Changing Your Status From H-1B to Marriage Green Card

Are you an H-1B visa holder considering settling down in the United States? If yes, this guide will help you learn how to smoothly transition from an H-1B visa holder to a marriage Green Card holder. We’ll discuss in detail the time it takes to transition from an H-1B visa to a Marriage Green Card holder and other important aspects you need to know.

What’s An H-1B Visa?

H-1B is an employment-based visa held by non-immigrant temporary workers. An H-1B visa and work permit allow you to obtain a:

  • social security number,
  • driver’s license,
  • bank account,
  • and many other immigration benefits in the United States.

The H-1B visa is usually valid for three years, after which you’ll be required to renew it for another three additional years. You can be a holder of the H-1B visa only for six years; when it expires, you’ll be required to travel back to your home country or apply to adjust your status and become a permanent resident if you wish to remain in the U.S.

As a general rule, you’ll be given a grace period of 10 days to make travel arrangements before the H-1B visa expires.

What If My H-1B Visa Expires Before My Green Card Application Is Processed?

You can request an extension of your H1-B status in one-year increments. Let’s say you’re in the process of applying for a green card; you can be granted an extension if your Labor Condition Application has been pending for a year or if your Labor Certification (I-140) is approved. This allows you to apply for unlimited extensions till your Green Card process is complete.

Is A H-1B Holder Eligible To Become A US Citizen?

If you’re an H-1B visa holder, you’re encouraged to apply for a United States Green Card. It is possible to change your status because H-1B visa holders are considered eligible to become permanent residents. This is because an H-1B visa is regarded as a dual intent visa.

Dual Intent visas allow holders to apply for a Green Card if they feel the need to settle in the United States permanently. This Green Card application option is not available in some visa categories with no chance for renewal or status change; hence, the visa holders return to their country of origin once the visa expires. Therefore, the H-1B visa has superior advantages when compared to most non-immigrant U.S visas.

What’s A Marriage Green Card?

A marriage green card is the kind of green card obtained through marrying a United States citizen. If you’re a non-citizen, obtaining a green card will allow you to live and work in the U.S permanently. It is a lawful permanent resident card that will grant you the right to enter, stay, and work in the U.S. as long as you please.

Read more | Marriage Green Cards Explained

Read more | How To Marry a US Citizen

A successful Green Card application means that you will no longer need to be sponsored by an employer to reside in the U.S or seek travel permits before traveling in and out of the country. However, you’ll not enjoy all the rights and privileges that U.S citizens enjoy. For instance, you’ll be ineligible to vote in U.S elections or apply for certain job positions restricted to citizens only.

You can also lose your Green Card status if you spend an extended period of time outside the United States, in what is commonly known as an abandonment of status. There’s also the risk of deportation and green card revocation if you get convicted of a serious federal crime.

Obtaining a marriage-based Green Card is a lengthy process that consists of multiple steps and procedures outlined below.

H-1B To Marriage Green Card Transfer

This is the process of acquiring a U.S green card from the H-1B visa. The most common way of obtaining permanent residency is by marriage. Therefore, your H-1B application status is not impacted negatively if you choose to apply for permanent residency through marriage.

Documents Needed Before Filing The Application

Here’s a look at some of the most important documents you need to file for a marriage green card from an H-1B visa.

1. Form I-130: Petition For Alien Relative

Form I-130 is the family sponsorship form used to establish the relationship between you and your spouse. The relationship must be legal and not based on fraud.

Read more | Form I-130 Explained

2. Form I-485: Adjustment Of Status

Form I-485 determines whether you’re eligible for permanent residency. It notifies the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services about your desire to adjust your status to become a permanent resident of the U.S.

Read more | Form I-485 Processing

3. Immigration Form I-94 (Visa Stamp)

A Visa Stamp, also known as the I-94 travel record, is proof that you entered the country lawfully.

4. A Medical Examination Report

A USCIS-approved doctor must conduct this exam. The test is performed to find out if you have any health-related issues such as highly contagious diseases. Once you take the medical exam, you can either attach it with your Green card application or submit it afterward.

Other Documents You May Need During The Application Process

Depending on your situation, you may need to file the following forms.

1. Form I-765

This is the Employment Authorization Document, which allows you to continue working in the United States.

Read more | Form I-765 Processing

2. Form I-131

This is the travel document you need before leaving the United States while your application is being processed. Traveling without a travel permit after submitting your Green Card application can negatively impact your application.

Read more | Form I-131 Processing

The Application Process

Before you begin the application process from an H-1B visa to a Marriage Green Card, you need to know that the process is quite different for people whose spouses are U.S citizens and those whose spouses are Green Card holders.

What If My Spouse Is a U.S Citizen?

The process of switching to a marriage Green Card from an H-1B visa is less complicated if your spouse is a U.S citizen. In the application, you need Form I-130, which is typically the family sponsorship form or petition for an alien relative.

This form is used to establish that a family relationship exists between you and your spouse and that the marriage is legal and not based on fraud. The form must be filed with supporting documents such as proof that your spouse is a U.S citizen (birth certificate or certificate of naturalization), and that a legal relationship exists between the two of you.

It costs around $535 to apply and file Form I-130. The processing time may range from 6 to 11 months if your spouse is a U.S citizen.

You’ll also need to submit Form I-485, also known as Adjustment of Status. This form is used to prove that you’re eligible for permanent residency in the United States. It must be filed together with supporting documents such as a birth certificate copy, passport, and a medical examination report.

You also must be physically present in the United States to file Form I-485. It costs around $1225 to apply and file Form I-485. The processing time may range from 9 to 11 months if your spouse is a U.S citizen.

If you’re an H-1B holder, it’s advisable to maintain a legal immigration status throughout your Green Card application process. You’ll have to submit an I-485 petition, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to USCIS after your employer’s I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, is approved.

Even though submitting Form I-485 is often the second step when applying for a marriage Green Card, you can choose to submit Form I-130 and Form I-485 concurrently if you want to reduce the waiting time. This option is only available to spouses of U.S. citizens.

What If My Spouse Is A Green Card Holder?

If your spouse is a Green Card holder, the process of switching to a marriage Green Card from an H-1B visa is a bit complicated, and the application usually takes longer to process. This is because concurrent filing isn’t allowed if your spouse is not a Green Card holder.

You’ll need to submit Form I-130, which is typically the family sponsorship form used by the USCIS to establish that a family relationship exists between you and your spouse and that the marriage is legal and not based on fraud.

The form must be filed with supporting documents such as proof that your spouse is a U.S citizen, and a legal relationship exists between you and your spouse. It costs around $535 to apply and file Form I-130. After that, you’ll have to wait to receive a Visa number, and this might take some time, usually up to 2 years, before you’re issued the number.

After receiving the visa number, you’ll continue with the application by submitting Form I-485 or the Adjustment of Status form used by the USCIS to prove that you’re eligible for permanent residency. This form must be filed together with supporting documents such as a birth certificate copy, passport, and a medical examination report. You also must be physically present in the United States to file Form I-485, which costs around $1225.

What If I Want To Travel Abroad After Submitting My Green Card Application?

It’s important to note that after submitting your marriage Greed Card application, you must seek a travel permit before traveling outside the U.S. Failure to which your marriage Green card application process will be nullified, and you’ll have to start the application process afresh.

Also, having an Advance Parole is essential for those seeking to travel outside the United States. However, if you have a valid H-1B Visa, you can use it to re-enter the U.S.

Apply For A Work Permit

If you’re an H-1B visa holder, it’s advisable to maintain a legal immigration status throughout your Green Card application process. You’ll have to submit an I-485 petition, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status, to the USCIS after your employer’s I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, is approved. Alternatively, you may check with USCIS to see if concurrent filing is allowed to submit both petitions simultaneously.

It’s advisable to submit Form I-765 when applying for a marriage Green card. This allows you to continue working even if your H-1B visa expires while you’re applying for your marriage-based Green Card. The permit usually takes around 150 days or longer to be processed.

What If I Don’t Apply For A Work Permit?

If you choose not to apply for a work permit, you’ll have to stay out for work until you apply and get a work permit. That’s only if you haven’t reached the six-year maximum period of being an H-1B visa holder. If you’ve reached the six-year maximum, you’ll have to leave the U.S until the marriage Green Card is issued. Your work permit application won’t negatively impact your Green Card application and is free to file.

What’s The Waiting Time?

The time you’ll have to wait till your Green Card application is processed depends on several factors. It takes less time to process Green Card applications of U.S citizens’ spouses compared to spouses of Green Card holders.

The average time it takes for spouses of U.S citizens to switch from H-1B to a marriage Green Card may range from 10 to 13 months. Spouses of Green Card holders wait between 29 to 38 months to know the status of their applications. Interviews take up to 2 months to schedule after the application is processed. Another factor that may impact the waiting time is the state where you live in the United States.

Once your application is processed, you’ll be contacted by your local or nearest USCIS office representative. The representative will schedule an appointment and give you the time, date, and location of the interview. You and your spouse will have to attend the interview conducted by a USCIS officer in person.

The USCIS officer will have to prove your marriage’s authenticity, in order to decide the fate of the Green Card application. If the officer is convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, they’ll approve the Green Card application.

If by any chance, your H-1B Visa expired before your marriage Green Card application was processed, and you left the country, you can attend the interview at a U.S embassy in your home country.

After approval, your Green Card will be mailed to you within two or three weeks. Afterward, you can work in any state in the U.S and take international trips without having to apply for travel permits.

Currently, there are two types of Green Cards issued. Here’s all you need to know about them:

1. The CR1

Also known as a conditional Green Card or Conditional Resident Spouse Visa, this type of Green Card expires after two years. After that, you’ll need to apply for the removal of the conditions.

2. The IR1

Also known as the Immediate Relative Spouse visa, this type of Green Card expires after ten years, after which you’ll have to renew it.

What If My Green Card Request Is Denied?

It can be quite disheartening if your Green Card request is denied for a particular reason at any stage of the application. This rarely happens, but there’s a possibility your request may be turned down given that the USCIS makes the final decision. Therefore, you have to make sure that you have all the valid documents needed for the application at your disposal.

Common Reasons For A Green Card Denial

There are several reasons why the USCIS may turn down your application. For instance, if you have a past criminal record, the chances of your application being turned down are very high. If you violate your immigration status and do anything contrary to immigration laws, your application can be turned down.

Health-related issues such as having a contagious disease may also lead to Green Card denial. Therefore, it is important to ensure you meet all the requirements before applying for a Marriage Green Card.

Can I Appeal If My Green Card Request Is Denied?

If you feel like your Green Card application was denied unfairly or you have sufficient evidence to convince the USCIS to overturn the decision, you can file an appeal. With the help of an immigration attorney, you may file an appeal request to the Administrative Appeals Office and the Board of Immigration Appeals. There’s no guarantee that the decision will be overturned, but it is always worth trying, especially if you have new evidence.