How to Apply for a Marriage Green Card

Congratulations! Now that you have tied the knot (or are about to), you might be thinking about your living arrangements. Will you and your significant other live in the U.S.? If so, you may need to apply for a marriage green card.

Let’s cover the steps so that you know what you need to do in the process of getting yourself or your spouse in the U.S. legally.

A client at Clearwater Law Group’s marriage green card visa and their wedding ring.

How to Apply for a Marriage Green Card

Being married to a U.S. citizen, you are in a place to become a “lawful permanent resident.” Applying for a marriage green card is step one. A marriage green card permits you to move, reside, and work wherever you’d like in the U.S. After three years, you may be eligible to apply to be a U.S. citizen.

Here’s a quick look at how the marriage green card application process works:

Marriage Green Card Timeline and Cost

How long can it take to get a green card after marriage? That depends on when you apply. Generally, you can expect your marriage green card to be processed within 9-36 months after putting in the application. This timeline varies based on whether your spouse has a green card or U.S. citizenship.

It costs $1,760 to apply for a marriage green card if you currently live in the U.S. You will also need to budget for a medical exam (between $200-$500) and any legal fees that may arise.

While it is not mandatory to work with an immigration lawyer, it is recommended as immigration rules are complex and you want the peace of mind that everything is done right. Immigration attorneys can help you with the full process of applying for a green card and answer any questions along the way.

Establish the marriage relationship.

Providing proof that you are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder is an important part of the marriage green card application process. The spouse who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder must first file a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) on behalf of the spouse seeking a green card. This form is often approved as long as you show that your marriage is authentic.

The following materials should be included, in addition to others:

  • Proof of your spouse’s citizenship or lawful permanent residence (e.g., a birth certificate, passport, or green card)
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Divorce decrees from previous marriages
  • Your birth certificates
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • Proof that your respective lives have joined together (living together, joint bank accounts, joint billing, photos of your relationship over time and adding each other to insurance policies)

Apply for the green card.

To apply for the green card, you will want to file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) if you reside in the U.S. That will help you avoid returning to your home country to process the application. This form can be filed at the same time as Form I-130.

If you are in the U.S. and fill out Form I-485, you will need various supporting documents, including but not limited to:

  • Passport-style photos
  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Your birth certificate (or proof of birth)
  • Proof of your legal entry or an immigration petition filed on your behalf before April 30, 2001
  • Court records detailing any criminal history

Attend the green card interview and keep an eye out for approval.

After applying for the green card, you will need to participate in a green card interview. The interview’s purpose is to ensure your marriage is real, and you did not marry under false pretenses simply to get into the U.S.

The interview location is based on your residence. If you and your significant other live in the U.S. now, you will both need to attend the green card interview.

The green card marriage interview questions can be different for everyone. The officer’s goal is to make sure you did not marry just for a green card. That means questions can be light-natured (such as your favorite foods) and more personal (such as your home life).

The officer will want proof of your legal entry into the United States or other eligibility to apply for the green card (previously filed petition). Lastly, the officer will want to ensure you do not have a disqualifying criminal background.

After Initial Approval

Once your marriage green card application is approved, you will await your green card in the mail. The type of green card and expiration date (2 years for conditional residents and 10 years for permanent residents) will vary based on the length of your marriage.

For Marriages Less Than 2 Years

You will be a conditional permanent resident if you have been married no greater than two years. You and your spouse are required to file a Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) within 90 days before your conditional green card is set to expire (at the two-year mark). That is the next step to obtaining a green card.

Please Note: If you forget to petition to remove the conditions by that time, there is a chance that you may no longer be a conditional permanent resident, and you might be forced to leave the U.S.

For Marriages Greater Than 2 Years

You will get an immediate relative green card if you have been married for more than two years. This green card lasts for a decade, and renewing it is generally a fast process since you have already shown that your marriage is real. You will not have to do this a second time if you receive an immediate relative green card. You are also eligible to apply for your citizenship in three years from receiving your green card if the marriage is to a United States citizen.


Getting a green card for a spouse can be a long process, but it is worth it to have your loved one in the U.S. alongside you. You should be prepared to answer various questions, provide several forms of documentation and identification, and wait for a few months to find out if your application is approved.

As always, an immigration lawyer can help speed things up by ensuring everything is done correctly on the first go-around.

Need an experienced immigration attorney who can assist in the marriage green card process? Clearwater Law Group is well-versed in all things immigration. Schedule a complimentary, one-on-one consultation today.