Do you need a marriage green card?
Over the past 25 years, more than 2 million people have gained United States citizenship status by entering into a marriage with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This method remains the most common for foreign nationals becoming U.S. citizens—even above categories for employment-based immigration.
But how long does it take to get a marriage green card?
The marriage green card timeline averages anywhere between nine months and three years and depends on a few factors:
- Whether the spouse currently living in the U.S.—the sponsoring spouse—is a citizen or a green card holder themselves
- Where the spouse that’s petitioning for a green card—the beneficiary spouse—currently resides
- The current wait times and availability of spouse visas
If you or your spouse need a marriage green card to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. An immigration attorney can help you through the complex and lengthy process.
Is It Faster to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?
A marriage-based green card remains one of the fastest methods for immigrating to the United States. Other rapid methods of immigration include:
- Family reunification: Up to five years to finalize for an alien relative
- Seeking political asylum: Typically finalizes within one year
- Extraordinary ability: Typically finalizes in one to two years
- Investment immigration: Temporary green card in as little as one year; Permanent green card obtained within five to six years
Process for Obtaining a Marriage Green Card
Within the marriage green card timeline, the ideal situation is if the beneficiary spouse already lives in the U.S. and is married to a U.S. citizen.
Here’s a general overview of the process in this situation from start to finish (we’ll discuss factors that lengthen the process later):
- The U.S. citizen spouse files a petition for a marriage green card. During this step, they will need to fill out several forms and affidavits and provide supplemental information about their spouse
- The beneficiary spouse attends a biometrics appointment. This process ensures the immigrating spouse doesn’t have a criminal record or past immigration infractions that would disqualify them from legal migration to the U.S
- The beneficiary spouse attends a green card interview with Immigration Services (USCIS)
- USCIS will send the green card after the interview, which often takes several weeks
This is the simplest outline of the marriage green card process – which typically takes roughly a year to finalize – but when complicating factors are present, additional steps are needed, and there may be more extensive delays. Ultimately working an attorney like those at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi can help expedite the process.
Factors That Affect How Long a Marriage-Based Green Card Takes
Of course, the factors we discussed earlier can greatly impact how long the green card process takes from start to finish.
The Beneficiary Spouse Currently Resides Abroad
If the beneficiary spouse does not currently reside in the U.S., the process is slightly different and referred to as “Consular Processing.”
Once USCIS approves the initial petition from the sponsoring spouse, the case is moved to the National Visa Center (NVC) to be processed. It’s then forwarded to the consulate or U.S. embassy where the requesting spouse resides.
In place of a biometrics appointment and USCIS interview, beneficiary spouses living abroad will interview with the consulate or U.S. embassy. Once a consular officer approves, a visa is issued to the beneficiary spouse to enter the U.S. A green card will be sent several months afterward.
This process can take up to 17 months to complete.
The Sponsoring Spouse Is a Permanent Resident
Beneficiary spouses who are not married to U.S. citizens but are married to current green card holders will also need to fill out the petition forms. However, they’ll need to wait for a visa number in their category (F2A) to be available. Once available, an application to adjust status must be completed before a green card interview and approval can occur.
The whole process, in this case, could take roughly three years to complete.
Issues With Visa Availability and Processing Times
Some of the lengthiest green card processes are due to limited visa availability and high processing times at the USCIS application centers. Additional factors that lengthen the processing time include backlogs at the NVC or the consulate for interviews.
Spouses Have Been Married for Less Than Two Years
Due to the rise in fraudulent marriages to obtain green cards, the process can take even longer if a couple has been married for less than two years.
Once the initial application is completed, the beneficiary spouse will receive a conditional green card. After two years, the validity of the marriage will be confirmed, and the spouse will receive a permanent green card.
Can I Stay in the U.S. While Waiting for a Marriage Green Card?
If you are applying for a marriage green card as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you can also obtain a K-3 visa—which is a temporary legal status—while you await the approval of your marriage green card.
If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen but is a lawful permanent resident, you can only remain in the U.S. as long as you can legally do so without your marriage green card.
This means that if you have a valid student visa or work visa, for example, you can remain in the U.S. for the term of that visa. Once those visas expire, you must return to your country to await the finalization of your green card process.
An Immigration Lawyer Can Help
Immigration processes are complex and extremely lengthy. There are all sorts of issues that can arise throughout the long road ahead, so you need the benefit of expertise on your side.
Speak with the Law Office of Lina Baroudi immigration attorneys to ensure your marriage green card process goes smoothly. With their help, you’ll finally be able to look ahead to the future.