Green Card by Marriage Timeline: A Comprehensive Guide by the JQK Immigration Law Firm

Timeline for Getting a Marriage Green Card

As a foreign national, you can get a green card after marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. 

Marriage-based green cards are some of the quickest to process in an immigration system plagued by processing delays and backlogs. Still, when couples embark on the journey of obtaining a marriage green card, understanding the expected timeline is crucial to help them manage their expectations and for their peace of mind.

Here at the JQK Immigration Law Firm, we recognize the importance of this milestone in your life, and we’re here to assist you with our comprehensive knowledge of the marriage green card application process.

Understanding the Marriage Green Card Timeline

 The marriage green card process begins with an essential document known as Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be filed by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse of the person seeking a green card to establish a bona fide marital relationship with the foreign spouse.

Following the approval of the I-130 petition, the foreign spouse may proceed to apply for a green card. The green card application process depends on whether the foreign spouse is physically present in the United States. If the green card applicant is within the U.S., they can apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; otherwise, they would need to go through consular processing at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country of residence.

Generally, an immigrant visa number must be available to the spouse before they can apply for a green card after getting I-130 approval.

Concurrent Filing for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

You’re in luck if you’re a foreign national married to a U.S. citizen. By the Immigration and Nationality Act, you qualify as an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen. Immigrant visas are always available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens so they can apply for a green card immediately after they receive Form I-130 approval.

Furthermore, immediate relatives who are already in the U.S. qualify for concurrent filing of Form I-130 and the adjustment of status application (Form I-485). They do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to be available. As such, their applications progress significantly faster than other marriage green card categories. 

Eligibility Criteria

A valid marriage is the foundation of all marriage-based green card applications.

Generally, a marriage is valid for immigration purposes if it is valid under the law of the place where the marriage was held. However, certain types of marriage are not recognized even if they are valid elsewhere. They include;

  • Polygamous marriages
  • Civil unions
  • Domestic partnerships.

The burden is always on the applicant (including their spouse) to prove that the marriage is valid and bonafide or genuine. Some of the documents needed for this purpose include:

  • The marriage certificate
  • The divorce decree or death certificate if any of the spouses was previously married
  • Birth certificates of children born to the couple, if any
  • Documents showing jointly owned property or joint tenancy of a shared residence.

These documents must be submitted when filing the immigrant petition and green card application. If the evidence is insufficient, the immigration authorities may request additional documents. It is crucial to respond to such requests quickly to avoid delays. If you fail to respond, your application may also be denied.

At the JQK Immigration Law Firm, we pride ourselves on our responsiveness. We can help you identify the documents needed for your application and also help provide timely responses to the USCIS’ requests (if any) to ensure your application is not unduly delayed. 

Detailed Timeline Breakdown of the Marriage Green Card Process

The marriage green card process generally follows this sequence.

Immigrant Petition Filing (I-130)

As stated earlier, this petition is filed by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse and must be supported by relevant documents. Processing times for this petition could take months or years depending on several factors, including the applicant’s green card category and whether it is processed at a USCIS field office or service center.

Filing the Green Card Application (Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing)

After receiving approval, you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status with the relevant supporting documents if you are in the U.S. and a visa number is available. You’ll receive a notice for your biometrics appointment, usually within 3-5 weeks after filing. Your biometrics will be used to conduct background checks during the processing period.

I-485 processing could take months, depending on the field office or service center where it is processed.

Applicants outside the U.S. must wait for a notification from the National Visa Center (NVC) when the approved I-130 petition has reached them. The NVC will instruct the applicant on the documents to submit and the fees to be paid for the immigrant visa application.

Interviews

The applicant would be scheduled for a green card interview (not compulsory in adjustment of status cases). Proper preparation is crucial here to ensure you are not caught unawares and minimize the possibility of costly mistakes.

Post Interview

The USCIS or consular officer may request additional documents if they feel that the information or evidence provided is insufficient to approve the immigrant visa/green card. Such requests are usually time-bound, and responding within the stipulated time is important. Otherwise, the application would be denied.

Decision

If the adjustment of the status application is approved, the USCIS will send the applicant an approval notice. The applicant will subsequently receive their green card.

Successful consular processing applicants will receive their immigrant visa and must travel to the U.S. before the expiration date printed on the visa. After they are admitted into the U.S. by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, they will be sent their green cards in the mail subsequently.

Applicants whose marriages are less than two years old when they become permanent residents would be issued conditional permanent resident cards, which are valid for two years. Before their card expires, they would need to go through the Green Card Renewal through Marriage process to remove the conditions on their green card and obtain one valid for ten years for a continuous stay in the U.S.

Addressing Possible Issues and Delays

The U.S. immigration system is notorious for its delays in processing applications. These delays are primarily due to backlogs at USCIS field offices and U.S. embassies. However, incomplete application packages and mistakes during the application process could also contribute to the problem. 

As an applicant, you cannot control the backlogs, so it is important to focus on eliminating the delaying factors within your control. Some of the most common reasons for delayed processing include the following:

  • Mistakes while completing immigration forms
  • Insufficient evidence or failure to provide the documents required for the application leading to requests for additional evidence
  • Failing to respond to additional evidence requests promptly
  • Filing immigration forms at the wrong filing address
  • Paying the wrong filing fee.

At the JQK Immigration Law Firm, we can guide you through every step of the green card application process and ensure that your application meets all the legal requirements so that there are no reasons for your application to be delayed from your end. 

You can also rely on us to track your application progress closely and communicate with the immigration authorities to fix any issue that could cause delays or lead to a denial.

Tackling challenges in securing your green card through marriage is what we do best. Trust us to guide you through each step and help you secure your stay in the U.S. with your spouse.

Navigate the Marriage Green Card Process With the JQK Immigration Law Firm

Applying for a marriage green card is a multi-step process involving several forms, procedures, documentation, and fees. Understanding the requirements and navigating the steps involved could be daunting without knowledge of immigration law. But don’t let that stop you.

Our team at the JQK Immigration Law Firm has the knowledge, experience, and skill to guide you through each step of the marriage green card process, from the initial immigrant petition till you obtain your green card and eventually achieve citizenship.

You can trust us to help keep your green card processing time as short as possible by providing strong legal counsel and representation throughout the process.

Contact us today for personalized assistance, responsive communication, and quality legal representation. Together, we can make your dream of becoming a green card holder and a permanent life in the United States a reality.

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