A green card is a government-issued document also known as a permanent resident card. If your fiancé is a citizen of a foreign country and you plan to live together in the United States, the green card will allow him or her to do so.
The fiancé visa is a way for your future spouse to come to the United States, but a green card is essential if you want to make it a permanent relationship and stay in the country. To get a green card you and your soon-to-be spouse must meet the following requirements:
- Your fiancé is eligible to immigrate to the United States
- You are a citizen of the United States
- You are both legally able to marry
If you’re relationship meets these qualifications, congratulations! After marriage your fiancé can apply for a green card and the right to live permanently in the United States.
Before moving to the United States your fiancé will have to show that he or she is eligible to come here. Foreign citizens can be considered inadmissible for a variety of reasons, but hopefully, your partner will not fall into any inadmissibility categories.
An immigrant may be considered inadmissible due to:
- A contagious disease such as tuberculosis
- A physical or mental disorder that poses a threat to public safety
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude
- Multiple criminal convictions
- Failure to receive required vaccinations
- Past violations of U.S. immigration law
While the restrictions above may be waived in some circumstances, the following characteristics will render someone inadmissible without exception.
- Drug abuse or addiction
- Intentions or history of committing espionage or terrorism
- Participation in Nazi persecution or genocide
- Likelihood of becoming dependent on public assistance or welfare
Different Green Card Processes
In order to get a green card for family reasons, you and your fiancé will need to tie the knot and make it official. While you can get a fiancé visa prior to being married, you can only apply for a green card after your marriage.
You can get married abroad and apply for a green card through a U.S. consulate in a foreign country or have your marriage in the United States and then apply for the green card.
Filing for a green card from the inside the United States is known as adjustment of status. If you are applying for a green card outside the United States you will go through what is known as consular processing.
Adjustment of Status
If you are married and living in the United States you can begin the adjustment of status process. As the citizen/permanent resident family member of your spouse, you will need to submit Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
Your spouse will need to fill out and submit Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
In some situations, you can submit form I-485 with form I-130, but in other cases, it may be a better idea to submit the forms separately.
Either way, if you send form I-130 by itself, you must submit form I-485 with evidence that you have already sent form I-130. USCIS will give you this evidence in form I-797, Notice of Action, which is essentially a receipt showing you have previously submitted form I-130.
Be aware that if any of the grounds of inadmissibility mentioned above apply to you—such as unlawful presence in the United States, or a criminal history—you may be ineligible to adjust status. In this case, talk to an experienced attorney because the process may be more complicated.
If your fiancé would rather get married outside the United States and then move here, he or she can apply for a green card through consular processing. Consular processing also begins by having the U.S. citizen spouse file form I-130.
After your family petition is approved, the National Visa Center will contact you to schedule an interview at a consulate or embassy in your fiancé’s country of origin.
Once an immigrant visa has been issued, your spouse can travel to the United States and will officially become a permanent resident once they are admitted at a port of entry.
Fiancé Visa Process
The fiancé visa process is almost a hybrid of adjustment of status and consular processing. If you are a U.S. citizen and your fiancé currently lives outside of the United States, you can file form I-129F with USCIS.
This will allow your fiancé to interview at their local consulate or embassy and receive a nonimmigrant fiancé visa, or permission to enter the United States for a period of 90 days to get married.
It’s important for you and your fiancé to marry within the 90 days. After your marriage, submit form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Application Support Center Interview
After filing his or her application, your spouse will be notified to appear at an Application Support Center. This appointment will gather biometric information including having his or her picture, signature, and fingerprints taken. This information will be used in conducting security checks and creation of the green card.
Some green card applications will require an interview before the immigrant is allowed permanent resident status. If this is the case, USCIS will notify you of the date, time, and location of the interview.
USCIS does not always schedule an interview, but if your spouse is notified of an interview it will be required for approval.
You and your spouse will both be required to attend the interview and you will need to bring all of the required documentation with you. You can read “What Questions Will I Be Asked at my Marriage-based Green Card Interview?” for more information on how to prepare.
Once all the required paperwork has been submitted, interviews conducted, and security checks completed, your fiancé’s case will be reviewed and a decision will be issued. In all cases, the applicant will be notified of the decision in writing.
The date that permanent residency is granted will usually be recorded as the date that your spouse becomes a permanent resident.