USCIS approves it, and they gather relevant documents to issue the green card. The process can take a minimum of 3-5 months. Afterward, the necessary paperwork is forwarded to the appropriate consulate or embassy.
Interview and Approval
The foreign spouse visits the relevant consulate to attend a green card interview. Some things need to be done before attending the interview, and they will be specified in advance. Then, the approval takes 1-2 months, and the foreign spouse can come into the U.S.
2. Concurrent filing with the USCIS
The process is much easier if the nonimmigrant spouse lives on a K-1 visa. Then, there’s no need to seek immigrant entry to the country, and only the legitimacy of the marriage needs to be established.
The K-1 process involves two steps. The first is to file Form I-485, an application to register permanent residence or adjust status, and it only takes one month. The second one is the interview and approval, which takes approximately 10-13 months to issue the green card.
Getting a green card is not a quick process. At first, the entire process may seem intimidating, but everything will go smoothly with proper planning and a little patience. First, however, it is essential to gain as much information as possible before getting started, using reliable online resources, or talking to an immigration attorney.