Practice Areas

Marriage Green Cards

A marriage-based green card is a pathway to obtaining a U.S. lawful permanent residency (a green card) through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. It allows foreign spouses to permanently live and work in the U.S.

Marriage Green Card Process

The process involves several steps and depends on whether you are applying for a green card inside or outside the United States:

  1. Marriage. The first step is to legally marry a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The marriage must be valid and recognized under U.S. immigration law. Specifically, the couple’s marriage has to be valid both in the foreign country and within the U.S. state of intended immigration (usually where the petitioner lives). This can be an issue for same-sex couples, those that are marrying cousins, or if a partner is underage. All prior marriages of both parties must be legally terminated. Proxy marriages (where one or both parties were not present) are valid as long as they were consummated.
  2. Petition. The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse must file an immigrant petition (Form I-130) on behalf of their foreign spouse with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Filing of an additional Form I-130A with supplemental information about the foreign national spouse is required for marriage cases. The end goal of this step is to establish that the relationship is real and the marriage is valid for immigration purposes. This is accomplished not only through the properly completed forms but also by submitting supporting documentation, including marriage and divorce certificates, name change records, joint financial documents, photos, affidavits from family and friends, and any other evidence that demonstrates a bona fide marital relationship. Evidence of the petitioner’s U.S. status must be provided as well (such as the front and back of the green card or, if U.S. citizen, unexpired U.S. passport bio page, naturalization certificate, or U.S. birth certificate).
  3. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing. Depending on the foreign spouse’s location, there are two options:

a. Adjustment of status if the foreign national spouse is already in the United States. Depending on the marriage case type and specific circumstances, the foreign spouse may or may not be able to file for adjustment of status. Not having priority dates current, disruptions in lawful status, history of unauthorized employment or visa violations for spouses of green card holders, lack of lawful entry or entry as a crewman, inadmissibility issues, not having proper financial support, etc., for both spouses of green card holders and U.S. citizens are problematic.

Generally, the adjustment of status process allows foreign spouses to apply for a green card without leaving the U.S. Unfortunately, not all applicants qualify. Please consult with an attorney to find out if adjustment of status is possible in your particular case.

b. If the foreign spouse is outside the United States, they will need to go through the consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or the country of their current lawful residence. This involves submitting additional documents, attending a visa interview, and undergoing medical examinations, among other things. You can learn more about consular processing here.

  1. Interview. If going through adjustment of status, both the petitioner and the foreign spouse may be required to attend an interview at the local USCIS Field Office. Currently, a lot of interviews are being waived for marriage green card adjustment cases. If going through the consular processing, the foreign national spouse will need to attend an immigrant visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Those interviews are never waived. Very rarely U.S. petitioners may be allowed or even required to attend the visa interview.

The purpose of the interview stage is to verify the validity of the marriage and assess the foreign spouse’s eligibility for a green card.

  1. Approval and Green Card Issuance. If the application is approved, the foreign spouse will receive a conditional (2-year) or regular (10-year) permanent green card, depending on the length of the marriage at the time of approval or entry to the U.S. for consular processing marriage green card cases.


Here are a few additional things to watch out for in marriage green card cases:
– has the U.S. petitioner ever been arrested or convicted for crimes related to children?
– do you have enough evidence to prove the relationship is bona fide?
– did the U.S. green card holder petitioner receive their lawful permanent resident status through a prior marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder?
– is there a history of previously denied or withdrawn spousal petitions for the same or different beneficiaries?
– did the marriage happen after immigration court proceedings had begun?

If any of the above apply to your case, please consult with an attorney to see how your specific case may get affected.

K-3 Visa for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Currently, I-130 petitions filed by U.S. citizens for their spouses overseas take a long time to get adjudicated (around one year). There is a K-3 visa that was created to address this situation and to shorten the wait time of physical separation. In practice, it is rarely issued. However, filing a K-3 petition simultaneously with the I-130 or afterward can speed up the I-130 USCIS processing. For a vast majority of cases, the K-3 petition never gets approved, but we have seen it facilitates the I-130 petition before (50/50).

In the rare case that the K-3 is approved, after the foreign national spouse undergoes consular processing and arrives in the U.S. on their K-3 visa, there is an extra step of filing for adjustment of status. But again, a K-3 option very rarely happens.

It’s important to note that the process and requirements for obtaining a marriage-based green card can vary depending on individual circumstances. Working with experienced immigration attorneys can greatly increase the chances of success and ensure compliance with all applicable immigration laws and regulations.

At JQK Law, we have a proven track record of assisting couples in obtaining marriage-based green cards. We understand the significance of this process and the desire to build a future together in the United States. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let our experienced immigration attorneys guide you through the intricacies of the process, providing you with the expert support and representation you need to achieve your immigration goals.

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