You married or will be married to a non-U.S. citizen in the United States (or married outside the United States) and your foreign spouse requires permanent residence. Your foreign spouse entered the United States on a non-immigrant visa (i.e. fiancé(e) visa, visitor visa, student visa, work visa etc.) or visa waiver and is currently in the United States legally or overstayed the visa.
You think that s/he is eligible to apply but the process seems complicated. For your information, CLG has listed the steps in the process below.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Filing
In order to initiate the process, the petitioner (U.S. citizen) files a Petition for Alien Relative (form I-130) on behalf of the beneficiary (foreign spouse and minor children) with the USCIS Service Center. Along with the marriage petition, the foreign spouse and minor children file an Application for Permanent Residence, Applications for Travel and Work Permits, an Affidavit of Support, completed medical examination and supporting documents with the USCIS Service Center. After the marriage petition and applications are filed, the USCIS Service Center will issue receipt notices for each. The marriage petition, applications and supporting documentation are then forwarded to the USCIS District Office nearest you and your foreign spouse’s and children’s residence.
Timing: Currently, the receipt notices are issued (on average) within 2 weeks of filing.
Your foreign spouse and children are sent a notice to appear at the USCIS District Office in order for biometrics (fingerprints) to be captured. This allows the USCIS to perform a background check of your foreign spouse and children. After the background check is complete, the USCIS schedules you, your foreign spouse and children for an interview and forwards the marriage petition, applications, medical examination and supporting documents to the USCIS District Office.
Timing: Currently, the biometrics appointment is scheduled (on average) within 1 month of filing.
USCIS Permanent Residence Interview
At the interview, the USCIS officer will verify that all required documentation has been provided. Second, and more importantly, the USCIS officer will question you and your foreign spouse in detail with respect to the specifics of your marriage in order to determine its legitimacy. Further, you and your foreign spouse will be required to provide documentation demonstrating the legitimacy of your marriage. Once the USCIS officer determines that you are lawfully married, s/he will approve the marriage petition. Then the USCIS officer will decide the application for permanent residence.
Assuming that the application for permanent residence is approved, your foreign spouse and children will receive a lawful permanent resident card by mail. If you and your foreign spouse have been married less than 2 years at the time of issuance of the immigrant visa, the permanent resident card will be valid for 2 years. This is referred to as a ‘conditional resident’ card. Please note that 90 days prior to the expiration of the permanent resident card, your foreign spouse will be required to file a petition to remove the conditions on residence allowing for the issuance of a ‘new’ permanent resident card (valid for 10 years). If you and your foreign spouse have been married 2 years or more at the time of issuance of the immigrant visa, the permanent resident card will be valid for 10 years.
Timing: Currently, the permanent residence interview is scheduled (on average) within 4 to 12 months of filing. Permanent Residence Cards are issued within 2 weeks of the interview.
If you have additional questions about the marriage green card process, you may wish to read our marriage green card FAQs.