How to apply for permanent residency if married to a US citizen and living in the U.S.?
If you are married to a U.S. citizen and living in the U.S., you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency (green card) through a process known as “Adjustment of Status” (AOS). Adjustment of Status allows certain eligible individuals who are already in the U.S. to apply for a green card without having to leave the country. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply for permanent residency as the spouse of a U.S. citizen:
Step 1: Check Eligibility
- Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for Adjustment of Status. To be eligible, you must be legally married to a U.S. citizen, be physically present in the U.S., and have entered the U.S. legally (with inspection) or qualify for a limited set of exceptions to the inspection requirement.
Step 2: File Form I-130
- Your U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish the qualifying relationship between you and your spouse. This form is used to initiate the process of obtaining an immigrant visa (green card) through family sponsorship.
Step 3: Wait for Approval and Visa Availability
- After USCIS approves the Form I-130, you will need to wait for a visa number to become available. For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, there are no numerical limitations, so the visa number is usually immediately available.
Step 4: File Form I-485
- Once a visa number is available, you can then file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form is used to apply for your green card through Adjustment of Status. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you file Form I-485.
Step 5: Attend Biometrics Appointment
- After filing Form I-485, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment for you to have your fingerprints, photograph, and signature taken.
Step 6: Attend Adjustment of Status Interview
- USCIS may schedule an interview to review your application and determine your eligibility for permanent residency. At the interview, you will be asked questions about your relationship with your U.S. citizen spouse and other relevant matters.
Step 7: Receive Green Card
- If your Adjustment of Status application is approved, you will receive your green card in the mail, granting you lawful permanent residency.
Please note that the Adjustment of Status process can be complex, and eligibility requirements may vary based on individual circumstances. It’s advisable to review the USCIS guidelines and instructions for each form or consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance based on your specific case.
Can I stay in the US while my application is pending if I am married to a US citizen and living in the U.S.?
Yes, if you are married to a U.S. citizen and have filed an Adjustment of Status (AOS) application based on your marriage, you can generally stay in the U.S. while your application is pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is because filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, allows you to apply for a green card and seek lawful permanent residency without leaving the country.
When you file Form I-485, you are essentially requesting USCIS to adjust your status from a nonimmigrant or temporary status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) based on your qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen spouse. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements for Adjustment of Status and maintain a valid nonimmigrant status (if applicable) or have a pending bona fide I-485 application, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. until USCIS makes a decision on your case.
It’s important to note that you must maintain lawful status in the U.S. during the entire Adjustment of Status process. If you are in the U.S. on a visa that has expired or is set to expire, filing Form I-485 does not grant you automatic legal status, but it does grant you “authorized stay” while the application is pending.
However, if you leave the U.S. after filing Form I-485 without obtaining an Advance Parole document, your Adjustment of Status application may be considered abandoned, and you may lose your ability to re-enter the U.S. based on that pending application. Advance Parole is a separate travel document that allows you to re-enter the U.S. while your Adjustment of Status application is pending.
In summary, you can stay in the U.S. while your Adjustment of Status application is pending, but you should not leave the country without obtaining Advance Parole or another valid travel document to ensure that your application remains active and you can re-enter the U.S. without issues. If you have any doubts or specific questions about your immigration status, it’s best to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance based on your individual circumstances.
How much will it cost to apply for a green card if I am married to a US citizen and living in the U.S.?
The cost to apply for a green card (permanent residency) based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and living in the U.S. involves several components, and the total fees can add up. Here are the primary filing fees for the Adjustment of Status (AOS) application:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: The filing fee for Form I-130, filed by the U.S. citizen spouse, was $535 as of September 2021.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: The filing fee for Form I-485, the main application for the green card, was $1,225 for applicants aged 14 and older as of September 2021. This fee includes the biometrics fee, which covers the cost of the required fingerprinting and background check.
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (Optional): If you wish to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or work permit) while your Form I-485 is pending, the filing fee for Form I-765 was $550 as of September 2021.
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Optional): If you wish to apply for Advance Parole, which allows you to travel outside the U.S. and return while your Form I-485 is pending, the filing fee for Form I-131 was $575 as of September 2021.
The total cost of the green card application will depend on whether you choose to apply for the optional forms (I-765 and I-131) and the age of the applicant (as some fees are lower for applicants under 14 years old). Additionally, USCIS fees are subject to change, so it’s essential to check the latest fee schedule on the official USCIS website at the time of filing.
It’s also worth noting that other costs may be involved in the green card application process, such as medical examination fees, translations of documents, and other supporting documents that may be required. If you are experiencing financial hardship and cannot afford the USCIS filing fees, you may be eligible for a fee waiver based on specific criteria.
As the fees and requirements for the green card application can change over time, it’s advisable to verify the current fees and payment options on the official USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for the most up-to-date information.