Obtaining a Green Card through Marriage (I-485)
Hi, glad to see you are here, which likely means that you’re newly married, congratulations! If you’re married to a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident (green card holder,) you may be eligible to apply for a green card. Basically, there are two major ways to apply for a green card— If you’re already in the United States through an adjustment of status, or if you’re applying from abroad which is known as consular processing, either through mail or online. Wondering which works best for you? No worries, we’ll break it down for you!
Second Step - File I-485 (For U.S. Processing)
Now it's your turn to apply for a green card on your own. Once your I-130 is approved, you are half way from the green card finish line! When landing on the U.S. ground and having your marital spouse accompanied (congrats on your reunion,) you can now file what is called the I-485 Adjustment of Status application. The form can only be filed by the applicant from within the U.S. region and the application form is listed on the same USCIS website. This time, however, you can only file Form I-485 through paper filing. That is, you have to mail on the related/supportive documents to the specified USCIS lockbox (depending on your eligibility.)
There are several phases, or checkpoints in the I-485 process, so it’s important to be patient while filing. Included will be a Biometrics appointment and Green Card Interview where your spouse will accompany you. The face-to-face interview is to judge whether your marriage is legitimate, and not just the basis of immigration and green card benefits. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to quiz each partner on key events regarding your marriage so as to prepare for the interview. Relax, we will cover the details in the following sections.
What is Form I-485?
The I-485 Adjustment of Status Guide is an application for those looking to obtain a Green Card in the United States. Several factors depend on whether an individual’s pending I-485 document will be accepted, such as their marital status, military career, their nationality in relation to certain acts passed by Congress, and whether or not they entered the United States as a refugee or asylum seeker. Here we only cover the filing regarding marriage.
In order to process an I-485 Form, there are several requirements one needs to maintain during their time of filing.
- You have to be present inside the United States for filing the form.
- Your entry into the United States is lawful. This means that you are admitted into the U.S. with valid documentation and upon making entry into the country made face to face contact with an immigration officer, and such officer approved your entry.
- For family preference applicants, (yes, marriage purpose is included,) an approved Form I-130 is ready and a visa number is available. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have more leeway, however, and may file their adjustment of status application together with the I-130 petition.
Check our form I-485 guidance here.
- Form I-485
- Two passport style photographs
- A copy of a government issued ID with photograph
- A copy of your birth certificate (if unavailable or does not exist; provide other acceptable evidence of birth such as church, school, or medical records)
- Inspection and admission, or inspection and parole documentation (e.g., lawful visa and I-94 travel record.)
- Certified police and court records of all criminal charges (if none than not applicable)
- Documentation of immigrant category, such as copy of Form I-797
- Confirmation of a job offer (if applicable)
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-212, Application of Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. after Deportation or Removal (if applicable)
- Documentation regarding J-1 and J-2 visitor status (if applicable)
- Form I-508, Waiver of Diplomatic Rights (if working in a diplomatic capacity or with NATO)
- Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request (if you have an A, G, or NATO non-immigrant status)
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
How to File
You can only file Form I-485 via mail. It is recommended that you fill out the form online and print it out for mailing. However, to be able to frequently check your application status, it’s highly recommended that you link your paper filing receipt notice to your USCIS account. The process is mostly the same as filing Form I-130. To handle with most care, we provide the step-by-step instructions here below:
Complete the forms
We have the comprehensive guide in filling out the form, check our form guidance here. Below is the summary of the general reminders from USCIS:
- Make sure you download the current version of forms. USCIS will reject any application using the outdated form.
- If you decide to print the form out and hand write your application, please use black ink and do not use highlighters or correction fluid or tape. If you make the error, please start with the new form.
- If you are filing multiple forms, make sure you state your name, date of birth, and A-number (if any) in the same way on each form.
- Pay the correct fee. USCIS will reject forms submitted with incorrect or incomplete fees. Make sure the amount is correct before you make the payment. Currently, the filing fee for Form I-130 is $1,140, plus an $85 biometric services fee. The price varies for different conditions (such as age, eligibility, etc.) You can also use the Fee Calculator to check the latest updated fees for each form.
- Send single-sided copies of the application(s).
After you get all your documents and forms completed, you can start the next step: assemble your application.
Assemble your application I - Preparation
Pay the fees
- Credit card:
File Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
USCIS only accepts the below credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Make sure the card has enough money to cover the fee at the time of filing. Your petition/application may be rejected if your card is declined, and the card will not be accepted and processed by USCIS a second time.
- Check/Money order: For applying in the U.S., you should mail your check/money order with your application form. Also, be sure that the office you contact is available to proceed money order/checks.
Notification and Form Access
- Apply for email/text message notice: Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- The notification will not include any personal information; it only lists your receipt number and tells you how to obtain case status information.
- The service is only available for forms filed at the three USCIS Lockbox facilities located in Lewisville, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and Phoenix, Arizona.
- To file the form, please download and complete the form and clip it on the front page of your filing petition form.
Final Check before wrap-up
- The supporting documents should either be in English or accompanied by a complete English translation.
- Please provide the copies of those documents unless requested by USCIS. Since those documents may become part of the record, it is likely that the originals may not be returned to the applicants.
- All attachments are required to have your name and A-Number (if any) listed. Numbering the pages is also acceptable (for example, “page 1 of 11.)
Assemble your application II - Wrap-up
Envelope the application
- Mark the envelope and the cover letter with the category/nature of the submission. For instance, Original Submission, Brief for an Appeal, or Response To Request for Additional Information. Furthermore, the form number is required (e.g., Form -130.)
Wrap up in the packet
- Use fasteners to hold together thick or bulky applications/petitions. Two-hole punching the top of the material for easy placement in the file is appreciated. Avoid using heavy-duty staples, binders, or folders that make the documents hard to disassemble.
- Sticky tabs/notes help in locating items listed in your attachments. Please place the tabs/notes on the bottom of the page, not the side.
- Do not submit oversized documentation unless it is necessary.
- Be sure to make different cases separated by fasteners or rubbers if you are delivering them in the same envelope.
- If you are re-submitting the packet in response to a Request for Evidence (RFE), please place the notice requesting the additional evidence/information on the top of the packet. Also, please use the special mailing envelope provided.
- If you are submitting evidence in support of a previously filed appeal or motion, place a cover letter with “Brief for (Appeal/Motion)” on top of the packet.
Mail Your Application, Petition, or Request
Mail your forms to the address listed on that form’s webpage. You may submit your forms through USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS. If you mail to the wrong filing address, USCIS has the right to reject your application/petition as improperly filed and return it to you to re-file. If you choose the U.S. Postal Service, certified mail with a return receipt is the safest way to send your petition.
That’s all for paper filing. Should you have any questions, feel free to drop us a message at email@example.com.
- The first step is getting your receipt of application within the next 2~3 weeks by mail (but it depends on the capacity USCIS handles at the moment.) You can also login the account to check your application status. During this period of time, you may also receive the contact from USCIS asking for further information or supported documents through Request for Evidence (RFE,) if necessary.
- Approximately 3~5 weeks after filing, you can expect to receive an appointment notice for your Biometrics (fingerprints). This is a basic security clearance and background check performed to confirm your identity.
- 5~8 weeks later is your actual Biometrics appointment. Bring a passport or National photo ID issued by your country to obtain access into the building.
- Approximately 12~16 weeks after filing, you may receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if you’ve applied Form I-765 before,) or arrange the medical examination, during which you will receive the sealed Form I-693. For further details please check here.
- Now here comes the biggest time gap during the whole process: waiting for Notice of Interview. This notice can appear in the mail anywhere from 4 to 10 months after filing (yes, the waiting can be extremely long…,) so try to keep variability if you’re in the middle of the process. The interview is another standard procedure. The type of case presented to the interviewer will influence your chances of receiving a Green Card, and it is possible that the interview can be waived entirely by USCIS.
- Adjustment of Status Interview. Make sure all of your information from your I-485 is up to date. During the interview, the officers verify whether your marriage is bone fide, not fraudulent. The questions may be related to your relationship history or future plans after marriage, etc. You can also update/revise any answers completed incorrectly or that have changed since filing the application. Any unanswered questions or incomplete answers are expected to be resolved at the interview. If such modifications are made, you should re-sign and date the application at the conclusion of the interview. Therefore, you will bring the completed form to your marriage green card interview in case there is any revision required.
- The result of the application may come out around one to two months after the interview.
** The interview may be waived for special circumstances, please refer to USCIS site for further information.
Note: Be prepared to explain any leave of absences from the United States either during the time of filing or in the immediacy before you filed your I-485 application. Officers may question interviewees on their travel history and the primary purpose for traveling outside of the United States
Hope the guide helps you with your DIY application journey; should you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact Visa2US and consult our attorney.
Consular Processing (Outside the U.S.)
Contact U.S. Embassy
As regulated, if the applicant is not present in the United States, you cannot file Form I-485, but it does not mean you cannot continue applying for a marriage green card. In such instances, you will have to visit the U.S. Embassy or consulate to proceed with applying for a marriage green card. If you are not sure whether you apply to this circumstances, you are free to contact us for further details (contact link.)
First thing first, you need to have your I-130 petition approved by a USCIS official (Thanks to your spouse!) Once it is approved, your petition will be forwarded by the USCIS to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is just one branch of the U.S. State Department, and handles overseas visas and green cards. The petition will remain there until an immigrant visa number is available for you. You can find more information on USCIS website regarding Visa Availability and Priority Dates pages for more information.
Submit Forms for Remote Application
Once NVC makes contact the you (the beneficiary) and your spouse (I-130 petitioner,) you need to file the DS-260 Form (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application,) and DS-261 (Online Choice of Address and agent) which can be filled out online. DS-260 is essentially an immigrant visa application, and DS-261 is simply an application informing the U.S. State Department whom to contact when you’re not in the U.S. During this period, the NVC will also notify you when you must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and supporting documentation.
After submitting these forms online, the NVC will contact you about going to your nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate. The consular office will process your case and decide if you are eligible for an immigrant visa. It’s very important to bring two forms of ID to the consulate interview: a national driver's license and your passport. Also, before showing up for your in-person interview, you’ll need a USCIS approved medical examination. Be sure to check the USCIS website Find Doctor for more information. Since the interview will be held abroad, your resident spouse does not need to attend the interview with you.
Grant the Immigrant Visa
If you are granted an immigrant visa, you will receive the "Visa Packet," with the requested information. Please do not open this packet. This also means that you are granted an immigrant visa to visit the U.S. to continue your green card application. It is recommended that you pay the Immigrant Fee soon after you receive your Visa Packet before you depart for the U.S. The fee is used to proceed your immigrant Visa Packet for your green card. When arriving in the United States, please give your Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will examine you and the Packet and determine whether you are eligible to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident. If the CBP officer admits you, hooray! You are the new lawful permanent resident of the United States :)
Receive your Green Card
Once your application is approved, based on your marriage period, you will receive a conditional permanent residence (CR1) or Permanent residency (IR1.) Well done and congratulations!
No matter where you are, Visa2US is here to help you with your green card application, register and chat with your top-tier independent attorney for details!