Marriage to Green Card Holders

You can get a green card by marriage to a green card holder

Marriage to green card holders may not get the same priority under immigration law as marriage to US citizens. But such a marriage may be the basis for a green card petition. A US green card holder (permanent resident) may petition for you if you are a spouse (husband or wife). He does not have to wait to become a citizen.

Family preference green cards – Priority Dates and Visa Availability

Unlike marriage to US citizens where an immigrant visa number is immediately available, marriage to green card holders means that the foreign spouse has to wait until an immigrant visa number is available before being eligible to adjust status within the US or get an immigrant visa abroad. These petitions are for family preference green cards and as such your immigration will be subject to numerical and country limits. For visa availability for spouses of permanent residents, please see the latest month’s Visa Bulletin under the F2A category for family preference green cards.

A visa number will become available for you when the priority date becomes current on the Visa Bulletin published monthly by the National Visa Center. The priority date is the date the I-130 was filed correctly with USCIS and is used to decide immigrant visa availability.

Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

If the Form I-130 is approved, USCIS will send your spouse a receipt notice, Form I-797, Notice of Action. If you are inside the United States in lawful status when a visa number becomes available, then you can apply to adjust status to a permanent resident using Form I-485 and supporting documentary evidence.

If you are overseas when the visa number becomes available, then the National Visa Center NVC will send you an immigrant visa checklist notifying you about what to including paying the processing fees, completing the DS-260 immigrant visa application online, submitting an affidavit of support and civil documents, completing a medical and attending an immigration interview.

Petitioning for a Marriage Green Card as a Permanent Resident vs. US Citizen

Some permanent residents believe it is better to become citizens before getting married to a foreign spouse because a petition based upon marriage to a green cardholder gets lower priority than those based upon marriage to a US citizen. But under immigration laws there are advantages to getting married as a permanent resident and filing immediately afterward:

  1. No guarantee of US citizenship
  2. The foreign spouse will get a 10-year green card instead of a two-year green card if the marriage is more than two years old at the time of adjustment or entry as on an immigrant visa – no need to file an i751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
  3. The couple may have an easier time proving that their marriage is in good faith during the adjustment of status process as they would have been married for a longer time.
  4. The petitioner can request an upgrade of the old approved i130 petition to an immediate relative category once he becomes a US citizen by naturalization – no need to file a new petition and wait.
  5. The foreign national will feel more committed to the relationship because the green card holder spouse has began the process by which the foreign spouse can obtain an immigrant visa or green card.

Want to learn more about how to obtain a green card through marriage?

If you are considering marrying someone with a green card, please contact us to ask for a confidential consultation with our green card immigration attorney. We also offer consultation and advice on immigration waivers and USCIS citizenship applications related to the marriage green card process.