How to Become a US Permanent Resident Through Marriage

Becoming a US Permanent Resident is the first step in becoming a naturalized US citizen. If you are in a bona fide marriage to a US citizen, obtaining Permanent Residency, aka a Green Card, is a only matter of filing forms and attending one or two interviews. The office of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles applications for Permanent Residency. The USCIS has strict rules concerning Permanent Residency attained through marriage. To ensure that your Green Card application process goes as smoothly as possible, follow these guidelines.

First, go the USCIS website at to view the complete list of immigration forms. All the forms you need to file can be downloaded for free from the website. Be wary of other non-governmental websites that offer these forms or charge a fee. All of the forms are free to download and print from the USCIS. You will send the USCIS a check for processing fees when you mail the forms.

The citizen spouse must fill out forms I-130 (petition for the immigrant spouse to become a Permanent Resident) and I-864 (to prove that the couple has enough money to support the immigrant spouse). Every citizen spouse files these two forms. Depending on other circumstances, the citizen spouse may need to file additional forms. As part of the I-130, you must also file several copies of the G-325 (biographical information).

If the immigrant spouse is already living in the US on a different type of visa (e.g. a travel visa, student visa, work visa, K-1 fiancé visa, or refugee permit), then he or she must complete I-485 (request to change status to Permanent Resident). If the immigrant spouse is living overseas and does not yet have a visa to enter the country, it is best to obtain a visa first before starting the Permanent Residency process.

Additionally, the immigrant spouse must submit to a medical exam performed by a special doctor called a Civil Surgeon. The exam cannot be performed by just any doctor. The USCIS has a list of Civil Surgeons by geographic area. The immigrant spouse and the doctor then complete form I-693.

If you forget to include something in your application or fill out a form incorrectly, the government will send you a letter with instructions on how to fix the error. Your application will be halted until you fix the problem, so respond to any letters quickly. Plan to pay around $1500 in filing fees.

If you are unsure of how to proceed with any of the forms, call the USCIS toll-free number for assistance.

Shortly after you file, the USCIS will ask the immigrant spouse to submit biometrics, including fingerprints. If your paperwork looks legit, you will also be asked to attend an interview as a couple. The USCIS will schedule both of these appointments for you. If the times are inconvenient, you can reschedule so long as you contact USCIS early.

The entire process of becoming a Permanent Resident through marriage may take between 6 months and a year from the time you mail the application.

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