Which Forms are Required to File for Green Card Through Marriage?

Applying for a Green Card can be a long and daunting challenge for many immigrants. If you haven’t already retained the services of an immigration attorney, you should consider doing so before submitting any of the USCIS forms, petitions, and packets listed below. Having an experienced attorney in your corner can streamline the process for faster processing, eliminate mistakes that lead to denials, strengthen your case for greater chances of approval, and make the entire process significantly easier for you.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

To begin the application process, the US Citizen or lawful permanent resident will first need to petition for a Green Card on behalf of their spouse. Form I-130 is not a Green Card application—rather, it’s a petition that allows USCIS to recognize a qualifying immediate family relationship and award eligibility based on that status. This is a critical step, as the beneficiary’s eligibility category will determine the actual Green Card application process and timeline.

As you (the US citizen or lawful permanent resident) are preparing Form I-130, you’ll need to include the following documents:

  • A copy of the marriage certificate
  • Documentation of a legal name change (if applicable)
  • Evidence of your US citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, such as a copy of a US birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), unexpired US passport (all pages), Green Card (front and back), or an original statement from a US consular officer that the petitioner is a US citizen with a valid passport
  • Evidence that any prior marriages have been terminated (divorce decree, annulment order, or death certificate)
  • Two passport-style photographs 

For your spouse to qualify for a Green Card, you must prove the bona fides of your marriage to convince immigration officials that you did not marry solely for immigration benefits. Notably, officials want to see that you and your spouse plan to establish a life together in the United States. To prove your case, include one or more of the following documents with your petition: 

  • A deed, title, or mortgage for jointly-owned property 
  • A lease that shows joint tenancy of a common residence
  • Affidavits by trustworthy third-party individuals that vouch for bona fides of the marriage (the affidavit must include the individual’s full name, address, date of birth, place of birth, and signature)
  • Bank records for joint financial accounts
  • The birth certificate of a child that lists both spouses as the parents
  • Any other relevant documents that establish an ongoing marital union

While you only need to include one or two relevant documents to prove the bona fides of your marriage, it’s safe to say that including more evidence is never a bad thing. Immigration officials are wary of marriage fraud, so the stronger your case looks on paper, the easier your immigration interviews will be.

DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (skip this step if spouse is in US)

Prospective immigrants who are outside of the United States will need to go through Consular Processing once Form I-130 is approved by USCIS. The beneficiary should receive a notice when USCIS forwards the approved Form I-130 to the US State Department’s National Visa Center, at which point the beneficiary can apply for an immigrant visa online.

The Immigrant Visa Electronic Application requires much of the same evidence that Form I-485 asks for, including:

  • A copy of the marriage certificate
  • A Police Clearance Certificate (or, if you have a criminal record, then include certified police records and court documents related to the charge, arrest, or conviction)
  • Evidence that any prior marriages have been terminated (divorce decree, annulment order, or death certificate)
  • Military service records (if applicable, whether you served with US Armed Forces or a foreign military)
  • Proof of nationality (birth certificate or passport)
  • Records of previous violations of US immigration law, if applicable (e.g. a removal order)

When a visa number becomes available (which can take several years for some immigrant visa categories), the beneficiary will need to complete a visa interview with a consular officer at the nearest US Embassy or consulate. After the interview, the officer will take the beneficiary’s fingerprints and issue the approved visa packet. Once the beneficiary travels to a US Port of Entry and is successfully inspected and admitted into the United States with their approved visa, they may then proceed with the actual Green Card application—Form I-485.

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Form I-485 is the primary Green Card application, and in this case it must be filed by an immigrant spouse who is in the United States with a valid visa. In fact, if the immigrant spouse is already in the United States before their American spouse files Form I-130, they may file Forms I-130 and I-485 concurrently for significantly faster processing.

While Form I-130 is prepared by the US citizen or lawful permanent resident, Form I-485 should be completed and signed by the immigrant spouse. In most cases, it is highly advisable to work with an immigration attorney when filing this form, as Form I-485 is much more complicated and often requires several supplementary USCIS forms. Form I-944 is generally required anytime Form I-485 is submitted.

As you are working with your attorney to compile your Green Card application packet, you’ll need to gather the following documentation:

  • A copy of a government-issued ID with the beneficiary’s photograph
  • A copy of the beneficiary’s birth certificate (if this is unavailable, include an explanation of why it is unattainable along with an acceptable alternative, such as medical, school, or church records)
  • If the beneficiary has any criminal charges, arrests, or convictions, include certified police records and court documents (regardless of the final disposition)
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s inspection and admission, or inspection and parole, into the United States
  • Two passport-style photographs of the beneficiary
  • Verification of the beneficiary’s immigrant category

In addition to the standard forms of evidence to support your application, you may need to file additional USCIS forms to be reviewed concurrently with Form I-485. Depending on your immigration status and the presence of any issues with inadmissibility or bars to adjustment of status, one or more of the following USCIS forms may be applicable:

  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility – complete this form if you are inadmissible to the United States and require a waiver (note that you can be inadmissible even if you are already in the country)
  • Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal – complete this form if you have a prior removal order and/or ban on returning to the United States
  • Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement – complete this form if you are/were a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor and did not fulfill the foreign residence requirement
  • Form I-508, Waiver of Diplomatic Rights, Privileges, Exemptions, and Immunities – complete this form if you have A, G, or E nonimmigrant status, and need to waive your tax exempt status
  • Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request – complete this form if you have A, G, or NATO nonimmigrant status
  • Form I-485 Supplement A – complete this form if you are seeking an adjustment of status under INA Section 245(i) 
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support – immigrants who need a family member, friend, or employer to financially sponsor them in the United States must file this form to prove that they will not rely on government assistance programs
  • Form I-864W, Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support – immigrants who have sufficient income and/or assets to financial support themselves in the United States (known as self-sponsoring) can file this form in lieu of Form I-864
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