How to Obtain a Green Card Through Marriage: A Guide for the Latino Community

Marriage is more than a union of two hearts, it's a partnership, a shared horizon, a chance to build the family you always dreamed of. A Green Card through marriage acknowledges your immigration status as a permanent resident in the United States. Think of it as the key that will unlock the door to a life full of opportunities for you and your loved ones, including the ability to live and work legally in the U.S.

In this blog post, we're going to walk you step by step through the process of obtaining a green card through marriage, including eligibility criteria, necessary forms, and fees.

You're not alone in your journey toward US residency — here at Alvva, we want to make sure you have all the information you need and the peace of mind you deserve. If you’d like support preparing your Green Card application, get started today.

An overview of the Visa Application Process

The process of obtaining a marriage-based Green Card generally takes between 9-36 months, depending on whether the sponsor, ie. petitioning spouse, is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, and whether or not the applicant is currently within the United States.

The first step is completing and submitting Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. Along with this, you'll need to compile the following documents to validate your marriage:

  • A copy of the sponsor's birth certificate, naturalization certificate, valid U.S. passport, or green card.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • Evidence proving the authenticity of your marriage. Joint documents such as shared rental agreements, bank statements, or even family photos can serve as proof here.
  • If either of you have previously been married, divorce certificates will need to be provided.
  • A government fee of $535 USD payable to USCIS.

Once your package is sent by mail, you can expect a receipt notification within about two weeks. If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs more information or documents, they will request it within two to three months after receiving your package.

Then, it is time to wait. Within 7 to 15 months, you are likely to receive the next decision. If your documents are approved, the evaluation will begin to determine if the sponsored individual is eligible to acquire a green card through marriage. You may be asked to submit additional forms, which we’ll cover below, and you will be required to attend an interview. Once you have final approval, you can expect to receive your Green Card within 2-3 weeks.

For Applicants Within the United States

For couples who both reside in the U.S, you will not only need to submit form I-130, but also Form I-485, Adjustment of Status.

The combined process takes from 5-16 months, and the sponsored spouse needs to belong to one of these visa categories:

  • IR6/CR6: Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • F26: Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
  • CF1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen who is currently adjusting status for a fiancé visa

Your package accompanying the I-485 form must contain the following documents:

  • Birth certificate or passport of the requesting spouse
  • Evidence of legal entry into the U.S. (prior visa or I-94 travel record)
  • Medical examination conducted by an institution authorized by USCIS. This document can also be submitted after the initial packet is sent.
  • Proof of a sponsor's ability to support the applicant (Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, tax return, or recent pay stubs). The sponsor can be the spouse or another person.
  • Payment of a fee of $1,225 USD ($1,140 USD for the application and $85 USD for biometric services)

For Applicants Outside the United States

If one spouse resides outside the U.S., the process will involve the National Visa Center (NVC). This process can take one to two months, after which, the result is dispatched to the U.S. embassy based in the home country of the spouse applying for the green card.

The following visa categories apply:

  • CR1/IR1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • F21: Spouse of a lawful permanent resident

The package for the NVC application must include:

  • Form DS-260 Electronic Application for Immigrant Visa
  • Copy of the birth certificate or passport of the spouse requesting the Green Card
  • Payment of the filing fee of $445 USD ($120 USD for the financial support form and $325 USD for the cost of filing with the Department of State)
  • Copy of the criminal record certificate (if any) of the spouse applying for residency
  • Proof of the sponsor's ability to support their spouse (Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, tax return, or pay stubs)

The Financial Aspect: How Much Does A Green Card Cost?

The total cost depends on where the petitioning spouse resides - inside or outside the U.S.

For spouses within the U.S., the total amount is around $1,760 USD, not including expenses like medical exams, transportation, and other costs associated with preparing documents, which can be significant. For those outside the U.S., the total comes nearer to $1,200 USD, again without factoring in additional expenses.

And After All This, What Comes Next?

The final stage is an in-person interview. The objective here is to validate the authenticity of the marriage and prevent immigration fraud.

If both spouses live in the U.S., you’ll be assigned the closest USCIS office. Spouses applying from another country will have their interview at the U.S. Embassy in their home country. It is not necessary for the sponsoring spouse to attend in this case.

Your Green Card will be sent within two to three weeks after your case is approved, to the registered address on file. For spouses residing outside the U.S., they'll receive a special stamp to enter the U.S. and must pay a $220 USD immigration fee.

Marriages lasting more than two years will receive a permanent Green Card valid for 10 years. Otherwise, you will receive a conditional Green Card valid for two years. As you approach 90 days before the end of this term, you must apply to remove the conditions of this type of Green Card.

We know that the process of applying for a Green Card can seem intimidating, and may not be something you want to do alone, so we hope this blog post serves as a helpful guide.

If you’d like additional support with preparing your immigration documents, Alvva is here for you every step of the way. With our Case Center, you can compile all your information and documents in one place, and we’ll do the rest to make sure your forms are filled out correctly, with our Approval Guarantee. Take a couple minutes to see if you’re eligible today.