In today’s globalized societies, people from all over the globe find themselves falling in love and forming lasting relationships. However, individuals wanting to marry a U.S. citizen must abide by certain legal processes and requirements to be able to join their partner in the United States.

In order to enter and reside in the United States permanently with your spouse, an individual will need to apply for a green card. As a spouse of a U.S. citizen, your significant other can sponsor you for a green card.

Before embarking on the journey of marrying a U.S. citizen, it is important to ensure that both individuals meet the legal requirements. The U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years old. As long as any previous marriages were dissolved, they can begin the journey for a marriage-based green card. No U.S. citizen can have multiple pending marriage-based green card applications.

Does it matter where I marry my spouse?

Nothing stops you from marrying your significant other. However, the processing timelines do differ depending on where the green card application is filed.

Getting Married in the U.S.

If you decide to get married in the U.S., you would have to file for an Adjustment of Status. While you wait for your green card application to be processed, your AOS will allow you to maintain a legal and lawful status in the United States.

Will I be able to work while I wait for my green card?

You are able to apply for your Employment Authorization Document which would allow you to work while you wait.

Can I travel with a pending green card application?

You are able to apply for your Advanced Parole documents which would allow you to travel out of the U.S. as needed.

Consular Processing

Now, if you get married abroad and you file for your green card, the case will go through consular processing. This means that the application will have to be processed with the designated U.S. embassy for your residing country. In this scenario, you will have to remain abroad while you wait for your green card to be approved.

Can I live abroad with my foreign spouse?

Staying apart from your spouse throughout the 18-24 months while their green card application is pending can be tough. Nothing prevents a U.S. citizen from living with their spouse abroad. However, it is important that a U.S. citizen maintains their domicile, or if they have been living abroad for many years, they establish that domicile towards the latter part of the green card process.

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Why is my tax information needed for the green card application?

There is a federal income requirement that a U.S. citizen sponsor is expected to make in order to sponsor their spouse. The law requires that a sponsor must prove an income level at or above 125% of the Federal Poverty level. Assets, checking accounts, stocks and property may be evaluated to determine your financial ability.

The reason that sponsors have to meet this federal income requirement, is to ensure that new immigrants will not need to rely on public benefits from the government to live.

Additionally, if you have not been filing U.S. tax returns, you will need a joint sponsor to assist with the 2nd stage of the process. The joint sponsor can be anyone, as long they are either a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.

What are the documents required to file for a marriage-based green card?

It is important when filing for a marriage-based green card that you have the marriage certificate, financial records, and evidence of a true and bona fide relationship. Thoroughly documenting the relationship is essential to prove its legitimacy.

Couples from different countries may face language and cultural barriers that can impact communication and adjustment. Open and respectful communication is key to overcoming these challenges and building a strong relationship.

Check out this guide on what happens to green card after divorce!

Do I need to go in for a medical examination?

Yes, if a noncitizen is applying within the U.S., they will have to look for an affiliated civil surgeon in their area to have a medical exam done. If the noncitizen is abroad, they will need to search for an affiliated panel physician in their area. These exams will need to be conducted in accordance with the rules of USCIS to ensure that a person is entering the U.S. on admissible health grounds.

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How long does it take to get a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen?

If you applied for your green card while you were in the U.S., the total processing time is around 6-10 months.

If you applied for your green card abroad, the total processing time is around 18-24 months. These cases take a longer amount of time due to consular processing, and the backlog that the embassy in that specific country may be encountering.

Read about one of our most recent marriage-based green card approvals. They had a minor complication with their medical examination, however, we dealt with it accordingly and their case was approved in no time.

What happens if we are only engaged?

If a couple is not yet married but plans to do so in the United States, the U.S. citizen can file a petition for a K-1 visa on behalf of their foreign fiancé(e).

The couple would have already physically met in person and have intentions to get married once they’re both in the U.S.

  • Typically a K-1 Visa takes around 12-18 months to receive.
  • This visa allows the foreign fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. for a period of 90 days, during which the marriage should take place.
  • Once married, the foreign spouse can apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder).

Typically many individuals opt for a fiance visa, as their country may not recognize their marriage.

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How do I become a U.S. citizen?

In the case of a foreign spouse initially receiving a conditional resident status for two years, they will need to apply to remove the conditions on the residency to gain permanent resident status.

Once you hold your green card for three years and you’re still married to your U.S. citizen spouse, you may apply for your citizenship.

The naturalization process is the last step towards becoming a U.S. citizen just like your spouse. There are separate government fees associated with one’s citizenship case.

Check out these popular Marriage-Based Green Card Interview Questions. 

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Marrying a U.S. citizen and navigating the process of living together in the United States requires careful planning, documentation, and adherence to legal requirements. The journey may present challenges, but with dedication, open communication, and a genuine relationship, couples can successfully overcome the hurdles and build a life together in the U.S.