If you’re a U.S. citizen and you want to sponsor your spouse, you’ll need to factor in a few different costs to help your spouse become a permanent green card holder. Unfortunately, just because your spouse is married to you does not automatically give them a green card, they’ll have to apply. Before even applying for this process, you need to make sure your eligible.
First, in order to sponsor your spouse, you’ll need to meet the minimum annual income standard of at least $21,550 a year. This amount is assuming that you do not have any children with your spouse and that you are not active military. If either of those conditions are true, this amount may be lower.
Once you’re sure you make that minimum per year, you’re able to officially apply with your spouse for a green card. This process will cost you right under $2,000, not including any additional lawyer fees you may incur. If you’re ready to apply, make sure to follow the steps below to help your spouse obtain a green card. Please note, that times listed may be slower due to Coronavirus processing times.
1. Submit Paperwork
Before anything, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork and gather documents to establish the validity of your marriage. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to file your paperwork. The USCIS will review the paperwork between 9-11 months after the filing date. To file, you’ll need the following items:
Form I-130 – You, as the U.S. citizen, must fill out this form to establish that a valid marriage exists. Paperwork that must be included with this form includes proof that the sponsor is a U.S. citizen, evidence of a legal marriage (legal marriage certificate), proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (like a joint bank account or lease) along with a filing fee of $535.
Form I-485 – This form must be filled out by the spouse looking to obtain a green card.
This form helps establish that the spouse is eligible for a green card. Paperwork that must be included with this document includes proof of nationality, proof of lawful entry to the United States (such as a visa or travel record), medical exam, and evidence that your spouse can support you financially, along with a filing fee of $1,225.
When filing in the U.S. for adjustment of status you will not have to pay separate fees for the I-130 and the I-485. The I-130, if filed with the I-485, does not carry a separate fee. Additionally, you will be able to file an I-131 which allows you to travel outside the U.S. and I-765 which allows you to work. Work and travel benefits are granted during the time your application is evaluated.
If you will be attending your visa appointment outside the U.S., then the process differs in that you will be required, following approval of your I-130, to submit your affidavit and DS-260 through the National Visa Center. Once complete, the NVC will transfer your file to the proper consulate to schedule your interview.
2. Attend Your Green Card Interview
After a few months, as long as all documentation and evidence have been properly submitted and accepted, you’ll receive a notice from the USCIS that you’re invited to a green card interview. During this interview, the USCIS officer is looking to determine that all your marriage information is correct. They’ll ask questions about your life, including things like your plans, relationship history, and daily routines together. After the office finishes this process and approves your application, you’ll be eligible to become a conditional resident if you’ve been married for less than two years.
3. Apply for Your Permanent Green Card
Conditional Green Cards are only valid for two years. You will only receive a conditional green card if you have been married for less than two years prior to submission of your application for lawful permanent residency. Ninety days before your conditional green card expires, you can submit the I-751 form, which is a petition asking to remove conditions from your conditional green card to become a permanent resident.
If you’re confused about the filing process or want to ensure that you’re doing everything the right way to avoid being denied or having to resubmit your paperwork, contact an experienced immigration lawyer today.