The husband or wife of a United States 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. Unlike most other types of family-based immigrant visas, there is no annual limit to the number of these particular marriage visas that are issued in the US or abroad. The green card through marriage process is one of the most popular ways for foreign nationals to immigrate to the US. Certain children of the immigrant spouse may also be entitled to a green card if petitioned by the US citizen.
In order to qualify for a marriage-based visa (green card), the couple must be legally married, the marriage must be real (in that 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 marriage green card beneficiary.
Those who meet the marriage visa requirements can begin the green card process for their foreign national spouse by filing form I-130. Form I-130 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, the National Visa Center (NVC) will complete the process by instructing the foreign national spouse to fill out the necessary forms and pay the required fees. If the immigrant husband or wife plans on applying for the green card abroad, 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, the spouse will be issued a two-year conditional green card (CR1) that will need to be converted to an IR1 through the removal of conditions process.
Green Card through Marriage Adjustment of Status
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. This process is called Adjustment of Status (AOS) and can be requested by filing form I-485 with the appropriate USCIS office. An immigration lawyer can help determine if you qualify for the adjustment of status process.
K3 Visa for the Spouse of a United States Citizen
The formal marriage visa process can be time consuming. Often, a husband and wife must live apart during the process if the immigrant is located outside the US. It is sometimes faster to bring the spouse to the America on a K-3 marriage visa. The K3 visa allows the foreign spouse to enter the United States on a temporary basis in order to complete the immigration/green card process through Adjustment of Status (AOS). Instead of waiting for a green card abroad, the immigrant spouse is allowed to remain in the US and may even be able to work or get travel privileges. Note: The K3 visa is currently disfavored by USCIS and is often converted into a standard marriage visa case.
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 a green card 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.