Marriage Based Green Card Guide on Lawyers, Costs, & Options

Key Points to Know

  • The total fees for a marriage-based green card depend on a number of factors including where you are filing from, individual attorney fees, etc.
  • Premium processing is not available.
  • Our team can assist you in filing for a K-1 visa to green card or adjusting your status!

A marriage green card comes with a host of benefits, including legal permanent residency, the ability to get work authorization, travel flexibility, a path to citizenship and more, which a marriage visa lawyer can explain to you! It’s important to follow all the immigration steps diligently to avoid unnecessary delays or denials to your visa application. Unlike many other immigration benefits, you can apply for a marriage green card even if you have an unlawful presence in the U.S. or you have overstayed a visa, although these are not ideal circumstances and should be thoroughly addressed with your legal representative.

Reunite with Your Spouse Sooner


What is a Marriage-Based Green Card

A marriage based green card permits a U.S. citizen’s (or green card holder’s) spouse to legally live and work in the United States. The green card grants the individual permanent resident status under the law and the ability to apply for citizenship after three years of being married. A green card differs from a visa in that a visa is for more short-term uses.

Married to a U.S. Citizen

The husband or wife of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative” by law which means they are not held against any quota restrictions for receiving green cards via marriage. To start the process, the citizen would first need to submit an I-130 on behalf of their spouse and if they entered the U.S legally, they can file the I-485 adjustment of status in order to stay within the U.S.

Typically, the spouse will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within a 90-day window and in some cases may be approved to travel overseas. If a green card is granted to a marriage that is less than 2 years old, a 2-year time limit will be imposed on the card. To receive a ten-year green card the couple needs to submit Form I-751 within the 90-day period before the expiration of the initial green card.

Get the Marriage Green Card


Married to a Permanent Resident

In relation to green card applications based on marriages to citizens, there are more who fall into the category of marriages to U.S. permanent residents than married to a citizen. For that reason, the demand is often very high. As there are some risks involved in getting a green card by marriage application, VisaNation Law Group’s immigration attorneys review all cases very carefully to ensure a successful result.

Although getting a green card through marriage can often be the easiest way to obtain residency for a non-U.S. citizen, approval is not automatic. U.S. citizens applying for a fiancée visa or marriage green card must be aware that immigration officials will scrutinize their applications to ensure that the marriage is legitimate and bona fide, and not for the sole purpose of gaining immigration benefits.

How Can the Conditions Be Removed?

The citizen and the foreign spouse must prove that the marriage is bona fide. If the citizen and foreign spouse have been married less than 2 years at the time the spouse becomes a permanent resident, a conditional 2-year green card will be issued. In order to remove the conditions on permanent status, you and your immigration attorney should file Form I-751.

Who Needs a Marriage Visa Lawyer?

We recommend most couples to enlist the help of a qualified immigration attorney. With something as sensitive as the future of your relationship, it’s worth the investment to have your case handled by a team with years of experience and countless approvals under their belt.

If any of the following apply to your situation, it is highly advisable to contact our office today:

  • You or your spouse has a criminal record;
  • You or your spouse has illegally entered the U.S.;
  • You or your spouse has previously violated U.S. immigration regulations;
  • You or your spouse had a U.S. immigration application rejected;
  • Your marriage-based green card application lacks necessary evidence; or
  • You are not comfortable submitting your own immigration application.

See our past success stories and how many happy couples we’ve helped reunite in the United States.

Marriage Green Card Lawyer Cost

Attorney fees for marriage-based green cards vary dramatically across the U.S. on average, immigration attorneys charge anywhere between $1,500 to over $5,000.

Our fee for Green Card by Marriage to a U.S. Citizen (filed within the U.S.)

Attorney Fee: $2500

USCIS Fee: $1,760 (I-130: $535; I-485: $1225)

Additional fees may vary depending on the case. You can reference our immigration attorney fees to become familiar with the services we provide and with the price points that you should expect.

How Much Does A Marriage-Based Green Card Cost?

The cost involved with obtaining a green card through marriage varies depending on your age and immigration circumstances. Below is a detailed table of schedules associated with marriage-based green card costs as per USCIS green card guidelines:

Form Filing Fee

Applying from Outside the U.S.

Applying from Inside the U.S.

I-130: Petition for Alien Relative

$675 (paper filing) or $625 online filing)

$675 (paper filing) or $625 online filing)

I-485: Green Card Application

Not Applicable


I-864: Affidavit of Support






State Department Processing


Not Applicable

USCIS Immigrant Fee


Not Applicable

I-131: Travel Permit (Optional)

Not Applicable 


I-765 Work Permit (Optional)

Not Applicable 


*See this chart under “Special Instructions” for the cost of filing the I-485 application.

It is important to note that these are only the mandatory costs required by the USCIS. You should also consider any travel costs as well as medical exam fees when evaluating the total cost of your green card.

How Can the Conditions Be Removed?

If you have received your green card through marriage and wish to remove the conditions after two years, you will need to submit an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions and pay the $595 filing fee along with the $85 biometrics fee.

The USCIS requires you to submit the I-751 at least 90 days before the end of your two-year period. If you don’t do so, you may find yourself out of status when your marriage-based green card expires, which could have dire consequences for future immigration endeavors.

Check out this guide on what happens to green card after divorce!

Marriage-Based Green Card Process

The first step in a marriage-based green card process is for the petitioning spouse (citizen or permanent resident) to file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the USCIS. After the I-130 approval, the next steps will depend on whether the beneficiary is staying in the U.S. or is living abroad.

It’s Time to Reunite with Your Spouse in the U.S.


Marriage based green card chart

If the Beneficiary is in the United States

  1. After the approval of the I-130, the beneficiary will need to file an I-485, Petition to Adjust Status with the USCIS.
  2. I-485 must be submitted with supporting evidence, which includes a birth certificate, proof of nationality, and proof of lawful entry to the U.S. (I-94 travel record).
  3. After you’ve filed the initial paperwork, your green card interview will be scheduled approximately 3-4 months later.

NOTE: If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen and the beneficiary is in the U.S., both the I-130 and I-485 can be filed concurrently.

If the Beneficiary is Outside the United States

  1. For individuals seeking a green card while outside the United States, you can first become a permanent resident through the process of consular processing. Consular processing is when the USCIS issues a visa on approved Form I-130.
  2. Once the USCIS has approved your I-130 petition, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  3. NVC will then assign a case number for the petition and notify the beneficiary spouse to complete the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, you will not be asked to complete DS-261).
  4. The NVC will then start the case processing by notifying both the beneficiary and petitioner to pay the appropriate fees.
  5. After the payment, the NVC will ask you to submit the needed documents for an immigrant visa including the Affidavit of Support, civil documents, application forms, and any other items deemed necessary for the case.

Consular processing fees for a marriage-based green card include a visa application processing fee of $325 and a medical examination fee, which varies. Other costs may include photocopying and translation charges.

Required Documents for a Marriage-Based Green Card Through Consular Processing

The documents may vary depending on each individual’s case. However, the following are the generally required documents for a marriage-based green card application:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned date of entry into the U.S. Keep in mind that, in some cases, a longer validity may be required. You will need to check with the embassy or consulate in your country to be sure.
  • Affidavit of Support: The I-864 Affidavit of Support must be completed by the petitioner to show that they have the ability to support the beneficiary financially when they start living in the U.S. The petitioner must prove that his or her income is at least 25% higher than the HHS poverty guideline.
  • DS-260, Immigrant Visa Alien Registration Application
  • Two (2) copies of 2×2 photographs (they must follow these specifications).
  • Beneficiary’s Civil Documents: This includes birth and marriage certificates, court and prison records, marriage termination documents, military records, and/or police certificates.
  • Completed immigration medical examination forms.

What are the Legal Requirements for a Marriage-Based Green Card?

The marriage-based green card eligibility requires proving legal marriage, termination of previous marriages, and a genuine marital relationship. To prove marriage legitimacy, you’ll need to provide official records, while previous marriages require divorce or death certificates. The bona fide marriage criteria help USCIS determine if the marriage is genuine and shine a light on those that are shams. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must sponsor the applicant. If the marriage lacks familial involvement or appears secretive, immigration officials may become suspicious.

Green Card Through Marriage Processing Time

Once you file the I-130 petition, the USCIS will assign your priority date, which is the day that they received your petition. Each year, the USCIS only allows a certain number of immigrant visas (green cards) to be issued. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of available visa numbers, then a backlog will build. Unfortunately, there is usually a backlog for each marriage-based green card category.

The categories are divided into preference levels which are further divided according to your country of origin. Be sure to keep an eye on the monthly visa bulletin provided by the Department of State to see if the dates match or pass your priority date. When that happens, your date will be current and you can either apply to adjust your status to legal permanent residency or go through consular processing.

Can I Use Premium Processing?

Unfortunately, the premium processing service is only available for those applying for green cards and visas that use the I-129 and I-140 petitions. Therefore, you cannot shorten the green card through marriage processing time with this service.

Simple and Fast Marriage Green Cards


VisaNation Immigration Law Pilot Marriage GC Success Stories Graphic

K-1 Visa to Green Card

If you have a K-class visa and wish to transition to a green card through marriage, then here is the process:

  1. Have your spouse file an I-130 petition on your behalf
  2. Wait until your petition is approved and your priority date is current with the final action dates given in the visa bulletin.
  3. File the I-485 form to have your K class nonimmigrant status adjusted to immigrant green card status.

Remember, if you are still in the U.S. under K status, you may not need to go through consular processing. However, the USCIS reserves the right to mandate a consular interview to any prospective immigrant.

Marriage-Based Green Card Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about marriage green cards.

I want to join my spouse in the U.S. while my green card is being processed. Which visa can I apply for?

In the interim, you can join your spouse in the U.S. while your green card through marriage is being processed by applying for and obtaining a K-3 visa.

What is the age requirement to sponsor a marriage-based green card?

There is no stipulated minimum age for a marriage-based green card petitioner. However, you must be at least 18 years old and have residence in the United States before you can sign the Affidavit of Support Form. The affidavit form is one of the mandatory items for a marriage-based green card application, so the minimum age is effectively 18.

What should I do if I was a permanent resident when I filed a green card petition for my foreign spouse but now I am a citizen?

You will need to upgrade the petition you filed earlier from an F2 green card (family second preference) to the immediate relative (IR) category. You can do this by sending proof of your citizenship to the NVC. This will expedite the green card process, as higher priority is given to immediate relative applicants.

How long do I have to wait to apply for a green card after marrying my spouse?

You don’t have to wait for any particular period before applying for a green card. As soon as you are legally married, you can start your green card process, regardless of your location.

What happens if they divorce before the end of the 2-year period?

If a divorce occurs before the 2-year period ends, the foreign-born spouse is advised to file Form I-751 in order to apply for a “good faith marriage waiver.”

NOTE: Apart from the spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21 and parents of U.S. citizens (over 21) may apply for a green card as an immediate relative.

How long does it take to get a green card based on marriage?

In 2023, the average time that applicants have to wait to get a marriage-based green card was about 15 months. The shortest time is around 13 months, while the longest could be as many as 20 months. Your wait times will differ depending on the residency status of your U.S. spouse, whether they are an American citizen or a green card holder. However, your wait times could also be affected depending on your country of residence and whether you are applying from within the U.S. or outside the U.S.

Who is eligible for a marriage green card?

Generally, you could be eligible for a marriage-based green card if you fulfill the following requirements (1) are legally married to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder (2) all your previous marriage(s) have been legally dissolved, and (3) your marriage is in good faith and is not fraudulent. During your immigration journey, you will have to submit numerous documents like form I-864, DS-260, evidence of your marriage, and a range of other evidence to support your application.

Hire an Immigration Lawyer for Your Green Card Case

The burden of proof to establish the legitimacy of the marriage falls upon the applicant. An experienced attorney can assist you in this task, both in preparing the application correctly and also advising the applicant, as to what kind of documents should be brought to the interview to increase the likelihood of success.

The immigration attorneys at the VisaNation Law Group have significant experience in all aspects of the marriage-based immigration process. They have successfully handled dozens of fiancée visa and marriage immigration cases.

VisaNation Law Group has assisted clients through every step of the process including completing the application forms correctly, preparing and gathering documents and necessary evidence, preparing and accompanying you and your spouse to the final immigration interview.

Our experienced immigration attorneys can advise you on what to expect when going through this process. Start your immigration journey today!

Again, it’s best to explore all of your options before beginning the application process. Contact an immigration attorney to learn what course of action is best for you and your spouse.