If you are marrying or are currently married to a U.S. citizen then you are eligible for a green card. You might be wondering how long it takes to get a green card through marriage, which is something that is going to depend on different factors. However, as long as you know what to expect and understand the steps to follow, you should be able to get through the process as smoothly as possible.
Estimated Timeline of Getting a Green Card Through Marriage
The time it will take you to get your green card is going to vary depending on different things. Factors that influence the timeline include:
- If the spouse is a U.S. Citizen and you currently live in the U.S. (10-13 months) or abroad (11-17 months).
- If your spouse is a U.S. Resident (a green card holder) and you currently live in U.S. (29–38 months) or abroad (23-32 months).
- The country where you are from.
- Where the marriage took place.
- Evidence provided.
That said, the overall time it takes ranges from 10 months to 38 months. You can get a better idea of how long it will take in your specific case if you keep in mind the aforementioned factors or contact an immigration attorney nearby.
Do I Get a Green Card If I Marry an American?
If the spouse is a naturalized U.S. citizen or if they were born in America, the time frame tends to be shorter. It usually ranges between 10 and 17 months. This time can increase if the citizen is not currently living in the United States. Keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extended time frames in all visa categories.
How Long Will It Take If I Marry a Green Card Holder?
The waiting time for the entire process can be longer in the case of marriage to a resident. Usually, the timeframe ranges between 28 months and 38 months in total. Unlike the case of U.S. citizens, this timeframe decreases if the resident is not living in the U.S. when they make the petition.
Walking through the Process
Step 1: USCIS Petition
The first step requires the U.S. Citizen or green card holder to petition for their spouse. This is done through the USCIS office and the petitioner needs to provide sufficient proof that the marriage is a real one. In addition, the documentation of the petitioner in which it is attested that they are legal citizens or residents in the country is needed. This tends to be the lengthiest step, and the speed at which the agency verifies the documents is determinant for the entire process. The petitioner will need to file Form I-130 in which they petition an alien relative. This process alone tends to take approximately 7-10 months. Some cases have taken as long as 12 months and this process can be extended if the USCIS agent handling your case requests additional documents.
Step 2: NVC
The National Visa Center (NVC) receives your case once it has been approved by USCIS. During this stage of the process, the petitioner will need to provide an affidavit of support in which they state they will be able to support their immigrant spouse in the United States. This is done through I-1864. A different version of this form needs to be provided if the petitioner is sponsoring the immigrant spouse together with another member of the family. This is done when the petitioner doesn’t have an income sufficient to support their spouse fully. In addition, the applicant or immigrant spouse needs to fill Form DS-260 as well as provide their documentation including their birth certificate, passport copy, and other relevant documents. This step takes approximately 1-2 months. After the NVC examines the documents they might request additional ones. This is to ensure no information will be missing at the moment of the interview or in the process of issuing the green card.
Step 3: Interview
Once the NVC agent is satisfied with the documents and forms provided, they send this information to the U.S. consulate or embassy where the interview will take place. The applicant needs to undergo a medical exam by an approved physician before attending the interview and they will be required to attend an appointment in which their fingerprints will be registered. The applicant will receive a notification when their interview has been scheduled. The agent at the embassy will want to verify the legitimacy of the marriage. Therefore, they will be asking numerous personal questions. The applicant should also bring evidence such as photos, letters, and other items that might help prove the veracity of the relationship. If the agent considers the marriage is real, they will approve the marriage visa, keeping the passport of the applicant to print the visa on it. The passport will be delivered to the home of the applicant. After paying a fee the process for issuing the green card will begin and it should arrive at the U.S. address where the couple will live 2-3 weeks after it is issued. This green card can be a conditional residence limited to two years if the couple has been married for less than two years or it can be issued for 10 years if the marriage is longer than two years. If you are issued a conditional residence, you will need to apply for a release of this conditional status 90 days before the green card expires.
How to Get Citizenship After Marriage to a U.S. Citizen
Three years after your green card is approved and you get a conditional residence, you can apply for U.S. citizenship, which is the process of naturalization. You need to have been living with your spouse for this entire time.
How to Get a Green Card in the U.S. without Marriage
There are many different ways to get a green card in the United States. If not through marriage, other relatives can make the petition. These include a parent, sibling, or child. Petitions between siblings are usually the ones that take the longest time. In addition, people can opt for employment-based, investment-based, special immigrants, or other green card categories, which will also allow them to have a green card and become residents of the United States. Whatever the path, make sure you are well-informed and aware of all the requirements needed for this process.