To maintain family unity, many countries, including the United States, will give immediate relatives priority when applying for permanent residence privileges. In the United States, this permanent residence card is called a green card and spouses of U.S. citizens enjoy this preferential treatment during the application process. You can apply for a green card if you marry a U.S. citizen, regardless of whether you are inside or outside the U.S.
Apply for a Green Card while Inside the United States
1. Acquire and complete Forms I-485 and I-130. These forms can be downloaded and printed from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site. They can also be mailed by request to any United States address by using the “Forms by Mail” option on the USCIS web site or calling the USCIS Forms Request Line at 1-800-870-3676.
2. Determine if Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) has been filed by the spouse who is the United States citizen. If not, file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and Form I-130 concurrently.
- Gather supporting documentation. The instructions of each form will detail all documentation needed. Many of these documents are meant to establish the citizenship of the U.S. citizen spouse (such as copies of birth certificates or unexpired passports)and the validity of the marriage (such as copies of the marriage certificate, proof of joint accounts or ownership of property, birth certificates of any children born to the marriage, etc). Form I-485 requires a longer list of supporting documentation, including proof of citizenship, background checks, medical examination forms, proof of support and employment.
- Complete a check or money order for each of the filing fees for the forms ($1,010 for Form I-485 and $355 for Form I-130) made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Mail completed forms, supporting documentation and all filing fees together to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility at: USCIS, P.O. Box 805887, Chicago, IL 60680-4120.
- Acquire proof the submitted Form I-130 is either pending or approved in the form of a copy of Form I-797(Notice of Action).
- Gather the supporting documentation detailed in the instructions.
- Complete a check or money order for the filing fee of $1,010 made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Mail completed Form I-485, a copy of Form I-797, supporting documentation and filing fee together to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility at: USCIS, P.O. Box 805887, Chicago, IL 60680-4120.
Apply for a Green Card while Outside the United States
1. Have the U.S. citizen spouse complete and submit Form I-130, with all required supporting documentation, as outlined above to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility.
2. Wait for an initial notification that the petition was approved and another notification that an immigrant visa number is available. At this point, notification will also be given when immigrant visa processing fees and supporting documentation must be submitted.
3. Attend the scheduled interview appointment with the consular office to complete processing of the case and decide eligibility for an immigrant visa.
4. Secure, but do not open, the Visa Packet from the consular office once the visa is granted.
5. Return to the United States and present the Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. Once it is inspected and found admissible by a Customs and Border Protection officer, a green card will be issued.
To receive an email and/or text message notifying the acceptance of the application forms, complete Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance), and clip it to the first page of the application.
Things You’ll Need
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
- Form G-325A (Biographic Information)
- Supporting documentation (birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, financial records, etc.)
- Blue or black pen