Requirements for Obtaining a Marriage-Based Green Card in the United States

Navigating the process of obtaining a marriage-based green card can seem like a daunting task, filled with paperwork, legal requirements, and waiting periods. However, it is one of the most straightforward ways for a foreign spouse to obtain legal permanent residence in the United States. Below is an overview of the key requirements that applicants must meet to be successful in their marriage-based green card application.

Proof of a Valid Marriage

First and foremost, the marriage between the U.S. citizen (or green card holder) and the foreign spouse must be legally recognized both where it occurred and in the U.S. You will need to submit the original or certified copy of your marriage certificate to demonstrate that you have a legally valid marriage. More information.

U.S. Sponsorship

The U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse must act as a sponsor for the foreign spouse applying for a marriage-based green card. The sponsor must meet certain financial requirements to show they can support their foreign spouse at 125% above the mandated poverty line. This involves submitting an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), along with the relevant financial documents such as tax returns, proof of income, and assets.

Relationship Verification

To counter potential fraudulent cases where people get married solely for the purpose of gaining a green card, applicants must submit bona fide evidence that their marriage is legitimate. This could include but is not limited to, photographs of the couple together, copies of joint bank statements, and affidavits from friends and family testifying to the genuineness of the marriage.

Medical Examination and Vaccination

Applicants are required to undergo a medical examination by a USCIS-approved physician. They also need to provide proof of required vaccinations. The results of these medical checks should be compiled into a sealed envelope by the examining physician to be submitted to the USCIS.

Background Checks and Public Charge Criteria

Applicants will need to go through background checks, fingerprinting, and possibly interviews. A criminal record or certain other disqualifiers could potentially make the foreign spouse ineligible for a green card. In addition, under the public charge rule, the foreign spouse must demonstrate that they are unlikely to become reliant on U.S. public resources for subsistence. Factors considered may include age, health, income, education, and skills. More about our firm.

Immigration Forms

The application process involves the submission of various immigration forms, such as Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), or DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Application) if applying from outside the U.S. Correctly filling out these forms is crucial for application success.

Filing Fees

There are various fees involved in the application process. These fees are subject to change, so it’s best to consult the USCIS website for the most current information.


Finally, an in-person interview is usually required for both the U.S. citizen sponsor and the foreign spouse. The interview typically occurs at a USCIS office if the applicant is already in the U.S. or at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy if the applicant is abroad.

In summary, while the requirements for a marriage-based green card may seem extensive, they are essential for ensuring that only legitimate, bona fide marriages result in the granting of U.S. permanent residence. As immigration policies and procedures can change, consulting an immigration attorney for personalized advice is often beneficial.