A marriage-based green card is a type of immigrant visa granted by U.S. citizenship and immigration services (USCIS), allowing a foreign national to live and work in the United States. It refers to the permanent resident card obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen. It is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get permanent residence in the U.S. However, applying for a marriage-based green card is complicated and requires a lot of patience, energy, and time. 

If someone married a U.S. citizen, they wouldn’t be able to get U.S. citizenship right away. To get U.S. citizenship, the first step is to become eligible for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence). However, a green card based on marriage can get by fulfilling specific requirements mentioned as below;

Essential facts about Marriage-based Green Card

Getting a marriage-based green card is a three steps process; before going into detail, you need to know certain related facts; 

Timeline of Marriage-based Green Card

The timeline of the marriage-based green cards varies according to the type of person you married; U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder. Overall, it requires 9-36 months of processing time. 

Cost of Marriage-based Green Card

To apply for a marriage-based green card, the government filing fee is 

  • $1760 for a spouse living in the U.S.
  • $1200 for a spouse living outside the U.S.

Note: The fee mentioned above excluded the medical examination fee, which varies between $200-$500. 

Documents required for Marriage-based Green Card

There are the following documents that must need to submit to the U.S. government at the time of applying for a Marriage-based green card;

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Financial documents
  • Proof of sponsor’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residence
  • Current/expired U.S. visa(s)
  • Medical examination document

Depending upon your case, you may require the following additional documents; 

  • Proof of lawful U.S. entry and status (if applicable)
  • Police clearance certificate (if applicable)
  • Prior-marriage termination papers (if applicable)
  • Court, police, and prison records (if applicable)
  • Military records (if applicable)
  • Immigration violation records (if applicable)

Eligibility for Marriage-based Green Card

To meet the eligibility criteria, you are required to showcase the following four things to the USCIS;

  • Confirm the legal status of marriage, recognized by the country’s government in which you live.
  • In case of married to a U.S. citizen, must submit a copy of their birth certificate, U.S. Passport, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
  • In case of married to a lawful permanent resident, must submit a copy of spouse green card.
  • Status of bona fide marriage.
  • In case of a previous marriage, you are required to submit a divorce decree, death certificate, or any other document to confirm that your previous marriage has ended up. 

The application process for Marriage-based Green Card

Once you confirm your eligibility, you must have to follow a three-step process to apply for a marriage-based green card;

Step 1: Submit Form I-130 and supporting documents: This is the first step in the process of applying for a marriage-based green card. Its basic purpose is to establish the evidence for a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. This process also includes submitting a marriage certificate and other supporting documents to prove legitimate marriage. 

Step 2: Submit your Green Card application (Form I-485 or Form DS-260): The 2nd step in the application process is to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. depending upon the current residential status, either in the U.S. or abroad. 

Adjustment of Status: For U.S. residential, it is required to file Form I-485 (Adjustment of the Status form) to convert/adjust status from a current visa to a Marriage Green Card. The following documents must accompany this form; 

  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of lawful entry into the United States 
  • Evidence of your immigration medical examination
  • Documents showing enough financial support from spouse living in the United States

Consular Processing: In case of current residence outside the U.S., you have to wait in your home country until USCIS approves your Form I-130. After approval of Form I-130, they will send your file to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). Then NVC will send you the notice to inform you about the next step of submitting the NVC filing package. Your NVC filing package must include;

  • Required Government filing fees 
  • Your Form DS-260
  • Proof of your nationality
  • Police clearance certificates 
  • Form 1-864, affidavit of support as evidence that your U.S. citizen or green cardholder spouse will financially support you. 

Step 3: Attend a Green card interview and receive your Green Card: This is the final stage of the application process for a marriage-based green card. During the interview, the USCIS officer will ask certain personal questions about your marital relationship, daily routine, and future plans as a couple. This activity is intended to ensure marriage legitimacy and decide about the green card allotment. The time, venue, and interview process will depend upon the method of filing an application for your marriage-based green card. 

  • In case of Adjustment of status (Form I-485), both you and your spouse must attend the interview.
  • While in the case of Consular Processing (Form DS-260), your spouse is not required to attend the interview. 

After the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to approve your application within a week unless the officer believes further investigation is needed. If your Green Card application gets approval, you will be mailed a visa allowing you to travel to the United States. While  USCIS will mail your new Green Card to your U.S. address.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Can I get a marriage-based green card when living apart from my spouse?

Ans: Marriage-based green card eligibility depends upon the reason for living apart from your spouse. If you live far away due to marital problems that can lead to ultimate separation, you will get trouble with a marriage-based green card. While, if you are living far away due to your employment or restriction of your home country for a specific time period, you may find a complex process but ultimately will end up with the attainment of a green card. 

How long does it take to get a marriage-based green card?

Ans: It depends on the immigration path (consular process or adjustment) you choose, visa availability, and the caseload. As a whole, the timeline for ‘status adjustment’ is approximately 8 to 14 months, and for ‘consular processing’, it takes almost 7 to 12 months.


  • https://www.boundless.com/immigration-resources/marriage-based-green-cards-explained/ retrieved on December 26, 2021.
  • https://www.boundless.com/immigration-resources/what-documents-for-marriage-green-card/ retrieved on December 26, 2021.
  • https://citizenpath.com/marriage-green-card/ retrieved on December 26, 2021.
  • https://ois.iu.edu/scholars/permanent-residence/marriage/common-questions.html retrieved on December 26, 2021.
  • https://www.immigrationhelp.org/learning-center/how-to-get-a-u-s-marriage-green-card retrieved on December 26, 2021.