How to Get Permanent Residence Status in the USA, For Your Spouse — Using a Marriage-Based Green Card

Immigration Reads Feb 05, 2020

Excerpt —

To get permanent residence status for the spouse to live in the USA, It may take a little bit longer from start to end to finish the whole process of seeking and getting that status from USCIS.

But, planning and making use of the other temporary options made available by USCIS, make your life relatively comfortable until you receive an actual green card.

How to Get Permanent Residence Status in the USA, For Your Spouse — Using a Marriage-Based Green Card


To bring in none citizen spouse to live in the United States, seeking a green card is the option available for sponsoring spouse, and it's one of the most prolonged approval processes with USCIS. It may take from anywhere between 13 to 4o months from start to end.

And depends on individuals cases, their path to permanent residence status may take many months of anxious waiting and involving multiple stages of the approval process. In some cases, you may have to deal with host country consular processing.

Usually, individuals options available and process to follow depends on the following —

  1. Petitioner status (Sponsoring spouse) - whether they are U.S. Citizen or permanent residence through the holder of green card.
  2. Beneficiary (husband or wife) - Spouse, who seeking permanent residence current residency status, whether they are already living inside the USA.

That said, there are four distinct pathways made possible based on sponsor and beneficiary. And any eligible candidate's situation must match one of the following.

  1. Petitioner - U.S. Citizen, Beneficiary - Living in the USA
  2. Petitioner - U.S. Citizen, Beneficiary - Living outside the USA
  3. Petitioner - Green card holder, Beneficiary - Living in the USA
  4. Petitioner - Green card holder, Beneficiary - Living outside the USA

Case 1: Both Sponsor (Citizen) and Beneficiary in the USA

The fact that both of them living inside the USA, processing time it will take considerably cut down. Thanks to the "Concurrent Filing" of I-130 - Petition for Alien Relative and Applying for the green card using I-485 - Application to adjust the status.

Apart from these two main required application form, you have to submit some additional Forms and documentation to support your sponsorship.

  1. I-864 - Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, which is to prove that you have the financial capability to support your spouse and doesn't become "Public Charge" to the government.
  2. I-693 - Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, which you have to complete even before sending the application package and sealed examination result provided by the USCIS-approved doctor, must be included in your package to USCIS.
  3. You can find the list of available approved doctors in your area here.

Optionally, if your spouse wants to work and travel while the application is pending with USCIS. Then, you may choose to apply for these forms along with your main application for the green card.

  1. I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization
  2. I-131 - Application for Travel Document, This is basically to request for an advance parole document.
  3. An advance parole document authorizes you to appear at a port-of-entry to seek parole into the United States after temporary travel abroad.
  4. If you are traveling abroad without parole, while the case is pending with USCIS, then your case considered as abandoned.

The case filed with USCIS, then what is next?

Depends on the number of applications you have included in your package, you will receive separate "Receipt Notice" for each one in a few weeks.

Using the receipt number, you can track their status in USCIS portal online. Usually, advance parole and work permit (EAD) will take a few months to get approved, and processing time varies based on the USCIS processing center.

Next, Biometric appointment —

Biometric is the beginning of the verification process by USCIS on the spouse seeking a permanent residence. In about month time, USCIS will send the separate notice with date and time to appear for biometric.

And it's expected that beneficiary to appear for fingerprint collection and taking a photograph. The sponsor doesn't have to present in this.

Interview in USCIS field office

Once USCIS completes the background and security verification, they will transfer your case to the local field office for face to face interview. Expect notification from USCIS to appear for an interview with date and time.

The interview is the last step in the significant hurdles involving marriage-based green card processing. And this is the first time a USCIS officer can field questions directly to sponsor and beneficiary, to assess the credibility of your petition and relationship status.

So, prepare well and have your document organized to face this momentous milestone, if an officer is convinced about your legitimate and legal relationship and validity of supporting documents. Then he or she may approve your application then and there.

Receiving your green card

You will receive a physical green card after a few weeks in the mail. With that status, you are having unlimited mobility and unrestricted employment opportunity in the USA.

In case you are holding an EAD or Travel document (parole), then at this point, they became obsolete.

How much does it cost?

Here is the breakup of the cost involved in processing individual applications or obtaining services from professionals in the case of medical examination.

# Forms and Services Fees Mandatory Optional
1 I-130, Petition for Spouse $535 Yes
2 I-485, GC Application $1140 Yes - Living in USA
3 I-864, Financial Documents $120 Yes
4 Biometrics $80 Yes - Living in USA
5 Medicals (Guidelines only) $300 Yes
6 State Dept Processing Fees $200 Yes - Living Abroad
7 Immigration Attorney $1000 and above Yes - Recommended

These are the straight forward cost; you have to pay government agencies like USCIS while processing green card applications. Additionally, you will have to find the attorney to support your filing processing from start to end, which may cost you a couple of thousand dollars max.

So far, we have covered the path for sponsor and beneficiary living inside the USA, and the sponsor is U.S. citizen.

Here is the link for other scenarios. Choose one match for your situation.

Marriage-based green card processing general documents required for most of the cases

# Document Required Mandatory Optional
1 Birth Certificate Yes
2 Marriage Certificate Yes
3 Financial Documents (Bank, Tax, W2) Yes
4 Sponsor Proof of Eligibility (Citizen or GC) Yes
5 Proof legal and admissible entry - I-94 Yes
6 Any previous visa pages copy Yes
7 Local Lawenforcement clearance Yes
8 Previous incident records with Law enforcement Yes
9 Termination Papars of Prior Marriage Yes
10 Military Records Yes
11 Photograph Yes

Here are the other individual scenarios that match for some family.

How to Get Marriage-Based Green Card — When Sponsor the USA Citizen and Beneficiary Living Abroad
Since the concurrent filing is not possible - each step must be processed sequentially. Hence this will add a little bit more to the overall timeline.
When Sponsor the USA Citizen and Beneficiary Living Abroad
The Process to Follow — When Sponsor Green Card Holder and Beneficiary Living in the USA While Seeking Marriage-Based Green Card
When the sponsor is not the U.S citizen, the process will take more time due to the absence of “Concurrent filing” and waiting time involved for visa availability.
All the Steps Involved When Sponsor Green Card Holder and Beneficiary Living in the USA - Seeking Permanent Residence Status
From Start to End Pathway to Get Marriage-Based Green Card — When Sponsor Green Card Holder and Beneficiary Living Abroad
In the absence of a “Concurrent filing” option, wait time involved for visa availability, and compound that with “Consular Processing” in the home country, making this time-consuming exercise to marriage-based green card.
From Start to End Pathway to Get Green Card When Sponsor Green Card Holder and Beneficiary Living Abroad 

Inner Voice

I am "Rent The Ant" Inner Voice. The collective voice of our team both in-house and partners.