Navigating the Path to a Marriage Green Card: A Comprehensive Guide

by sophiajames

How Long Does it Take to Get a Marriage Based Green Card?

The marriage green card processing time in the United States can vary depending on several factors, including your specific circumstances, the service center processing your application, and any backlogs or delays in the immigration system. Please note that processing times may have changed since then, so it’s essential to check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or consult with an immigration attorney for the most up-to-date information.

Here is a rough breakdown of the process:

  • Filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): The U.S. citizen spouse or permanent resident (green card holder) files Form I-130 to establish the qualifying relationship. The processing time for this form can vary but typically takes several months. USCIS will review the petition and send a notice of receipt.
  • Filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status): After the I-130 petition is approved, the foreign spouse can file Form I-485 to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident. The processing time for this form can also vary but generally takes several months.
  • Biometrics Appointment: USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment for the foreign spouse to provide fingerprints, photographs, and a signature.
  • Interview: In most cases, USCIS will schedule an interview for the couple at a local USCIS office. The interview is an opportunity for the immigration officer to verify the legitimacy of the marriage and assess the eligibility of the foreign spouse.
  • Medical Examination and Affidavit of Support: The foreign spouse must undergo a medical examination by an approved civil surgeon and submit a properly completed Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) from the sponsoring spouse.
  • Background Checks: USCIS will conduct background checks on both spouses.
  • Decision: After the interview and all required documentation are submitted, USCIS will make a decision on the green card application.

The entire process can take anywhere from approximately 12 months to several years or more. It can be longer if there are complications or if the application is subject to additional security or background checks. Delays can also occur due to changes in immigration policies and procedures.

Cost to Petition a Relative, I-130 Form

The cost to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was as follows:

  • Filing Fee for Form I-130: The filing fee for Form I-130 was $535. This fee is paid by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner (the sponsor) when submitting the petition to USCIS. This fee covers the cost of processing the petition.
  • Biometrics Fee (if applicable): In some cases, USCIS may require the petitioner to pay a biometrics fee for fingerprinting and background checks. As of my last update, the biometrics fee was $85. Not all I-130 petitions require biometrics, so it’s essential to check the USCIS website or the instructions for Form I-130 to determine if this fee applies to your case.

Please note that USCIS fees are subject to change. Therefore, it’s crucial to verify the current filing fees on the USCIS website or by consulting with an immigration attorney or legal expert before submitting your Form I-130.

Additionally, certain exceptions or fee waivers may apply in specific circumstances, such as when the petitioner can demonstrate financial hardship. If you believe you may be eligible for a fee waiver, you should consult with an immigration attorney or review the USCIS guidance on fee waivers to understand the requirements and the application process.

Form I-130 is Approved – What to Do Next?

Once Form I-130 is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it’s an important milestone in the process of sponsoring a relative for a family-based immigrant visa or green card. Here are the next steps to take:

  • Receive Notice of Approval: USCIS will send you (the petitioner) a Notice of Approval (Form I-797, Notice of Action) confirming the approval of Form I-130. This notice will indicate that your petition has been accepted, and the beneficiary (the family member you’re sponsoring) has been recognized as eligible for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status.
  • Wait for Visa Bulletin: Depending on the family relationship and the beneficiary’s country of origin, there may be visa number waiting times. The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that provides information on visa availability for different categories of immigrants. You’ll need to monitor the Visa Bulletin to determine when a visa number becomes available for your relative’s category and country.
  • Choose Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status: If your relative is already in the United States, they may be eligible to apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. If they are outside the United States, they will typically go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The choice depends on your relative’s current location and eligibility.
  • File Additional Forms: Depending on whether your relative is adjusting status or going through consular processing, you’ll need to file additional forms. For adjustment of status, this usually involves filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. For consular processing, the National Visa Center (NVC) will guide you on the necessary forms, such as the DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application.
  • Pay Required Fees: You will need to pay the applicable fees associated with the adjustment of status or consular processing. These fees may include the immigrant visa fee and any affidavit of support fees, among others.
  • Attend a Medical Examination: Your relative will need to undergo a medical examination by a USCIS-approved civil surgeon. The results of this examination will be submitted as part of the immigration application.
  • Attend an Interview (if required): USCIS may schedule an interview for your relative if they are adjusting status. The purpose of the interview is to assess the validity of the marriage or family relationship and confirm the eligibility of the beneficiary for a green card.
  • Wait for a Decision: After submitting all required documents and attending any necessary interviews, USCIS or the U.S. embassy/consulate will review the case and make a decision. If approved, your relative will receive a visa or adjustment of status, granting them lawful permanent resident status.
  • Obtain the Green Card: Once your relative is granted lawful permanent resident status, they will receive a green card as evidence of their status.

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