The spouse of a US citizen is considered an immediate relative for the purposes of immigrating to the USA and is entitled to apply for a green card through marriage. The process is one of the most popular ways for foreign nationals to immigrate to the US and there is no annual limit to the number of these particular marriage visas that are issued in the US or abroad.
Green Card through Marriage Requirements
In order to qualify for a marriage-based visa or green card, the couple must be legally married, the marriage must be real (the couple intends to establish a family life together), and any prior marriages must have ended in either death, divorce or annulment. The petitioning spouse must also be able to financially support the foreign national spouse.
Those who meet the marriage green card requirements can begin the application process by filing form I-130; it can either be mailed to the USCIS location handling marriage green card applications for the state where the citizen spouse resides or filed online.
After the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, if the immigrant husband or wife lives outside the US, the case will be sent to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will instruct the foreign national spouse to fill out the necessary forms and pay the required fees. Once complete, the NVC will send the file to the appropriate US consulate or embassy. The foreign spouse will need to complete a medical exam, consular interview, and receive criminal record clearance prior to receiving their immigrant visa. If the marriage is less than two years old when the foreign national enters the US, the spouse will be issued a two-year conditional green card (CR1 Visa) that will need to be converted to a permanent green card through the removal of conditions process two years later.
Adjustment of Status
However, if the immigrant husband or wife is living in the US, he or she may be allowed to complete the green card process without having to travel abroad for a visa interview. This process is called adjustment of status (AOS) and can be requested by filing form I-485 at the same time the I-130 is filed, or later. An immigration lawyer can help determine if you qualify for the adjustment of status process.
Green Card for the Spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
While the husband or wife of a US Citizen can apply for a green card immediately, the husband or wife of a green card holder (LPR) must wait a period of time after filing form I-130 before an immigrant visa becomes available. There is an annual limit to the number of marriage visas available to spouses of LPRs and the wait time can vary widely between a few months and several years.
If the green card holder becomes a US citizen before a marriage visa is available for the husband or wife, the spouse will be eligible to convert the case to that of an immediate relative of a US Citizen.