How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card After Marriage?

how long does it take to get a green card after marriage

You’re married to the love of your life, but they’re not a U.S. citizen. Getting them a green card to live and work in America permanently is now the priority.

But the process isn’t as simple as you hoped – there are multiple pathways depending on your situation, forms to file, fees to pay, and long waiting periods involved. How long until your spouse has that coveted green card in hand?

The straightforward answer is: it depends on your specific circumstances. In this guide, we’ll break down the various timelines for the most common marriage-based green card application scenarios. Our goal is to provide a realistic expectation of what you’re facing so you can plan accordingly.

The Two-Step Green Card Application Process

All marriage-based green card cases follow two basic steps:

1) Filing Form I-130

This is essentially your way of telling the U.S. government, “I am married to this person, and I want them to get permanent residency.” Approval establishes your marriage is legitimate.

2) Applying for Permanent Residence

This is where your spouse submits all their information to get approved for the actual green card itself. Spouses in the U.S. go through “Adjustment of Status” using Form I-485. Those abroad must apply through “Consular Processing” at a U.S. embassy.

The approval date of your I-130 petition sets the all-important “priority date” that determines where your case gets placed in the green card queue based on visa availability. More on that in a bit.

Scenario 1: You’re Married to a U.S. Citizen and Living in the U.S.

This is the most straightforward situation for a marriage green card. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, they can file your I-130 and I-485 forms together to request permanent residency. Your priority date is current as soon as the I-130 is approved.

According to current USCIS data, the total average processing time for this “concurrent filing” route is approximately 10-23 months from submission to receiving the physical green card. However, complications like requests for additional evidence or any mistakes in your application can potentially stretch that timeline much longer.

Scenario 2: You’re Married to a U.S. Citizen and Living Abroad

If you currently live in or outside of the United States while your U.S. citizen spouse resides stateside, the process becomes more lengthy:

  • Your spouse files the I-130 first (currently taking about 13.5-15 months for USCIS approval).
  • Once approved, your case moves to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing and fee payments.
  • You then apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
  • If approved after an interview, they’ll be allowed to enter the U.S. to receive their green card.

This scenario can take well over a year and a half, even in a best-case situation. Consulate backlogs create further delays.

Scenario 3: You’re Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder and Living in the U.S.

When your spouse is a permanent resident rather than a citizen, things get more complicated. You enter the F2A visa category for “Family-Sponsored Preferences” – spouses and children of green card holders.

This category is subject to yearly visa number limitations and retrogression, meaning your case can’t move forward until your priority date is “current” based on visa availability. Currently, the backlogged processing time is 13.5-20.5 months, just to reach the interview stage after I-130 approval.

Most importantly, green card applicants in this category cannot adjust their status in the U.S. if they are not maintaining lawful status if they have ever worked without authorization, or if they have ever violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status.

Scenario 4: You’re Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder and Living Abroad

This is the most arduous timeline of all the marriage green card paths. Not only do you face the same backlog as Scenario 3 above, but you must also go through Consular Processing for an immigrant visa after your priority date is current.

Recent data shows the I-130 takes 29-40 months just for approval when the petitioner is a U.S. green card holder. The additional wait for an immigrant visa currently ranges from 6 months to multiple years, depending on the consulate backlog in your home country.

Factors That Can Expedite or Delay Processing Times

Certain elements of your specific application can impact how rapidly your marriage green card is processed, including:

  • Did you provide robust evidence that your marriage is legitimate and not fraudulent?
  • Are there any red flag issues like criminal records that require further review?
  • Did you make any mistakes or omissions on your forms and documentation that could prompt requests for additional evidence?
  • How prepared and organized was your initial filing?

Having an experienced immigration attorney submit an airtight package from the start goes a long way toward avoiding unnecessary delays.

Preparing for Successful Marriage Green Card Approval

While processing times are largely outside your control, setting realistic expectations and taking the proper preparatory steps can improve your chances for a relatively smooth journey. Our firm recommends:

  • Gathering all required civil documents, like birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc., well in advance
  • Compiling clear evidence that your marriage is authentic and did not unlawfully circumvent immigration laws
  • Reviewing your application package thoroughly to ensure complete and consistent information
  • Considering legal representation if you have a complex case with potential inadmissibility issues

There’s no getting around it – applying for a marriage-based green card requires immense patience. But by arming yourself with knowledge of the process and realistic timelines upfront, you can plan accordingly and avoid unnecessary stressors.

Whether your situation is relatively straightforward or facing extensive backlogs, having an immigration lawyer in your corner provides an invaluable advantage. Not only can we pinpoint potential issues from the start, but our experience keeps your application progressing as efficiently as possible every step of the way.

If your goal is to finally share a permanent home together in the U.S., the sooner you take action, the better. At the Law Office of Lina Baroudi, we’re ready to evaluate your unique circumstances and map out a winning legal strategy to secure your marriage green card approval in a reasonable timeframe. The resilient journey to your new life together starts with a consultation – reach out today, and let’s get your case on the right track.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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