There are three common ways to get a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen. This post summarizes the three different options.
Obtaining a Green Card through a Fiancé Visa (K Visa)
When the U.S. citizen is living in the U.S. and the beneficiary (the person the U.S. Citizen will marry) is outside the U.S., the U.S. citizen can file an application for a fiancé visa with USCIS. This takes around 7-10 months to be approved (premium processing is not available, and the timing is an estimate based on current timing) and once approved, the approval notice is forwarded to the beneficiary abroad. The beneficiary will then schedule an interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad and a K visa will be placed in their passport. They will enter the U.S. with the K visa and the couple will have 90 days to marry. After the marriage, the couple will file an adjustment of status application (I-485) and can also file for work and travel authorization for the beneficiary. The couple will also attend an interview and I-485 applications are currently taking around 18 months to adjudicate.
Obtaining a Green Card through Marriage while in the U.S. by Adjusting Status
If a beneficiary enters the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa (eg. B, F, O, E-2, etc) and is in the U.S., the beneficiary can file a marriage based green card petition in the U.S. This involves filing an I-130 petition as well as an I-485 form. For U.S. Citizens, this green card category is always current, so an applicant will not ever have to wait to file the I-485 petition. When the I-485 petition is filed, the applicant can also file for work and travel authorization. The couple will attend an interview to prove that the marriage is legitimate, and the process is currently taking around 18 months.
When initially entering the U.S., the beneficiary should not have the intent to marry and adjust status although there is case law that provides a defense to preconceived intent under the immediate relative category. That being said, if one changes their mind when they enter the U.S. and decides to marry, it is best to do this after being in the U.S. for 90 days.
Obtaining a Marriage Based Green Card through Consular Processing
If the beneficiary is outside of the U.S., the U.S. citizen can file an I-130 form under the immediate relative category. This could take 6 months to a year to be approved and once approved, the information goes to the national visa center (NVC) and ultimately to the Consulate for processing. The beneficiary (not the U.S. Citizen) will attend an interview and if approved will be granted a visa and will be given a sealed package to enter the U.S. within 6 months. Once the beneficiary enters with the U.S. they will get their green card mailed to them. Consular processing timing is very post specific but usually takes around a year.
In all cases, the beneficiary is required to complete a medical exam and the U.S. citizen must complete an affidavit of financial support. Work and travel authorizations takes around 5 months to be approved and an applicant cannot work or travel before that.
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