How to Apply for a Green Card After Marriage

By Laraine A. Ryan
a green card, a spouse, time, lots
Travel documents image by Nikolay Okhitin from

After getting married to a U.S. citizen, an alien who originally entered the U.S. legally, even if they have overstayed their visa, can generally file for and obtain conditional permanent residence status. A permanent resident card is colloquially known as a green card, as the permanent resident card used to be green in color. If the husband and wife have already been married for two years, you may apply directly for unconditional status and bypass the conditional permanent resident status.

Fill out the required forms: I-130 Petition for Alien Relative; I-485 application to adjust status; I-765 application for work authorization; I-131 application for advance parole (allowing the immigrant to travel while the application is being considered), and G-325a forms each spouse), which are for biographical information. Go the USCIS website to download and print out the current forms.

Obtain the needed vital statistics documents; these include your marriage certificate, the citizen's birth certificate or passport or naturalization certificate, documents showing prior marriages, if any, have ended and the immigrant's birth certificate. Obtain translations of any documents in a language other than English, along with a sworn certificate of accuracy from the translator.

Copy the essential immigration documents: make sure to copy the passport on which the immigrant last entered the U.S., and the immigrant's last I-94 (arrival-departure document), to show the spouse's originally legal entry into the U.S.

Obtain the immigration medical form and have it filled out by one of the USCIS-approved civil surgeons. The immigrant will need to have a physical exam at this appointment. Include the proper number of passport-style photo of the U.S. citizen and of the immigrant.

Prepare the Affidavit of Support. The U.S. citizen spouse will fill out this form I-864P that declares she is financially responsible for her spouse. You will need to include signed copies of the latest year's taxes, recent pay stubs, and a letter from the U.S. citizen's employer that shows that the job is legitimate. Make sure the citizen makes enough money to file a Sole Affidavit of Support by checking Form I-864P for the requirements.

File these forms and documents and mail to the proper location. This may change frequently, so always check first with the USCIS website for where to file based on the state you live in. Be sure to check the website also for the proper filing fees as well.

Prepare to prove that the marriage is in good faith, and that it is not for the purpose of obtaining a green card only. The documents are: evidence of commingled finances, evidence that the couple lives together, such as leases or bills to their address, photos and receipts from the wedding, witness statements, evidence that the other is the beneficiary of life or health insurance policies. Prepare to be questioned extensively about the other person at the scheduled interview.

Prepare to again prove the marriage is genuine in the 90 days before the two-year conditional residence runs out, if the immigrant spouse receives a grant of conditional status. Save the kinds of documents that will support the marriage's validity for immigration purposes, such as joint bank account documents, children's birth certificates, shared property and the like.

About the Author

Laraine A. Ryan started writing in 1990, while working on a novel. She specializes in law, particularly immigration and nationality law. She has a J.D. degree from Pepperdine University Law School and is a member of the Delaware and Pennsylvania bars. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.