Who is eligible to apply for a marriage green card?
Eligibility for applying for a marriage green card, officially known as a “U.S. Permanent Resident Card” or “Form I-551,” is based on the marriage to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The eligibility criteria typically include:
- Marriage to a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident: To be eligible for a marriage green card, you must be legally married to either a U.S. citizen or a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
- Valid Marriage: The marriage must be legally valid in the jurisdiction where it took place and not a marriage of convenience or fraud.
- Proof of Bona Fide Marriage: You must demonstrate that your marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration benefits. This typically involves providing evidence of a bona fide marital relationship, such as joint financial documents, photographs, affidavits from friends and family, and more.
- Entry to the U.S. with Inspection: If you entered the U.S. without proper inspection by immigration authorities (e.g., by crossing the border illegally), you may have more complex eligibility issues. In many cases, individuals who entered the U.S. without inspection will need to explore other immigration options or seek legal counsel.
- Eligibility Category: There are different eligibility categories depending on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have a preference category that allows them to apply for a green card without numerical limitations, while spouses of green card holders are subject to numerical limits, which may result in waiting for visa availability.
- Criminal History: If you have certain criminal convictions or immigration violations, it can impact your eligibility for a marriage green card. Serious criminal convictions or immigration violations may result in inadmissibility.
- Inadmissibility Grounds: You should not be subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility specified in U.S. immigration law. These include factors like health-related issues, criminal history, security concerns, and more.
- Eligibility Under the Law: You must meet the eligibility requirements established by U.S. immigration laws and regulations, including financial requirements (for sponsors) and admissibility standards.
It’s important to note that the eligibility criteria may change over time, and U.S. immigration policies can be complex. Consulting with an immigration attorney or seeking guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is advisable to ensure you meet all requirements and to navigate the green card application process successfully.
How to apply for a green card if you are married to a U.S. citizen and live in the U.S.?
If you are married to a U.S. citizen and living in the U.S., you may be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card through a process known as “adjustment of status.” Here is a general overview of the steps involved:
- File the Appropriate Forms:
- You, as the foreign spouse, and your U.S. citizen spouse should typically file the following forms together:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: This form establishes the qualifying relationship between you and your U.S. citizen spouse.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: This form is the application for the green card itself.
- Gather Supporting Documents:
- You will need to provide various supporting documents, including:
- Proof of your spouse’s U.S. citizenship.
- Marriage certificate.
- Birth certificates for any children (if applicable).
- Evidence of a bona fide marital relationship, such as joint financial documents, photos, affidavits from friends and family, and more.
- Passport-style photos.
- Copies of immigration-related documents (e.g., visas, I-94 arrival/departure records).
- Pay Applicable Fees:
- You will need to pay the required filing fees for Form I-130 and Form I-485. Fee waivers may be available in certain circumstances for those who qualify.
- Biometrics Appointment:
- After filing your forms, you will likely receive a notice for a biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center. During this appointment, your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected for background checks.
- Attend an Interview:
- USCIS may schedule an interview at a local USCIS office. Both you and your U.S. citizen spouse will typically be required to attend this interview. Be prepared to answer questions about your relationship and provide additional evidence of your bona fide marriage.
- Receive a Decision:
- After the interview, USCIS will make a decision on your green card application. If approved, you will receive your green card in the mail.
- Conditional Green Card (if applicable):
- If you have been married for less than two years at the time of approval, you will receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years. You will need to file Form I-751 to remove the conditions on your permanent resident status within the 90-day window before your conditional green card expires.
- Receive a 10-Year Green Card (if applicable):
- After successfully removing the conditions on your green card, you will receive a 10-year permanent resident card (green card).
Please note that the above steps are a general overview, and the specific requirements and processes may vary based on your individual circumstances and any changes in U.S. immigration policies. It is highly recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or refer to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for the most up-to-date information and guidance on the green card application process.