Applying For A Marriage-Based Green Card? Here’s Everything You Need To Know.

Oct 5, 2023 | Immigration

It can be incredibly heartbreaking to live in an entirely different country than your spouse. There are likely circumstances beyond your control which have led you to this unfortunate separation, and you are probably anxiously awaiting the day when you can finally be reunited. If you are a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, you and your spouse may be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card which will allow you both to live in the United States legally! In this blog, we’ll be answering some of the most frequently asked questions about marriage-based green cards in hopes to provide more clarity about who marriage-based green cards are for, how they are obtained, and more information you may need to know for the future.

Are Marriage-Based Green Cards And Fiance Visas The Same? 

Marriage-based green cards (IR-1/CR-1 visas) and fiance visas (K-1 visa) are not the same thing. A fiance visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor the person they intend to marry that currently resides in another country.  A marriage green card is for people who are already legally married and is an immigrant visa. Both citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) are able to sponsor their spouse.

If you are not yet married and are wondering whether applying for a fiance visa, or getting married and then applying for a marriage visa, is the right option, it is important to know that with the fiance visa, there are technically two application processes for your foreign fiance: one to obtain your visa and one to enter the U.S. Then, once you are married, your new spouse must adjust their status to become a green card holder. It is more expensive to obtain than a marriage green card, but it is also faster. 

Who Is Eligible For A Marriage-Based Green Card? 

Spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs are eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card, though couples who have been married for a shorter amount of time may only apply for a CR-1 visa, or conditional resident visa. CR-1 visas are for individuals who have been married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years. Another two years after arriving in the U.S., both spouses must apply to remove the conditions from the green card and be issued an updated green card which is valid for the next 10 years. 

IR-1 visas, or immediate relative visas, are for couples who have been legally married for longer than two years. The spouse of the U.S. citizen or LPR can apply for permanent residency as soon as they wish after entering the country.

For both CR-1 and IR-1 applicants, there are several requirements that must be met for both them and their sponsors. They include:

  • The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or LPR
  • The couple must be legally married and able to provide a valid marriage certificate
  • The marriage must be proven to be authentic by providing evidence
  • The sponsor must have the capability to support their household at 125% of the federal poverty level and pledge to support their spouse financially
  • The sponsor must actively live in the U.S. or prove that they plan to return to live with their spouse 

What Documents Do I Need For A Marriage-Based Green Card?

The list of forms and documents needed to apply for a marriage-based green card is extensive. It is in your best interest to seek the assistance of a skilled and experienced immigration attorney to help you compile the paperwork to ensure that everything is done correctly and no steps are missed. Mistakes could lead to a delay in your application that lasts for months or even years. 

The list includes:

  • Form I-130
  • Form DS-260
  • Cover letter
  • Marriage certificate and other documents proving the authenticity of your marriage
  • Documents which prove any previous marriages have ended
  • Passport photos
  • U.S. passport or other proof of permanent residency
  • Forms for medical exams
  • Sponsorships documents such as Form I-864
  • Other documents that are required depending on your individual background
  • And more.

What Will I Be Asked At My Marriage-Based Green Card Interview?

Part of the marriage green card application process includes attending an interview at a USCIS office or U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate. The questions will mostly pertain to your marriage, and if you’re in a legitimate relationship, they won’t be difficult to answer. You’ll also want to bring additional documents with you that could further prove your relationship status, such as receipts for rent or mortgage payments, bills which list both of your names, pictures of the two of you together (especially on vacations together or at family events), and anything else you can add or that your immigration attorney advises you to show. 

If the agent conducting the interview isn’t fully convinced that you and your spouse have a legitimate relationship, a Stokes Interview – or marriage fraud interview – may be necessary. You will answer questions separately from your spouse, which could include:

  • When and where did you meet?
  • How often do you go out to eat?
  • How is your living room set up?
  • What does your spouse eat for breakfast?
  • What kind of nightly routine do you have before going to bed?
  • What kinds of entertainment do you both enjoy?
  • What cell phone provider does your spouse use?

Is It Possible To Become A Citizen After Obtaining A Marriage Green Card?

Contrary to other types of green card holders, if you have a marriage-based green card from your marriage to an American citizen, you only have to wait 3 years before applying for citizenship, as opposed to 5. However, you must have lived continuously in the U.S. during that time, and you must have lived “in marital union” with your spouse. Living in marital union means that you live together and do not separate or begin divorce proceedings. If you did not live in marital union with your American spouse, you will have to wait the traditional 5 years. 

Contact The Santos Law Offices Today 

If you or your spouse are planning to apply for a marriage-based green card, don’t risk your chances of being approved by doing it alone. Our knowledgeable immigration attorneys have helped countless clients achieve their immigration goals and we can help you too! Call to schedule your free consultation where we can discuss your situation and take the first step in the right direction. 

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