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Your Comprehensive Marriage Green Card Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you are married to a green card holder and living abroad, you can still apply for a green card through a process called “Consular Processing.” Here’s a general outline of the steps involved:

  • I-130 Petition: The green card holder spouse (the petitioner) files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between the petitioner and the intending immigrant (the spouse living abroad).
  • Approval of I-130: Once USCIS approves the I-130 petition, they will notify both the petitioner and the beneficiary (spouse living abroad) of the approval.
  • Priority Date: The priority date is established when the I-130 petition is filed and accepted by USCIS. This date is important for tracking your place in the green card queue.
  • Wait for Visa Bulletin: The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that shows the current priority dates being processed for each category of family-sponsored and employment-based green cards.
  • DS-260 Application: Once the priority date becomes current, the spouse living abroad will need to complete Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application. This form is filled out online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
  • Document Gathering: You and your spouse will need to gather necessary documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, police clearance certificates, and any other documents required by the U.S. consulate or embassy where the immigrant visa interview will take place.
  • Medical Examination: The spouse living abroad will need to undergo a medical examination by a designated physician. The results of the medical examination will need to be submitted to the U.S. consulate or embassy.
  • Interview: The spouse living abroad will be scheduled for an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. During the interview, they will be asked questions to verify the information provided in the application and to assess their eligibility for a green card.
  • Immigrant Visa Issuance: If the interview goes well and all requirements are met, the immigrant visa will be issued to the spouse living abroad. They will receive instructions on how to enter the United States as a permanent resident.
  • Entry to the U.S.: After receiving the immigrant visa, the spouse can enter the United States. Upon entry, they will receive a sealed packet containing their immigrant visa and other documents. This packet should not be opened, as it will be presented to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry.
  • Green Card Arrival: Once in the United States, the immigrant spouse will receive their green card in the mail at the address provided during the application process.

It’s essential to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance throughout the green card application process, as each case may have unique circumstances and requirements. Learn more about spouses of permanent residents residing outside the US in this detailed blog.

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How to apply for a green card if married to a permanent resident and living in the US

If you are married to a permanent resident (green card holder) and living in the United States, you can apply for a green card through a process known as “Adjustment of Status.” Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Check Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for adjustment of status. Generally, you must be physically present in the United States, enter the country legally, and be eligible for an immigrant visa based on your marriage to a lawful permanent resident.
  • File Form I-130: Your spouse (the green card holder) must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between you and your spouse.
  • Check Priority Date: The priority date is established when USCIS receives Form I-130. It’s crucial to keep track of the priority date because it determines when you can apply for adjustment of status.
  • File Form I-485: Once a visa is available based on the priority date and your spouse’s category, you can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form allows you to apply for a green card while remaining in the United States.
  • Biometrics Appointment: After filing Form I-485, you will receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, photograph, and signature for background and security checks.
  • Attend Interview: You and your spouse will be scheduled for an interview at a USCIS office. During the interview, a USCIS officer will ask questions to verify the information provided in your application and assess your eligibility for a green card based on your marriage.
  • Provide Supporting Documents: At the interview, you must bring original documents and evidence to support your application, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, proof of legal entry into the United States, and any other required documentation.
  • Wait for Decision: After the interview, USCIS will review your application, supporting documents, and interview results. If everything is in order, you will receive a decision on your application.
  • Conditional or Permanent Green Card: If your application is approved, you will receive either a conditional or permanent green card, depending on the length of your marriage at the time of approval. If you’ve been married for less than two years at the time of approval, you will receive a conditional green card valid for two years. If you’ve been married for two years or more, you will receive a permanent green card valid for ten years.
  • Renewal or Removal of Conditions: If you receive a conditional green card, you must apply to remove the conditions within the 90 days before the card expires. This involves filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, jointly with your spouse. If you receive a permanent green card, you can renew it as needed.

It’s essential to follow the instructions provided by USCIS carefully and ensure that you submit all required forms and documents accurately and timely. Consider consulting with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance throughout the adjustment of status process. Find more information about spouses of green card holders residing in the U.S. here.

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