A marriage green card, officially known as a “spousal immigrant visa” or “IR1/CR1 visa,” is a type of U.S. immigrant visa that allows a foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to live and work in the United States permanently. It is essentially a pathway to lawful permanent residency (LPR) or a green card based on the marital relationship to a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
There are two primary types of marriage green cards:
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa (IR1): This category is for spouses of U.S. citizens. When approved, it leads to the issuance of a green card, granting the foreign spouse the right to live and work in the United States permanently. IR1 visas are typically issued without a waiting period, and the green card is typically valid for 10 years before requiring renewal.
Conditional Resident Immigrant Visa (CR1): This category is for spouses of U.S. citizens who have been married for less than two years at the time of the visa application. When approved, the foreign spouse is granted conditional permanent residency for two years. During the 90-day period before the end of the two-year period, the couple must jointly file a petition to remove the conditions and convert the conditional green card into a regular, 10-year green card.
To obtain a marriage green card, the U.S. citizen or green card holder must sponsor their foreign national spouse, and the couple must demonstrate that their marriage is bona fide (genuine) and not entered into solely for immigration purposes. The application process involves filing various forms and providing documentation to establish the legitimacy of the marriage.
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How to apply for a marriage-based green card?
Applying for a marriage-based green card, also known as a spousal immigrant visa or IR1/CR1 visa, involves several steps. Below is an overview of the process for applying for a marriage-based green card:
You must be legally married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to be eligible for a marriage-based green card.
The first step is for the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse to file Form I-130 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the qualifying relationship and seeks approval for the foreign spouse to immigrate to the U.S.
Wait for Petition Approval:
After USCIS receives the Form I-130, they will review it. If approved, USCIS will issue an approval notice.
Check Visa Bulletin and Priority Date:
Some categories may have waiting periods due to numerical limitations. Check the Visa Bulletin to determine when a visa number becomes available based on the priority date (the date USCIS received the Form I-130).
File Form DS-260 or Form I-485:
Depending on whether the foreign spouse is inside or outside the U.S., they will either:
File Form DS-260 online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) if outside the U.S. (consular processing).
File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, if already in the U.S. and eligible for adjustment of status.
Pay the required fees associated with the green card application, medical examination, and biometrics (if applicable).
Complete Medical Examination:
Undergo a medical examination by an approved USCIS civil surgeon and provide the required medical documentation.
If applying for adjustment of status in the U.S., attend a biometrics appointment to have fingerprints and photographs taken.
Attend Interview (if required):
USCIS may require the couple to attend an in-person interview as part of the green card application process.
Submit Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
The sponsoring spouse must submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) to demonstrate their ability to financially support the immigrant spouse.
Provide Supporting Documents:
Submit all required supporting documents, including marriage certificates, birth certificates, passport-style photos, and any other requested evidence to prove the bona fides of the marriage.
Background Checks and Security Clearance:
USCIS will conduct background checks, including a criminal background check and security clearance.
Receive a Decision:
USCIS will review the application and documentation, conduct interviews if necessary, and make a decision on the green card application.
Receive the Green Card:
If the application is approved, the immigrant spouse will receive a green card, granting them lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
Form I-130 Filing Fee (Petition for Alien Relative): The filing fee for Form I-130, which is filed by the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse to establish the qualifying relationship, was approximately $535. Please check the USCIS website or consult more recent sources for the most up-to-date filing fee.
Form DS-260 or Form I-485 Filing Fee: Depending on whether the foreign spouse is inside or outside the U.S., they will either file Form DS-260 or Form I-485. As of my last update, the Form I-485 filing fee was approximately $1,225 for applicants aged 14-78, which includes the application fee and the biometrics fee. The DS-260 filing fee may vary depending on the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Medical Examination: The cost of a medical examination by an approved USCIS civil surgeon can vary but typically ranges from $100 to $300 or more, depending on the physician and location.
Biometrics Fee: If applying for adjustment of status (Form I-485) in the U.S., there may be a biometrics fee included in the Form I-485 filing fee. As of my last update, this fee was included in the total fee mentioned above.
Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) Fee: There is no fee for filing Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, but the sponsoring spouse will need to meet certain income requirements to demonstrate their ability to financially support the immigrant spouse.
Other Costs: Additional costs may include fees for passport-style photographs, photocopying, translation of documents, and any costs associated with obtaining necessary supporting documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, or police clearance certificates.