How Long Does It Take To Get A Marriage Green Card?

A marriage green card allows an immigrant to live and work in the United States when they get married to a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. It may take between 10 to 38 months to get a marriage green card, without considering other factors that may delay the process.

The application process timeline considers two factors; the location of the spouse of a U.S. citizen, and the citizenship status of the U.S. spouse. These two factors further create four different scenarios that determine how long it takes to process the marriage green card. Below is a breakdown of each one of these scenarios:

Read more | What Is A Green And How To Get It?

U.S. Citizen With Immigrant Spouse Living In The U.S.

Under this category, it may take between 10-13 months to get a green card. The first step of the process is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

The first form is filed by the sponsoring spouse (the U.S. citizen) while the latter is filled by the beneficiary (the immigrant spouse married to a U.S. citizen). The two forms may be filed concurrently and mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This saves a lot of time needed to process the green card through marriage.

Supporting Documents For Form I-130 | Petition For Alien Relative

The U.S. citizen spouse will have to provide the following supporting documents alongside Form I-130:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Evidence of the validity of the marriage relationship, such as a marriage certificate
  • Proof that the marriage relationship is genuine and not based on the purposes of obtaining a green card
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s nationality
  • An affidavit of support to prove that the sponsoring spouse is financially capable of supporting the beneficiary who is eligible for a green card

The USCIS may take between 5 to 12 months to process this application.

Supporting Documents For Form I-485 | Application To Adjust Status

The married fiancé seeking permanent residence status after entering the United States with a nonimmigrant visa will need to submit the following supporting documents to the USCIS, along with form I-485:

  • A birth certificate to prove their citizenship to their home country
  • Government-issued identity card
  • Passport size photo, U.S.-style
  • Police criminal record

This article explains the marriage green card application process.

U.S. Citizen With Immigrant Spouse Outside The United States

The green card timeline for a spouse living abroad may be between 11 to 17 months. The sponsor files form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative to the USCIS, which may take between 5 months to two years to be approved.

After approval, USCIS will send the application to the U.S. embassy or consulate of the beneficiary’s country. The consular will then invite the beneficiary, also considered an immediate relative of the sponsoring spouse, for a visa interview within 4 to 6 weeks after the notification. If they pass the interview, they will be eligible for an immigrant visa to travel into the United States.

Green Card Holder With An Immigrant Spouse Living In the United States

It takes between 29 months to three years to process a green card for an immigrant spouse living in the United States while married to a U.S. green cardholder. The sponsoring spouse is required to file form I-130, which will be attached to the Supplemental Information form I-130A.

The latter provides additional information about the beneficiary of the marriage-based green card. The next step is to file Form I-485 to adjust the status of the beneficiary to become a green cardholder. However, this form cannot be filed until the U.S. Department of State establishes that there is a green card slot available.

Green Card Holder With An Immigrant Spouse Living Outside The United States

The application for a marriage green card in this category may take 23 to 32 months to complete. Similar to a marriage-based green card, the sponsor, who is petitioning for the beneficiary to obtain permanent resident status, files form I-130 and awaits the approval of the USCIS.

If approved, the USCIS will then send the application to the U.S. embassy or consulate of the beneficiary’s country. After a successful interview, the alien spouse will travel to the U.S. on permanent residence status.

Common Reasons For Marriage-Based Green Card Delays

Applying for a green card through marriage may take longer than expected owing to many factors. Some of these reasons may not be controllable, while others are due to the regulatory procedures required in the process. Here are some of the most common reasons:

Failure To Respond To Request For Evidence On Time

When the USCIS requires more information regarding your application, they may request you to provide it within a certain timeframe. If you do not submit the required information within the provided time frame, your application may be delayed.

Backlog In The Green Card Applications

Each year, the U.S. government receives thousands of green card petitions, including petitions from other different categories. For this reason, the processing times may increase to ensure that every petition is reviewed and the appropriate feedback provided.

Travel Bans

International travel bans and restrictions may affect immigration processes. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic halted a lot of travel activities both locally and internationally. As a result, the processing time for marriage-based green card increased drastically.

New Immigration Policies

The USCIS may receive new policies that require immediate changes in some immigration procedures. Such policies may cause some of the completed work to be redone. When that happens, the immigration system and officers may be overwhelmed with the backlog, thus failing to beat their initially set deadlines.

What To Do When Your Marriage Green Card Application Delays

Waiting to get a marriage green card may be disheartening if you do not receive any communication regarding your application. The first step you may need to take when following up with the application is to contact the USCIS Contact Center.

The contact center offers several options to track petitions, ranging from online methods to phone calls. If you choose to contact the USCIS via phone, it may take a while before reaching an attendant due to the high volumes of phone calls this government agency receives daily. Prior to the covid19 pandemic, applicants could also schedule one-on-one appointments at USCIS offices. However, this option is no longer available as of February 2021.

The USCIS officer will give you a reference number that you should keep for easy tracking of your case. You also need to ensure that that the information you provide to the officer is accurate so that they may be able to track your case with ease.

Most cases can be solved by a single phone call; however, if more time is required, the USCIS officer will let you know how long it will take them to provide you with the information you need. A typical referral case may be solved within 2 to 4 weeks.

Delays From The US Consulate

You may submit a case inquiry to the National Visa Center if there are delays in the consulate. The NVC may delay in filing the approved petition to the U.S consulate, consequently delaying your visa interview. While making this inquiry, you need to present your case number to the corresponding officer for easy tracking of your case.

As a general rule, unless you are very experienced at handling immigration forms and cases, it is always advisable to contact an immigration attorney prior to submitting your petition. An immigration attorney comes with a deeper understanding of green card processes and other US immigration laws related to your petition.

In some cases, immigration petitions are not processed in time due to errors made by the petitioner. To avoid such occurrences, hiring an immigration attorney is a good idea. An experienced attorney from a reputable law firm will go through your petition prior to submitting it to the USCIS. This helps identify possible mistakes and loopholes that could delay your petition, and ensure that they are corrected beforehand.

Language barriers may also affect the effectiveness of communication between the USCIS and an applicant. A lawyer may intercede on behalf of an applicant to ensure that they understand the process of a marriage-based green card application. For example, the lawyer may help an applicant understand the specific documents that the USCIS requests them to provide. This is especially helpful if the applicant is required to submit additional documents to the USCIS prior to processing the petition.

How To Calculate Processing Times For Permanent Resident Cards

The green card timeline mentioned in each category above may increase or decrease depending on several factors. Due to the high volume of calls, they receive from concerned petitioners, the USCIS has set up a Processing Times tool on their website. This tool provides a rough estimate of the processing times of a green card through marriage, including other types of petitions.

To use the tool, you simply need to enter the name of the form, select the field office or service center where it was filed, and then click on Get Processing Time to see how long the green card process takes.

You will see the estimated processing time for the specific form you selected. Under Receipt Date For Case Inquiry, you will see the date when you can inquire about your case if you haven’t yet been contacted by the USCIS. The inquiry can either be done online or by contacting the USCIS contact center.


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