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Obtaining Permanent Residence (Green Card) From Marriage To A U.S. Citizen

Last updated on August 16, 2022

If you marry a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to be sponsored for a green card. The green card signifies permanent residence in the U.S. and may lead to your U.S. citizenship. The Law Offices of Paul Herzog can guide you through this process.

The green card process can take approximately six to 15 months, depending on where you and your spouse are residing. All the applications are submitted to an address in Chicago, which can be found on the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. But your eventual green card interview will be at your local immigration office.

If you move during the waiting period, you must notify the USCIS of your new address. This notification may be done at under Tools. Click here and you can update your address.

Conditional Permanent Residence

If you are married less than two years at the time of the approval of your application, you will be granted what is called “conditional permanent residence.” In this case, the card will expire two years from the date of the approval.

If you have been granted conditional permanent residence, three months prior to the two-year expiration date on your card you may apply for “removal of the condition” on form I-751. This can be done through the mail and normally does not involve another interview at the immigration office.

In this case, documents are submitted to establish that the two of you remain together in a “bona fide marriage.” If you are no longer living together, then you might wish to speak to an immigration attorney about your situation.

On the other hand, if you are married at least two years at the time of the approval of the green card, then the document is issued for 10 years.

Please be aware that if you obtain the green card based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen three years from the time you were approved. If you are no longer with your spouse, you may apply five years after receiving the green card.

Submitting Your Documentation

At the time of the filing for your green card based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must submit forms I-130, I-130A, I-485, I-864 and I-944 as well as copies of the marriage certificate and divorce decrees, if applicable. You must also submit a copy of your I-94 arrival document to establish that you entered the U.S. lawfully. We would also recommend the filing of forms I-765 and I-131, as they are included in the filing fee of $1,760.

Please note that form I-944 requires that you submit your credit report. The instructions to this form are confusing but it does explain how you must obtain either your credit report or a statement from the credit agency that one does not exist for you. It does not matter what your age is or if you have never worked in the U.S. The instructions explain how to obtain the credit report at no cost from one of the credit reporting agencies.

We suggest that you submit supporting documents with your filing that establishes that the two of you reside together or will soon reside together. If you are unable to submit these documents with the filing, then you should bring them to the interview at the immigration office.

There is NO list of required supporting documents that you must submit. You can submit copies or bring documents such as:

  • Driver’s license with the same address – if you have moved, you can bring the printout from the motor vehicle department website with your new address.
  • Cell phone bill with the same address and perhaps both of your names
  • Lease with both names
  • Joint bank account
  • Bank check with both names
  • Life insurance policy with your name as one of the beneficiaries
  • Medical insurance card
  • Utility bills that go to the same address
  • Employer emergency notification profile page that shows who is to be called in case of an emergency at work
  • Copy of paychecks and/or job contracts
  • Three or four color photos of the two of you together or with friends, family or pets. We suggest that you bring a picture album to the interview.

The above list contains only suggestions. Again, you will need to decide which documents you are able to submit. The more evidence to show that the two of you are in a loving relationship, the easier the interview will be for you.

You may submit items from the suggested document list in addition to the required copies of your marriage certificate (and divorce certificates, if applicable). You can find the list of documents that you must include in the initial filing at the USCIS website.

Contact Our Office

At the Law Offices of Paul Herzog, we enjoy helping married couples, both straight and gay, through this process. Contact our National office at 844-859-8146 or reach out online to find out how we can help you. We offer free 15-minute consultations.