A U.S. permanent resident, otherwise known as a green card holder, is a foreign national that has been granted the legal status to live and work in the U.S. One of the most straightforward ways to obtain this status is a green card through marriage. Unlike other relatives, a spouse of a U.S. citizen has immigration priority, which means you do not have to wait in line for your visa number but can immigrate once your petition is approved.
Of course, the catch is you need to be married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible.
The procedure for applying for a green card based on marriage begins with your spouse filing a petition (Form I-130) for you to become a permanent resident, with the filing fee ($420) and documents establishing your spouse is a citizen such as a passport or birth certificate. You will also need copies of your marriage certificate, copies of marriage and divorce certificates from previous marriages, and completed biographical forms and recent passport photos. Only the petition can be filed when the foreign national lives overseas. If the person is here and was admitted and inspected at a port of entry, they can file both the I-130 and I-485 applications to adjust status to permanent residence, concurrently, along with the application for work authorization I-765 and travel documentation I-131 if eligible.
The petition also must be supported by documents showing you have a bona fide marriage and not a marriage for the sole purpose of allowing the spouse to become a permanent resident. These should include your lease or property deed, bank statements showing your finances are intermingled, birth certificates of your children, as well as personal photographs, letters and gift receipts. (These documents are usually provided at the time of interview.)
Once approved, the next step in cases where the foreign national resides outside the U.S. is to provide amongst many documents Form DS-230, an original marriage certificate, birth certificate and police clearance to the National Visa Center for further processing. You will need to present original or certified copies of your personal documents, and have a financial sponsor (Form I-864) so that you will not need government assistance. This sponsor is usually your spouse.
Upon receipt of all your documentation, the NVC will forward the file to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to schedule your visa interview.
Applying for a green card on the basis of marriage is both a complex and lengthy procedure. I have helped many couples navigate the process, and am always ready to help you realize your American dreams.