Green Card for Spouse

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If you have a Green Card that you obtained legally, you are what is officially known as a lawful permanent resident of the United States. As such you have many responsibilities, but you also have certain rights. One of them is that you can help your husband or wife get their Green Card, too. In this post, we’ll discuss how to do that, and address some related questions and concerns.

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  • Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • Proving that you’re a lawful permanent resident.
  • Proving that you and your spouse are legally married.
  • Providing valid documents as proof of any legal name change for you or your family member (the beneficiary).

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

First, get the form(s) you need on the USCIS website. This includes Form I-130, which you need to complete, and Form I-130A, which your spouse needs to fill out. You will also find the instructions for Form I-130 on the same page. Be sure to print them out and follow them exactly.

To ensure that USCIS accepts your petition (Form I-130), type your answers or print them neatly in black ink. Answer all of the questions truthfully. If a question does not apply to you, put “N/A” in the designated space rather than leaving it blank. If you need extra space to answer any question, use the space provided in Part 9, or see the instructions for using extra sheets of paper. Be sure to sign and date the form and enclose payment for the filing fee (which is currently $535). You can also find information about where to send your application here.

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Completing the form itself is fairly straight forward. For example, Part 3 is where you supply information about  your race, ethnicity, weight, height, hair color, etc. In Part 4, provide all of the required information about the beneficiary’s (your husband’s or wife’s) Arrival and Departure Record. This is where you put information from his/her Form I-94, passport or other travel documents. In Part 6, indicate whether you filled out the form yourself or if you had someone else (a preparer) help you. This is the section where you must sign and date the form. You must also provide all of the contact information requested in this part. If you used an interpreter for help in understanding the form and/or instructions, he or she must fill out and sign Part 7. If anyone other than you filled out the form, they must provide all of the information requested in Part 8 and sign the form in the designated space.

Along with the filing fee and form(s) you must also provide proof (supporting documents) that you are a lawful permanent resident and to show that you are really married. To show that you are a lawful permanent resident, you must enclose the following with Form I-130:

  • A copy of the front and back of your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551); or
  • Copies of your passport biographic page and the page showing admission as a lawful permanent resident, or other evidence of permanent resident status issued by USCIS or the former INS.

However, it is important to note that you should only enclose copies of the documents listed in the second category if you haven’t gotten your Form I-551 yet.

To show that you and your spouse are really married, and did not get married in order to deceive or defraud the U.S. government, enclose the following with Form I-130:

  • A copy of your marriage certificate;
  • Evidence of legal termination of prior marriage(s) for both you and your spouse, such as divorce decrees and so forth; and
  • Two identical color passport-style photographs of yourself and your spouse (if he or she is in the United States) taken within 30 days of filing Form I-130. The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unaltered. These photos must also measure 2 by 2 inches and meet additional requirements listed in the instructions for filing the petition.

In addition to those documents, USCIS requires copies of the following as proof of legitimate marriage:

  • Mortgage documents or similar paperwork to demonstrate joint ownership of property;
  • A lease or similar paperwork showing that you both live at the same address together;
  • Bank statements, federal or state tax returns or similar paperwork showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial resources;
  • The birth certificates of any children born as a result of your union with the spouse for whom you are filing the petition.
  • Sworn statements made by other people with personal knowledge that your marriage is legitimate. As per USCIS rules, each of these statements  must include the full name and address of the person making it; the date and place of birth of the person making it; and a detailed explanation  of how the person acquired his or her knowledge of your marriage; or
  • Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union.

Finally, if your name or your husband/wife’s name is different than the one used on any of the supporting documents submitted with  the petition (Form I-130), you must provide proof of the name change to USCIS. This includes copies of the legal documents reflecting the name change, such as:

  • A marriage certificate
  • Adoption decree
  • Court order


Before you send everything to USCIS, double check to make sure you’ve filled everything out properly, signed and dated the petition or that the person who prepared it for you signed and dated it. Review all of the instructions to make sure you have included copies of all of the required supporting documents, and that you are sending the petition to the correct address. Only then should you mail everything to the appropriate address.

Then what? Well, the first thing USCIS will do when it receives your packet is review it to make sure that all applicable questions have been answered and that the petition is dated and signed. At this time, even the simplest error or an honest mistake, such as failing to answer a question may result in the denial or rejection of your petition. Failure to sign the form or evidence of blatant dishonesty will also result in the immediate rejection or denial of Form I-130.

Even if you have provided copies of all of the required documentation to prove you are a lawful permanent resident, prove that your marriage is legitimate and verify any name changes, USCIS may also ask for more information. In some cases, the agency may ask for the original documents, but you need not worry about this; USCIS will return the originals to you once they have been reviewed.

Based on its review of your petition, USCIS may also ask you to come to a local office so someone can speak with you in person. Be prepared to provide your fingerprints, photograph and/or signature for additional security and/or background checks if requested.

If your petition is accepted, and your husband or wife is in another country, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC).  His or her name will be added to the list of spouses of Green Card Holders from that country or region who are waiting for visa numbers. He or she will not be allowed to come to the USA or work here until he or she is first on the list and his or her eligibility to come her is verified. If he or she attempts to come and/or stay here before this time,  it will affect his or her ability to become a permanent resident once he or she is first on the list for a visa number.

Once a visa number is available, the applicant can file the necessary paperwork (including the immigrant visa petition) with the NVC. If the NVC approves his or her application, your spouse must then have a medical exam, arrange passport delivery, have his or her fingerprints taken, and go to a “Green Card interview.” If there are no complications along the way, your husband or wife’s application will be approved and she or she will get a stamp in his or her passport that permits him or her to come to the United States. With payment of the required USCIS Immigrant Fee, he or she will receive his or her Green Card within a few weeks after his or her arrival in the United States.

On the other hand, if your petition is accepted and your spouse is already in the United States legally, he or she may apply for permanent residency his or her eligibility for a visa number is verified and one is available. This is done by filing Form I-485, which is also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If he or she wants to work in the U.S. and travel overseas freely, Form I-765 (authorization for work permit) and Form I-131 (travel permit application) should also be filed at this time.

As part of his or her application for permanent residence, your spouse must also have a medical exam conducted by a doctor approved by USCIS. This process also includes a so-called “biometrics appointment” where the applicant’s fingerprints and other information are collected and checked for security purposes.

As the spouse sponsoring your husband or wife’s Green Card application, you are not required to accompany him or her to the biometrics appointment. However, you must both attend the so-called “Green Card interview.” This interview is held to verify that your marriage is legitimate and that you did not get married in order to deceive or defraud the U.S. government.

Because this is the last step in the Green Card application process, it is crucial that you both go to the interview. If you cannot do so, you can file an official request to reschedule. However, it is important to note that these requests will only be accommodated if there is a compelling reason to do so.

Another thing to be mindful of is that although you are required to attend the interview together, you and your spouse may be questioned separately. This is done so the officer(s) who is conducting the interview can compare your answers to verify the authenticity of your relationship.

If everything goes well through the application process and interview, your spouse will get his or her Green Card, and officially become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Here are some other things to keep in mind regarding sponsorship of your spouse’s Green Card application.

If you choose to sponsor your husband or wife’s immigration by filing Form I-130, you also agree to become their financial sponsor when it’s time for them to come here. This means that you must  file Form I-864, or an Affidavit of Support, or find someone else to be the financial sponsor if you don’t qualify to do so. 

When you sponsor your spouse’s application for a Green Card by filing Form I-130, he or she will be placed into the “Second Preference” (2A) category for visa number issuance. Within this context, it is important to note that visa availability for these groups is based on “priority date,” or the date the Form I-130 was “properly filed.” USCIS defines proper filing of this petition as the submission of one which is “fully completed and signed” and accompanied by payment for the filing fee.

However, the overall processing time depends on several factors. This makes it impossible to say exactly how long it will take to get a decision on your petition. For generic information about this topic and for information specific to your case after you’ve filed the petition, visit the USCIS website.

Clearly, this is a long and complicated process. While you can file the forms yourself, it is always a good idea to consult a qualified legal professional. At Zontlaw, our attorneys have the skills and experience necessary to review your forms before you file them, and address all of your questions and concerns.

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Complete your immigration paperwork using our online software. We make it easy!
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