Marriage-Based Green Cards (2023): Consular Processing
A marriage-based green card is a type of permanent residence that allows a non-US citizen to live and work permanently in the US with their spouse. There are two basic application pathways: adjustment of status (AOS), if your non-US citizen spouse is already in the US, or consular processing (CP), if your non-US citizen spouse is outside the US. The process of applying for a marriage-based green card can be complex, but in this post I provide a basic overview of the steps involved for consular processing. A subsequent post covers the adjustment of status process.
Step 1: Determine Eligibility
The first step is to determine your eligibility. To be eligible, the petitioner (the US citizen or legal permanent resident spouse) must be able to demonstrate that they have a bona fide marriage with their spouse, meaning that they married for love and not just for the purpose of obtaining a green card. The applicant (the non-US citizen spouse) must also be admissible to the US, meaning that they do not have any disqualifying criminal background, unfavorable immigration history, public charge issues, or disqualifying medical conditions.
Step 2: File Form I-130 and I-130A
The next step is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petitioner must also submit evidence of their relationship with the applicant, such as a marriage certificate and other supporting documentation, to prove that it is a legitimate marriage.
Step 3: Wait for Approval
After the petition is filed, USCIS will review it and make a decision on whether to approve it, deny it, or issue a request for evidence (RFE). If the petition is approved, USCIS will send the case to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. If the petition is denied, the petitioner may have the option to file an appeal or a motion to reconsider, or simply re-apply. If an RFE is issued on the case, the petitioner will have an opportunity to respond to the RFE and provide additional documentation.
Step 4: Apply for a Green Card
Once USCIS approves the petition and forwards it to the NVC, it is time to file the rest of the required forms and documentation. This stage includes submitting Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, along with supporting documentation to the NVC, such as the petitioner’s tax records and pay stubs, and the beneficiary’s birth certificate, police clearance certificate(s), criminal records (if applicable), and military records (if applicable).
Step 5: Attend the Interview
After the NVC has reviewed the application and all required documents have been submitted and approved, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview at the US embassy or consulate in their home country. The purpose of the interview is to determine the applicant's eligibility for a green card and to verify the legitimacy of their relationship with the petitioner. The applicant will need to bring all original documentation submitted to the NVC, as well as proof of the bona fides of their marriage to the petitioner.
Step 6: Receive the Green Card
If the interview goes well and the applicant is found to be eligible for a green card, the interviewing officer can decide to issue a visa, allowing the beneficiary to travel to the US. When the beneficiary receives their passport with the immigrant visa from the embassy, they will also receive a sealed envelope with immigrant application paperwork that they must present to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) upon their first arrival to the US. Once the immigrant visa page is stamped by CBP, the beneficiary immediately becomes a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and can work in the US and travel freely in and out of the US. After the immigrant fee is paid, the beneficiary will get their green card mailed to them at the address indicated as their intended address in the US. From this point, the new green card holder must take steps to maintain their green card by continuing to be domiciled in the US and/or filing for a reentry permit in advance of extended stays outside of the US.
Applying for a marriage-based green card can be a lengthy and complicated process, whether accomplished through adjustment of status or consular processing, but it can be a great opportunity for non-US citizens to establish a permanent life in the US with their spouse. If you are interested in learning more about the process, discussing your eligibility, or are ready to get started, contact us.
If you are interested in applying for a marriage-based green card...
Disclaimer: This post is attorney advertising. It is meant as general information only, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. We suggest you set up a consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes; every case is unique and must be analyzed individually.