Marriage-Based Green Card Timeline | How Long Will It Take

A wedding and marriage have enough timelines. Marrying a U.S citizen or permanent resident adds a marriage-based green card timeline. Your timeline varies depending on where you live and your spouse’s U.S. status. From a bird’s eye view, the range is 10.5 to 59 months. Follow our timeline guide to better understand your marriage-based green card timeline and narrow that range down.

Spouse Visa USA Processing Times 2022

Two things to understand in your green card application process is to understand that the U.S. spouse is known as the sponsor and spouse looking for the green card is the beneficiary. To narrow down your timeline, you need to identify twothings:

  1. When applying, will the beneficiary be in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa or living abroad?
  2. Is the sponsor a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident (green card holder)?

Once you’ve identified those things, look at the chart below for details on spouse visa USA processing times 2021-2022.

Status of U.S. Spouse

Currently Residing In...

Approx. Wait Time as of August 2022

U.S. Citizen

United States

11.5–31 months

Abroad 

12.5–18 months

U.S. Green Card Holder 

United States 

20.5–59 months

Abroad

10.5–30 months

Marriage Green Card Timeline: U.S. Citizen Spouse

Marrying a U.S. citizen does not mean you can become a citizen immediately. But instead, the possibility of obtaining a green card opens up as the spouse of a U.S citizen. However, several criteria must be fulfilled before you can file for naturalization.

Below are the two possible ways a spouse of a U.S citizen can obtain a green card. It basically depends on if the non-immigrant is abroad or living in the United States. Among other requirements, you need to satisfy that your marriage is genuine to qualify for a green card.

Consular Processing

This applies when a non-immigrant abroad is married to a U.S citizen.

Petition for Alien Relative

As a first step in the process, you must establish the existence of a valid marriage. You will need to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the USCIS in a category reserved for immediate family. The sponsor alone must also file the I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary.

Filing these forms kicks off your marriage-based green card timeline. The processing time for these forms depends on which USCIS service center has your forms. You can check your form and case status online.

Citizen Spouse I-130 Processing Time as of August 2022

USCIS Service Center

Processing Time as of August 2022

California

10.5 months

Nebraska

10.5 months

Potomac

12 months

Texas

11.5 months

Vermont

16 months

This will kick off the marriage-based green card timeline, which would take anywhere between 9-36 months once USCIS has everything they need. If USCIS sends you a Request for Evidence (RFE), further evidence and/or information is required to complete processing.

National Visa Center Processing Time

Since the sponsor is a U.S. citizen, the beneficiary does not have to wait to file the online visa immigrant application, DS-260.

Once you have filed your Petition for Alien Relative along with the supplementary I-130A, the USCIS office will transfer the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). You can check the most recent NVC processing times online. As of August 2022, it’s taking NVC two months to process cases.

NVC processing time marriage-based green card timeline

 

Once a handover is completed from the USCIS to NVC, they will gather the necessary forms and documentation to decide if the spouse seeking a green card is eligible for an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Once the case is ready for processing, the spouse will have to pay processing fees and a financial support form fee. The financial support form is commonly known as the Affidavit of Support (form I-864).

Interview and Approval

Your spouse will need to prepare for the interview at the U.S. embassy. To do this, the beneficiary needs to complete the following:

  • Medical Examination
    • Complete this with a State Department-approved doctor. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case will give a list of eligible doctors along with your interview notice.
  • Lodge Address
    • Follow the directions from the responsible U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Your passport will be delivered to this address once the approved visa stamp is obtained.
  • Fingerprinting Appointment
    • In most cases, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will request a background and security check. The beneficiary will be informed of the procedure or any special instructions.

When your spouse has completed the above prerequisites, they will be required to attend what is known as a green card interview. The interview will be at the embassy or consulate per the instructions of date, time, and location given in a prior interview notice. U.S. embassies and consulates tell the NVC their available appointment times. NVC schedules the interview on a first-come, first-served basis. Check with your nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate for potential interview wait times.

There are no strict criteria such as the number of years of marriage to be eligible. Instead, the consular official handling your case must be sufficiently satisfied that your marriage is genuine. There is a rise in the number of fraudulent attempts to obtain marriage-based green cards, and, as such, newlyweds usually face more scrutiny. The consular official can give approval on the spot.

Sample Questions

The questions that you might be able to expect will likely focus on the relationship between you and your spouse. Many might be simple questions designed to identify if your marriage is legitimate such as:

  • What is your spouse’s occupation?
  • Where did you first meet your spouse?
  • What are your spouse’s hobbies?
  • How long have you and your spouse been married?
  • What is your anniversary date?

For the marriage-based green card interview, it’s important to be honest. You may be tempted to make up an answer if you do not know. However, telling the officer you are unsure of the answer is always better than lying. If you are denied a green card, you can always refile. But if you are caught in a fraudulent attempt, then you will likely be barred from attempting re-entry into the U.S. for sometimes decades. Your immigration attorney can help you prepare for the interview.

Arriving in the U.S.

When consular processing has been completed and a visa stamp has been given, an immigrant fee will need to be paid to the USCIS. This is required so that the actual physical green card can be mailed to your address in the United States.

If you have been married for less than two years at the time of issuance of the green card, then your spouse will receive a conditional green card, which expires in two years. You will need to file for form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence 90 days before the expiration date of the conditional green card.

The issued green card will be an “immediate relative green card” if you have been married for at least two years. This is a regular 10-year green card with a relatively easy renewal process.

Marriage Green Card Timeline, U.S. citizen spouse living in the U.S.Processing while living in the U.S.

If the immigrant spouse currently lives in the U.S. under another non-immigrant visa like a K-1 visa and they’re married to a citizen they can take advantage of concurrent filing. Concurrent filing is more efficient and faster because both forms start processing simultaneously.

Concurrent Filing I-130 and I-485

A concurrent filing is when you file I-130 and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, together.  When combining the I-130 and the I-485, the concurrent processing time ranges from 10.5 months to 29 months.

The I-485 processing time varies greatly. Instead of service centers, USCIS field offices process the I-485. There are over 80 field offices across the country. As of August 2022, the fastest field office is in Harlington, TX with a 10-month processing time and the longest is in Sacramento, CA with a 29-month processing time for the I-485. Your field office is the one nearest you.

Concurrent Filing Application Package

All in all, your application package must include:

  • Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-130A Supplemental Information Form
  • Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Green Card Application)
  • Form I-864 Affidavit of Support (Financial Support Form)
  • Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

After filing your package, add 1-2 months additional for an interview and approval.

Marriage Green Card Timeline: U.S. Green-Card Holder Spouse

Though many of the forms and steps are the same for immigrants married to U.S. legal permanent residents as those married to citizens, the timeline is not the same.

Processing while living in the U.S.

You’ll start seeing differences with the I-130.

I-130 Processing Time for Spouse of Green Card Holder as of August 2022

USCIS Service Center

Processing Time as of August 2022

California

25.5 months

Nebraska

10.5 months

Potomac

29 months

Texas

20 months

Vermont

30 months

Concurrent filing is not allowed for non-citizen spouses. Therefore, after the immigrant spouse’s I-130 is approved, they must wait until a visa is available before submitting the I-485.

To know when a visa is available, look at the Visa Bulletin and look under the F-2A visa to see the priority date based on your home country. The September 2022 Visa Bulletin has the F-2A visa as “current” in all areas. Current means that there is no wait.

The I-485 processing time is the same for citizen and noncitizen spouses, ranging from 10 to 29 months as of August 2022.

Consular Processing

The consular processing for the spouses of green card holders is similar to the process mentioned above but with different processing times.

The key difference is after filing the I-130, the applicant has to wait until their priority date is current on the visa bulletin before being able to submit their application to the NVC. Luckily for those applying in August 2022 the F-2A is current so there is currently no delay to submit your application for the NVC.

The NVC processing is the same for spouse of noncitizens, so it’s still currently 2 months.

Spouse Visa Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to be married to get a green card?

After getting married, you are first issued a conditional Marriage Green Card. Depending on your situation, you can expect it to take anywhere from 9-36 months. Refer to the chart above for specific scenarios. Then, after being married for two years, you can apply for a permanent marriage green card.

How can I get a green card faster than 90 days?

Marrying a U.S. citizen is already one of the quickest ways to immigrate to the country. You can request to expedite your request with USCIS. USCIS considers the following criteria when deciding which cases to expedite

  • Urgent humanitarian reason related to human welfare
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the interest of the United States
  • U.S. government interests
  • A clear USCIS error

How Long to Get Green Card After Interview 2022?

USCIS has 30 days from the date of your interview to let you know of their decision. If USCIS approves the green card, they will typically mail your green card about six months from the time of your interview. You can check your case processing time using this USCIS tool.

How We Can Help

Understanding the marriage-based green card timeline starts with understanding your case. Many factors go into what you can expect in terms of waiting times. The best thing to do is to have an immigration attorney review your case and advise you on more accurate processing times.

VisaNation Law Group attorneys have helped hundreds of families and immigrants realize their dream of migrating to the United States.

Get in touch with one of VisaNation Law Group’s immigration attorneys by filling out this form and scheduling your free and private consultation today.