How to get a green card by marriage

Are you married or are about to? Perhaps that's your chance to get a green card by marriage. All depends on your immigration status and if your fiance is a U.S. citizen. Let's talk about that. Keep reading...

It's possible to get a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen and in this article I will explain (in details) how you can accomplish that.

Get you K-1 Visa first

Let's say you are dating a U.S. citizen and you want to stay together as a couple and get married. You have the right to pursue your dream.

After so wise decision, you need to take action to make your dream come true and the first step is to file the proper documentation for a Visa and later you will apply for a green card. It's one step at a time.

Move to the U.S. and get married

You just need to apply for a K-1 Visa to move to the U.S. as an American citizen's fiance and get married within 90 days. (It's a reasonable time).

Just after being married the K-1 visa holder can apply for lawful permanent resident status in the United States ( a fancy way to say green card).

A quick view of the entire process

OK, for easy understanding, let's take a quick look at the entire K-1 process and later break it down step-by-step. Just read everything carefully !

In the steps below you will see some document names that start with the letter "I" those are the forms and notices from the U.S. Government.

The USCIS is the "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services"


1. File petition Form I-129F to the USCIS office in Texas, USA.

2. Receive the document I-797C from the USCIS 

3. Receive the approval I-797 from the USCIS

4. USCIS sends the approval to the U.S. embassy in the fiance's country

5. Receive the letter from the NVC (National Visa Center)

6. Apply for the K-1 Visa with the DS-160

7. Take a medical exam and schedule the interview

8. Attend the visa interview

9. Get approved in the visa interview

10. The K-1 Visa is stamped to your passport.

11. Move to the U.S. to get married within 90 days

12. File the form I-485 (adjustment of status) 

13. Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)

14. Get a 2-year conditional green card

15. Proof that your marriage is not a fraud

16. File the form I-751 to remove 2-years conditional

17. Prepare yourself to become a U.S. citizen

Quick information about costs

See a quick overview about costs for the K-1 Visa

File the petition I-129F (step 1): $ 535

Medical exam (step 6): $ 200

Apply for the K-1 visa (step 7): $ 265

License to get married (step 11): $ 35

Apply for I-485 (step 12): $1,225 

Apply for I-751 (step 12): $680

* This is about $2,940 on direct fees, does not include the indirect costs for traveling, marriage or fees for children (if any). But I'm sure you already have an idea about travel and marriage costs, don't you ?


How to apply for the K-1 visa?

Alright, now you know what the steps to a get green card by marriage are, you need to understand the details on how to apply for K-1 visa.

1. File the form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e).

In this first step, the U.S. citizen must file the form I-129 petition in behalf of his/her fiance that lives in another country.

This petition allows bringing the fiance with a K-1 visa and his/her children with a K-2 visa. So the fiance's children can watch you to get married 😉

If the couple is already married in another country the process is the same and the spouse can come to the U.S. with a K-3 visa and the spouse's children come with a K-4 visa.

Download and fill the form I-129F 

You can download the form I-129F in the from the USCIS website  

Part 1 - information about the U.S. citizen

Part 1 of the form must be filled by the person that is the U.S. citizen with all the information with names, dates and employment history for the last 5 years. 

All the information must be accurate, don't be lazy and don't try to input any information just to fill the form, any error can cause a headache later.

If there's an old relationship such as marriage or divorce, it must be included in this section and you will need documents to support the information.

Your parent's information also must be provided in this section.

Part 2 - information about the fiance

The process is similar to the part 1, just don't miss any information.

For question 54 is important to be very honest and include all the details in a separate sheet where you must talk about your relationship since the beginning, from the first time you met up to the day you decided to get married. Don't skip any information.

Make sure the address and contact number are correct, so the fiance can receive the documents from the U.S. embassy in the other parts of the process.

The same applies here for the previous relationship. If there's something such as marriage or divorce, it must be included in this section and you will need documents such as certificates to support the information.

Part 3 - other information

In part 3 just be honest and include the information about your criminal background. Anything related to criminal records counts.

Also enter the information If you have filed a K-1 petition before.

Part 4 - Biographic information

Just enter the biographic information and you will be fine.

Part 5 - Petitioner’s statement, Contact information, declaration, and Signature

If a lawyer or somebody else is filling the petition on behalf of the U.S. citizen, their information must be entered in the form.

The form must be dated and signed accordingly.

Part 6 - Interpreter’s Contact information, Certification, and Signature

If somebody is helping you to translate or interpret the questions, their information must be provided in this part of the form then date and sign.

Part 7 - Contact information, declaration, and signature of the person preparing this petition, if other than the petitioner.

Just enter the information about the person who is preparing the form.

Part 8 - Additional information

You can fill this part only if there's no space in the previous sections to input all information. If you this is not your case just leave it blank.

2. Receive the I-797C from the USCIS

The I-797C is the document that the USCIS sends to confirms that your form I-129F was received. It's not an approval, but just the information to let you know that they have your form and will evaluate it.  

People also call this document NOA1 (Notice of Action 1), because it's the first notice you get after sending the I-129F to the USCIS.

NOA1 797C

At this point you still DON'T have any approval. This is only a notification that they got your form. It takes about one week to get this notification.

Sometimes it's necessary to send further information and the USCIS will let you know. So be very patient and send everything they ask for. 

While waiting for the approval (that will come in the next letter) you can check for the application status in the USCIS website

K-1 Check case processing

There are different USCIS service centers. The main one is in Texas you can receive a notification from another service center that is processing your form, so you need to enter the information when checking your case.

The service center information comes in the NOA 1 (I-797C).

3. Receive the approval I-797 from the USCIS

The I-797 is the second notification you will receive and that's the approval to move forward with the K-1 Visa process. But it's NOT a Visa just yet.

Take a look at the bottom of the page where you can see the information:

"THIS IS NOT A VISA AND MAY NOT NE USED IN PLACE OF A VISA"

NOA2 I797 K-1 Visa

This is document is very important and you can start doing your happy dance and call your fiance to give the wonderful news 🙂

The notice of action has your name and the Alien number which is used whenever is necessary to communicate with somebody. Keep it safe.

Usually, this document is valid for about 4 months, that's the time you have to apply for the K-1 and take the next steps.

Just in case you miss that time span, an agent in the U.S. embassy will evaluate your case to possibly extend the application period, however, it's not recommended to take risks. Apply for the K-1 as soon as possible. 

4. USCIS sends the petition approval (I-797) to the U.S. embassy in the fiance's country 

The U.S. embassy in the fiance's country will receive an electronic copy of the I-797 and it will be available for the agent when you go for an interview. 

Sometimes during the interview, the U.S. embassy agent says that his copy is not in the system yet. But don't worry, I saw that happen before with friends.

Usually is just a glitch (small failure) in the system or the information was not updated in the system. Anyway, the agent still processes the K-1 Visa and waits for the system to be updated before the Visa sending it to your home.

5. Receive the letter from the NVC (National Visa Center)

The National Visa Center will send you a letter to inform that your petition was sent to the U.S. embassy in the fiances's country and you get a case number.

The letter has everything you need to know, including the address where you need to go for an interview. (see the picture below).

K-1 NVC letter

Depending on the country the fiance lives, the process can be a little different

The U.S. embassy in the fiance’s country sends a package with all the information necessary to apply for the K-1 visa, including the form DS-160 (Non-immigrant visa application). Or sometimes you can file it online.

6. Apply for the K-1 Visa with the DS-160

From step 1 to 5 the ball was in the U.S. citizen court, now it changes to the fiance's. Is necessary to apply for the Non-immigrant Visa with the DS-160. 

The fiance can file the application for the DS-160 online. The website is the ceac.state.gov (see the picture below).

Apply for Non-immigrant visa

The next step is the interview

7. Take a medical exam and schedule the interview

The fiance can schedule the interview in the U.S. embassy website. 

Visit the US Embassy.gov to enter the country information and schedule the interview for the K-1 visa application.

A medical exam is necessary prior going to the interview, the information about the authorize center will be available in the package the fiance receives from the U.S. embassy, (if the information is not available is necessary to call and ask for information). 

The fiance needs to bring the required documents to the interview such as the DS-160, the form I-134, and documents to prove the couple relationship.

If there are children involved they could be required to be present, but that can vary for different countries. Check with the U.S. embassy to make sure.

8.Tips for the K-1 vista interview

Stay calm

Stay calm for the interview. If everything about your relationship is true, there's no reason to be nervous. Just be yourself and act natural. 

Use short and direct answers

Listen to the agent question and give a direct and short answer, unless he requests further explanation, you don't need to reply with long answers.

Stay confident

You know all the answer to the questions because you really are in a relationship, right? So you can stay confident and just respond naturally.

Dress properly

The first impression is always important, so make an effort to dress for the occasion. No need to exaggerate by using a suit, but you don't need to get there using shorts and an old T-shirt, right?

For men pants and shirt will do the job, and the woman can wear a dress.

Also, think about something that will not draw too much attention to you.  

Bring all the documents

Be prepared with all documents. You don't need to offer them to the agent if your're not asked to do it, but it's good to have everything just in case.

Make sure to check was document is necessary for the U.S. embassy of your country prior going to the interview.

9. Get approved in visa the interview

This step does not depend only on you, it's impossible to control everything because there are other people involved, but you just need to do your part.

If you are confident and organized with your documentation and procedures you should be fine, it's just a question of executing the necessary steps.

Don't get desperate if something goes wrong because you have a chance to fix it. Most of the time people are approved the first time.

10. The K-1 Visa is stamped to your passport.

When you get to this step you will be very excited. The agent asks for your passport to stamp the Visa on it, and you just need to wait to get it back.

You just go home and wait to get it by mail. Usually, tale up to 10 days to arrive and probably you be checking the mailbox like crazy twice a day 🙂

After you get your passport back just do the happy dance and call your fiance.

11. Move to the U.S. to get married within 90 days

The K-1 visa is valid for 6 months, so you have to be prepared to travel to the U.S. to get married and bring the sealed medical packet to give it to the immigration agent. You will get the form I-94 to entry in the country.

I'm sure your American fiance will be there waiting for you to celebrate.

Just get some rest in case you are tired and go have some fun.

Get married as soon as you can, don't risk by waiting too much. 

When get married you will have a marriage certificate and that is what you need to continue with the process. The wedding ceremony is up to you.

12. File the form I-485 (adjustment of status) 

OK, after the marriage it's time to get back on track and follow the next step to get your green card. Keep yourself motivated and move on.

Now it's necessary to change the non-immigrant status and file the form I-485 to become a permanent resident, meaning get the green card.

Make sure you have all the necessary documents such as the I-797, I-94, marriage certificate and any document necessary to file the I-485 form.

After complete this step is the fingerprints will be collected and photos will be taken at a designated facility for background checking.

When everything is checked and approved you get your green card and I know you will do the happy dance again... go for it 🙂

13. Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)

The social security is a 9-digit document that you must have to record your activities while working in the country as an employee or in a self-employment situation.

To apply for this document, you must visit the Social Security Administration.

Necessary documents

The SSN administration office requires an original valid (non-expired) document to show the Immigration status as follow:

- I-551 form (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa) with your unexpired foreign passport;

- I-766 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD, work permit); or

- I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) or admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport.

14. Get a 2-year conditional green card

The green card has a condition and it's tied to the marriage,

It's possible to do everything such as have a job and travel, but in the next 2 years the immigration wants to make sure the marriage is NOT a fraud.

After the two years period is possible to remove the condition.

15. Proof that your marriage is not a fraud

During two years just get proof your marriage is not a fraud.

I'm sure you will have so many good moments together and have pictures, videos, vacations, hotel receipts, co-owned property, bank accounts, etc.

Happily married

Two years is a long time and certainly, you will have a lot of evidence.

16. File the form I-751 to remove 2-years conditional

Time to file the form I-751 to remove the green card condition. 

It's a simple step, just file the form and everything will be fine to get a 10-years green card. It's also necessary to attach copies of the "bonafide marriage", which means that your marriage is a real one.

17. Prepare yourself to become a U.S. citizen

That is the next and final step. If you want to become a citizen you just need to wait for three years after getting the green card.

The entire process can take from 6 months to a year.

Congratulations, after this final step you are an American citizen !

Conclusion

The process of getting a green card by marriage is a little bit longer and you must focus on the final result. Please just don't panic.

Everything in life is done step-by-step, just focus on each step of the process and don't get scared by the number of things are ahead, baby steps are the secret to keep your mind calm and focused. Just get every step done. 

Congratulation for your efforts, and if you are reading this now that means you really have a commitment with your K-1 visa, marriage and green card.

Please do me a favor and share this post with your friends.

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