One of the most common questions we receive related to immigration is how an American citizen can acquire or sponsor a green card for his or her foreign spouse or fiancé. If you are a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may sponsor your spouse for a green card, or permanent resident status.

Applying for a green card for a foreign spouse or family member

A green card ensures a foreigner is able to obtain permanent residence through family, employment, refugee or asylum status or other special provisions. When seeking a green card for another person, there are some factors you’ll need to consider, such as whether you are already living in the United States with your spouse, and whether you’re looking to stay here with them for the long term.

If you have never applied for a green card before (for yourself or another person), the process might seem daunting. However, an experienced immigration law attorney will help you work steadily through the process and maximize your chances of a successful application. Here’s some information about what you need to know.

The application process for a marriage green card: filing forms I-130 and I-485

If you are already an American citizen and your spouse is already in the United States on a different non-immigrant visa, you will need to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) along with Form I-485, (Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status).

If your spouse is outside the United States, you will need to file Form I-130, but not the Form I-485. On the Form I-130, you will be asked to detail and verify your marriage with your spouse (the beneficiary). 

Once you’ve filed the necessary immigration forms and they are approved by USCIS, the petition will then be forwarded to the American embassy or consulate overseas for processing.

As supporting evidence to the Form I-130, you will also need to submit additional documents, including a marriage certificate, divorce decrees, passports, birth certificates, etc.

You are also required to submit separate G-325A forms for you and your spouse, as well as passport-style photos in accordance with the specifications outlined in your application. Your application will also include a filing fee of $535 to cover processing.

I’m a green card holder, can I still apply for a green card for my spouse?

Yes, a U.S. green card holder can still apply for a green card for his foreign spouse. The foreign spouse is eligible for immigration under the family second preference category (spouses and children). USCIS has established four preference categories (F1 to F4) for family members.

However, since a green card holder is not a U.S. citizen yet, the process of obtaining a green card can potentially take several years since USCIS allots only about 114,200 visas under the family second preference category.

This process is much faster once a green card holder goes through the naturalization process and becomes a U.S. citizen. The foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative” and can move forward with a green card application right away.

If you are a green card holder and your spouse is also in the United States on another type of non-immigrant visa, you may have to wait for some time before a visa number is available after filing Form I-130. At that point, your spouse can file Form I-485 to adjust his or her status.

What to know about the process after filing

You can expect the entire process to take about six to nine months in total, but please keep in mind that processing times vary. Your spouse must make a biometric appointment, which will include them having their fingerprints taken to run a background check. Your spouse will also be required to undergo a medical examination from a civil surgeon.

I’m not married to my significant other yet. What are my options?

If you are not married yet, then your significant other is not considered a family member by USCIS. Green card applications can only be submitted for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen or for family members in one of the four preference categories

Alternatively, you may consider filing for a fiancé visa which would allow your fiancé to enter into the U.S. with the intent of getting married to you.

Schedule your free consultation with an experienced immigration attorney

For more information about obtaining a green card for your spouse, contact a trusted Los Angeles immigration attorney for a free consultation. We speak English, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Call (626) 307-2800 or click the button below.


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