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Immigration and Green Card Application
through Marriage
for U.S. Citizen's Spouse, and Do It Yourself Package

Obtaining Green Card through Marriage to a U.S. Citizen

Every year, thousands of foreign-born spouses become engaged or married to US citizens. The immigration process for Green Card application through marriage varies based on whether a foreign spouse intends to marry the US citizen in the US or outside the US. Each of these marriage based immigration situations will require slightly different planning and procedures.

Family-sponsored immigration is to become a U.S. permanent resident through certain family relations. Normally, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident would file an immigration petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS). The U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident is called the sponsor. The alien relative for whom the immigration petition is filed is called the beneficiary.

A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can be the sponsor of a family-sponsored immigration petition. However, the sponsor has to meet certain requirements and legal obligations. The sponsor has to submit a legally binding affidavit of support for the beneficiary to USCIS, in which the sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen, or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters.

The immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen refers to parents, spouses and children (who are unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen. Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions. This means there is no visa quota allowed under the immediate relative category, unlike other close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can apply for U.S. permanent resident status without any waiting time. There is NO immigrant visa number limit for "immediate relatives" of a U.S. citizen (parents, spouses, widows and children being unmarried and under 21 years of age)

The rest of the beneficiaries are divided into several groups called preferences. Each preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. The immigrant visa dates on the Visa Bulletin of the U.S. Department of State are updated monthly, usually around the 14th of each month.  

The Immigration and Green Card Application Process for Marriages within or outside the United States

To obtain an immigrant visa for your spouse, you must meet the following requirements: 1) You must be legally married. Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration. Unmarried partners are ineligible to sponsor visas to the United States; 2) In most cases, you must have a residence in the U.S. to apply; 3) You must be 18 years old before you can sign the Affidavit of Support, which is a form that will be required later in the process.

There is no minimum age for a U.S. petitioner to file a petition for a family-based immigrant visa. However, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a residence in the U.S. before you can sign the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864 or I-864EZ). This form is required for immigrant visas for spouses and other relatives of U.S. sponsors. As a U.S. petitioner, you must maintain your principal residence (also called domicile) in the U.S., which is where you plan to live for the foreseeable future. Living in the U.S. is required for a U.S. sponsor to file the Affidavit of Support.

To get your spouse a U.S. immigrant visa and bring your spouse to the U.S. to live, one method is that you can "sponsor" your spouse's immigrant visa for entry to the United States. If you follow this process, your foreign spouse will complete the visa process completely outside the U.S., and then arrive in the U.S. and obtain permanent residency status immediately. You will need to submit an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, to USCIS.

If married outside the United States, the foreign spouse usually must remain in her or his country until she or he obtains the Green Card. In this case, the U.S. citizen needs to file an immigration petition (Form I-130) and request that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the spouse lives.

Once the form I-130 visa petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a packet from the National Visa Center (NVC), which is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The packet informs the foreign spouse of the various documents which must be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (e.g., passport, police clearances, results of medical examinations, etc.). The packet includes certain documents requesting biographic data that must be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Usually, the foreign-born spouse is interviewed and granted an immigrant visa within three to six months.

Immigrant Visa Application of Form I-130, Form I-485 Adjustment, and a Suspect Marriage

After USCIS approves the Form I-130 petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center. Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition.  NVC will begin processing the applicant’s case by contacting the applicant and petitioner with instructions for submitting the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees have been paid, the NVC will again contact the applicant and petitioner to request that the necessary immigrant visa documentation be submitted to the National Visa Center, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, and more.

To pay fees to the National Visa Center, you should follow the fee payment instructions on NVC's Immigrant Visa Processing web page when paying the Affidavit of Support and immigrant visa processing fees. Do not pay either fee until the NVC informs you to do so. Do not send payments to NVC’s address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Although USCIS does not charge a fee for Form I-864 - Affidavit of Support, the Department of State does charge a fee when the Affidavit of Support is reviewed domestically. This does not apply when the Affidavit of Support is filed abroad. If a U.S. citizen marries an alien abroad, an I-130 petition must be filed after the marriage to begin the immigration process for the alien husband or wife. This can be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the United States.

The Immigrant Visa Unit at U.S. embassy or consulate will process the application for an immigrant visa. While no assurance can be given regarding the appointment date of the visa interview, the alien spouse should prepare for that appointment and obtain the documents required for the visa application. As a U.S. citizen, you should also be prepared to prove that you meet the income requirement of a sponsor. When your spouse has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview with a consular officer overseas, or when your spouse is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident (Form I-485), you will need to complete an I-864 Affidavit of Support.  => ..........

Conditional Permanent Residence Status and Consequences of Divorce for Immigration purposes

An U.S. Permanent Residence status will be conditional, if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old on the day the alien spouse was given USA permanent residence. The alien spouse is given conditional Green Card status on the day that the spouse is lawfully admitted to the United States on an immigrant visa, or receive adjustment of status of Form I-485 application.

If you have been married for less than two years when your spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, the permanent resident status is considered “conditional.” The immigrant visa is a conditional resident (CR) visa, not an immediate relative (IR) visa. A lawful permanent resident is given the privilege of living and working in the United States permanently. A permanent residence status will be conditional, if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old on the day the alien spouse was given permanent residence. The alien spouse is given conditional resident status on the day he or she is lawfully admitted to the United States on an immigrant visa or receive adjustment of status.

The U.S. citizen and alien spouse must apply together to remove the conditions on the alien spouse's residence. They should apply during the 90 days before their second anniversary as a conditional resident. The expiration date on the alien registration card (commonly know as Green Card) is also the date of the second anniversary as a conditional resident. If the U.S. citizen and alien spouse do not apply to remove the conditions in time, the alien spouse could lose the conditional resident status and be removed from the country.

Because of the concern of the marriage being likely to be shams, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review the validity of the marriage based Green Card, by initially making the new immigrant a "conditional," not "permanent" resident. Aliens who obtain permanent residence (Green Card) based upon a petition filed by a U.S. citizen spouse may be subject to conditional residence status for two years.

The conditional residency will expire after two years. Before the expiration date, the immigrant will have to apply for permanent status. The application process involves proving that the marriage is ongoing, and supplying further proof that the couple is truly establishing a life together. This also means that the conditional Green Card will expire after two years, unless the Form I-751 is filed and approved. This allows the USCIS to double check and reassess whether the marriage was real at the time of its inception.
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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Spouse

Frequently asked questions and answers for family-sponsored immigration, Green Card application for U.S. Citizen's spouse, Form I-485 application, and other related issues of immigration process and immigrant visa application for U.S. Citizen's spouse.  => ..........

Our Help Desk's Answers for Questions of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Spouse and Other Related Issues 

Answers for questions of Green Card application for U.S. citizen's spouse by our Help Desk, including U.S. citizen's spouse immigration visa application, Green Card requirements and supporting documents, and immigrant visa application and interview process.  => .......... 

Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Spouse

To help a U.S. citizen's spouse (husband or wife) to immigrate to United States, we provide a high quality and case-proven "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Citizen's Spouse (Spouse DIY Package, or Spouse DIY Kit)." In this package, we let you know the required application documents, evidence, procedures, samples of application cover letter, samples of required forms, and application check list.  We also provide detailed explanation of the immigrant visa application, interview process, and how to remove the conditions on permanent residence for an alien spouse. =>.........

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