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Marriage-Based Green Cards

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Marriage-Based Green Cards

If you are a foreign national married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can get a green card to live permanently in the U.S! In order to keep families together, U.S. immigration law allows for U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their spouses. 

This can be a great benefit if you’re in love with your partner and you are in a long-distance relationship and ready to take the next step in building a life together. A marriage-based green card will allow you both to live together in the U.S. permanently and will provide your spouse with the freedom to travel in and out of the U.S. and to work in the U.S.

How to do it?

As the foreign national spouse, your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse must file an I-130 petition on your behalf and you must file a I-485 or green card application together with supporting documents establishing that you are both in a bona fide marriage. This means that you have a good faith marriage and you and your partner intend to build a future together! 

Eligibility Requirements

For a foreign-national spouse to get a green card, the following conditions must be met:

  • The U.S. citizen spouse must be at least 21 years old.
  • The foreign-national spouse must establish she/he has a valid marriage.

The U.S. citizen spouse must be cautious about timing and should speak with an immigration attorney about the process.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the validity of a marriage is determined by the law in the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed—known as the “place-of-celebration” rule. A same-sex marriage is valid as long as it meets this rule. USCIS does not recognize the following as marriages, even if valid in the place of celebration:

  • Polygamous marriages
  • Marriages that violate the public policy of the couple’s state of residence, such as incestuous marriages
  • Proxy marriages, unless the marriage has been consummated
  • Marriages aimed at evading U.S. immigration laws

Application Process

The spouse of a U.S. citizen may apply for a green card from either inside or outside the United States.

If the spouse is already in the U.S. legally, the petitioner must be cautious about the timing of the filing. We recommend consulting with an immigration attorney. Once that is done, the quickest and easiest way to apply is as follows:

  • The foreign-national spouse fills out Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), while the U.S. citizen spouse fills out Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
  • Submit Forms I-485 and I-130 together, along with all supporting evidence, to USCIS.

If the spouse of the U.S. citizen is outside the U.S., the following steps must be taken:

  • The U.S. citizen spouse must fill out and submit Form I-130 and supporting evidence to USCIS.
  • If USCIS approves the petition, the U.S. Department of State will invite the spouse to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
  • The spouse should pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee after receiving an immigrant visa packet from the U.S. embassy or consulate where the spouse applied and before traveling to the U.S.
  • Once the spouse is in the U.S., the spouse should submit Form I-485 along with supporting evidence to USCIS for a green card (permanent residency).

*Please note foreign national spouses of lawful permanent residents are subject to the visa bulletin and may have to wait for a visa to become available before applying for the green card at a local field office or at a consulate or embassy abroad. 

We Can Help

Figuring out immigration law can be difficult and confusing. The Alcorn Immigration Law team can help. Questions? Contact us.


  • Fees
    • Form I-485: $1,140
    • Form I-130: $535
    • Form I-864 if filed in the U.S.: $120
    • USCIS Immigrant Fee if coming to the U.S. from abroad: $165
    • Biometrics fee for applicants ages 14 to 78: $85
  • Related Forms
    • Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
    • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
    • Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support)
    • Other forms may be required depending on your situation.
  • Steps
    • If spouse is in the U.S., spouse fills out Form I-485, U.S. citizen fills out Form I-130; forms and evidence are submitted together.
    • If spouse is outside the U.S., U.S. citizen files Form I-130; spouse will be contacted by U.S. Department of State to apply for visa.
  • Period of Stay
    • Indefinitely!