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How Long Does It Take To Get Marriage Green Card After You Apply?

In a Nutshell

The U.S. government reserves certain green cards for the family members and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The marriage green card is one of these special green cards. The time frame to get a marriage green card is different for every case. Factors like where you file, when you file, and whether the person sponsoring their immigrant spouse for a marriage green cardis a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) all impact the green card process, and how long you can expect to wait from application to approval. On average, it takes 10-38 months to get a Marriage green card.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Written May 25, 2022


How Long Does It Take To Get a Marriage Green Card if You Are Married to a U.S. Citizen?

The time frame for the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen to get permanent residency status depends on whether the spouse is living inside or outside of the U.S. The sections below summarize each step and highlight approximately how long U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically spends on each step.

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living Inside of the U.S. (10-13 Months)

If you are married to a U.S. Citizen and are living inside the U.S., you will be submitting an adjustment of status application when you apply for your marriage green card. the adjustment of status marriage green card application process typically takes about 10-13 months. You can think of the process as being in two broad steps. 

The first step is to file your marriage green card application and the second step is the green card interview and approval. We highlight these steps of the process and also how much time it takes USCIS to process the respective steps in the following sections.

Petition and Marriage Green Card Application 

To begin the marriage green card application process, you must first establish your marriage relationship with a U.S. citizen. To do this, the U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative. As a foreign spouse applying for the marriage green card as an adjustment of status, you must also file Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

You will submit both Form I-130 and Form I-485 to USCIS at the same time.You will have to submit filing fees and supporting documents like your birth certificate and marriage certificate with your forms. The processing time frame for Form I-130 and Form I-485 is typically 9-11 months. 

The U.S. citizen spouse must file an affidavit of support, officially called Form I-864, for their foreign spouse. 

The immigrant spouse seeking a marriage green card also needs to complete a medical exam. They must complete the required medical exam and get a signed Form I-693 from the attending physician no more than 60 days before submitting their application. You can find this form, and instructions for completing it from USCIS.

Alternatively, the foreign spouse can complete the exam after filing forms I-130 and I-485 and bring the I-693 with them to their marriage green card interview.

Biometrics Appointment

During the application process, you will receive various notices. The notices are USCIS’s way of providing updates on your application. You will receive a notice to attend your biometrics appointment typically 2-3 weeks after you file your marriage green card application. You can read about these notices in our detailed marriage green card filing guide.

Marriage Green Card Interview and Approval 

Once USCIS completes processing your application, you will receive an appointment notice to attend a green card interview. For an adjustment of status application, both the sponsoring and the immigrant spouse must attend this interview. The Marriage green card interview usually occurs 7-15 months after you submit your application.

Receive Your Marriage Green Card

The interviewing officer typically approves your marriage green card application at the interview. If USCIS approves your marriage green card application you can expect to receive your green card within 2-3 weeks after approval. Check out our article What To Expect at Your Green Card Interview to learn more.

USCIS will issue you a conditional marriage green card if you have been married for less than two years at the time of your interview. You can apply for a permanent marriage green card after two years of marriage. 

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living Outside of the U.S. (11-17 Months)

‍If you are married to a U.S. citizen and are living outside the U.S., the marriage green card application process typically takes about 11-17 months. It is a four-step process. Read on to learn about the steps and approximately how long each step takes.

Petition 

The first step is to establish your marriage relationship by filing Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative. This form is filed by the sponsoring U.S. citizen or green card-holding spouse, for the immigrant spouse residing outside the U.S. You are required to submit the Form I-130 application package along with the supporting documents and mail it to the USCIS address

Processing this part of the application usually takes 7-10 months. You will then receive a variety of updates about your application in the form of notices throughout this process. 

Marriage Green Card Application

USCIS will transfer your case to the National Visa Center (NVC) when they approve your petition. The officials at the NVC will gather the necessary forms and documents to decide on the interview process for the foreign spouse at their local U.S. embassy or a consulate. The entire process takes around three to five months. Once the documents are ready, they are then sent to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant spouse’s country of residence. The NVC issues a unique number for your case.

After receiving the case number from NVC, the NVC will notify the foreign spouse by mail that they need to fill out and file the online form DS-261: Online Choice of Address and Agent. The State Department may take up to three weeks to process your DS-261. 

After filing DS-261, they can file Form DS-260 (immigrant visa application) in the NVC’s Consular Electronic Application Center. This is the actual application for a marriage green card.

After they submit their DS-260, the National Visa Center will send a notice via mail or email confirming that they have received it. The NVC will usually send this notice on the same day that you file your DS-260 online. The foreign spouse will then need to submit their supporting documents to the NVC as well. You can find a list of the most commonly required supporting documents in our detailed filing instructions

Medical Examination 

Prior to the interview, you will need to see a State Department-approved doctor for a medical exam. You can find the detailed instructions on the process of medical exam in our filing instructions

Marriage Green Card Interview and Approval

The marriage green card interview is one of the final steps in the application process. The immigrant spouse living abroad will attend this interview in the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The consulate or embassy conducting your interview will notify you of the interview date, time, and location by mail once they have received your application packet. The green card sponsor does not attend this interview. 

Receive Your Green Card 

The consular officer conducting your interview will decide whether to grant you an immigrant visa. Decisions are usually made within a week unless the U.S. consulate requires further information. If you are granted a visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information known as a visa packet. Do not open this packet — the Customs and Border Patrol Agent will open it when you pass through customs.

You will now be able to enter the United States as an immigrant under permanent resident status!

How Long Does It Take To Get a Marriage Green Card if You Are Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder?‍

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living in the U.S. 

If the immigrant spouse is living in the U.S., the process typically takes 29-38 months. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow.

Establish Marriage 

The first step is to establish your marriage relationship by filing Form I-130: Petition for Alien relative. You will have to pay a fee of $535. You will then mail the form and the filing fees to the appropriate USCIS address. USCIS will send you an official receipt notice typically in two weeks. This process typically takes 11-15 months

Since the immigrant spouse is in the U.S., the next step is to file Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You cannot submit Form I-485 until USCIS approves your Form I-130. 

Wait for a Priority Date and Apply for a Marriage Green Card

While you are waiting for USCIS to approve your I-130 petition, you must maintain lawful status in the U.S. Once the State Department approves your Form I-130, they will give you a priority date for your green card application. You can think of your priority date as your place in the line for a marriage green card application. 

When USCIS approves your Form I-130, you will then be able to complete the remaining USCIS application forms:

If the immigrant spouse wants to work and travel abroad while waiting for USCIS to approve their marriage green card application, they must submit the following forms with the green card application: 

  • Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, otherwise known as a work permit application form

  • Form I-131: Application for Travel Document, otherwise known as a travel permit application form

Medical Exam 

An immigrant spouse seeking a green card needs to complete your required medical exam and get a signed Form I-693 from the attending physician no more than 60 days before submitting their application. ‍Alternatively, you can complete the exam after you file your green card application and bring the completed Form I-693 with you to your interview.

Green Card Interview and approval 

You must attend a green card interview as the final step of your application. 

The whole process typically takes 29-38 months. The first 11-15 months for USCIS to process the I-130 petition, after which there is a waiting period of 8-10 months. It then takes 9-11 months to process the I-485 form, and 1-2 months for USCIS to schedule the interview. If you need help, we've got your back! Our free online tool allows you to prepare and file your marriage green card application with confidence.

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living Outside of the U.S.

If you are married to a U.S. green card holder, and you live outside the U.S., the marriage green card application process typically takes about 23-32 months. ‍Here are the steps you’ll need to follow.

Sponsorship 

You will need to establish your marriage relationship by filing Form I-130: Petition for Alien relative. U.S. citizen spouse must file this form for the immigrant spouse who lives outside the U.S. You need to submit the Form I-130 package along with the supporting documents and mail it to the USCIS address. This process usually takes 7-10 months. The U.S. citizen spouse will then receive a variety of notices throughout this process. 

Wait for a Priority Date and Apply for a Marriage Green Card

On your petition’s approval, USCIS will transfer your case to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC issues a unique number for your case. There are annual caps on the number of green cards available, so you cannot submit the NVC green card application unless the State Department determines that a green card is available. Thus, after the I-130 form’s approval, there is an extra wait time of 8-10 months. ‍

After the State Department confirms that a marriage green card is available for you, the NVC accepts your marriage green card petition, authorizes the foreign spouse to submit their green card application, and schedules an interview for the foreign spouse. 

The next step after the NVC gives permission to submit a green card application is to file the online DS-261: Online Choice of Address and Agent form. The State Department may take up to three weeks to process your DS-261. 

After filing DS-261, you can file Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application) in the NVC’s Consular Electronic Application Center

After you submit your DS-260, the National Visa Center will send you a notice via mail or email confirming that they have received it. The NVC will usually send this notice on the same day that you file. You will then need to submit your supporting documents to the NVC as well. You can find a list of the most commonly required supporting documents from the State Department. It usually takes the NVC 2-3 months to approve Form DS-260.

Medical Exam

Once the National Visa Center approves your DS-260, they will forward your case and supporting documentation to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Within 1-2 months, that embassy or consulate will contact you to arrange an in-person interview, which will also typically be in 1-2 months. Prior to the interview, you will need to see a State Department-approved doctor for a medical exam. 

Marriage Green Card Interview and Approval

The interview is one of the final steps in the application process. The immigrant spouse living abroad will attend this interview in the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The consulate or embassy conducting your interview will notify you of the interview date, time, and location by mail once they have received your application packet. The marriage green card sponsor does not attend this interview. ‍

For detailed information about what to expect at the interview, check out our marriage green card interview guide

Receive Your Marriage Green Card 

The consular officer conducting your interview will decide whether to grant you an immigrant visa. You may be told right away, or you may hear later. Decisions are usually made within a week, unless further information is required. If you are granted a visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information known as a visa packet. Do not open this packet. The Customs and Border Patrol Agent will open it when you pass through customs.

Congratulations! You are now able to enter the United States as an immigrant!

Can You Work While You Wait for USCIS To Approve Your Marriage Green Card?

You can apply for a work permit if you are currently living in the U.S. while your green card application is pending. You may not apply for a work permit if you live outside the U.S. ‍

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living Inside of the U.S.‍

If you currently live in the U.S., you can work if you have a valid work visa such as an H1-B or L1 visa while your marriage green card application is in the process. If you do not have a work visa, you can apply for a work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document or EAD. 

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a work permit when you apply for a marriage green card application. 

If you are married to a green card holder, you must wait until you are eligible to file for your marriage green card application before filing for a work permit. 

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Living Outside of the U.S.‍

You may not apply for a work permit if you are living outside of the U.S. Only spouses who live in the U.S. can apply for a work permit with their marriage green card application. 

If you are living outside the U.S. and married to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, you may only work in the U.S. after your green card application process is complete. This process typically takes 10-13 months for the spouses of U.S. citizens and 29-38 months for the spouses of U.S. green card holders.

What Should You Do if Your Marriage Green Card Application Is Taking Longer Than Expected?

‍The U.S. immigration process can take a long time. There is no fixed time for each case and sometimes cases drag on for years. If you believe that your application processing time is abnormally slow, here are some steps that you can take to figure out what is going on.

‍If You Applied From Inside of the U.S.‍

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles the entire application process when you apply for a marriage green card from inside of the U.S. Here are some ways to get a case update from USCIS.

Track Your Application Status Online

If you filed your application from inside the United States (either concurrently or non-concurrently), you should begin by tracking the status of your application. You can check your case status by entering the receipt number from your receipt notice into the USCIS online case status tracker. Once you figure out what's going on with your case, you'll have a better idea of what to do next.

Contact USCIS

You can call the USCIS customer service at 1-800-375-5283. You will need your receipt number, A-number, date when you filed your application, the type of application you filed, or your email address on hand. There is a chance that the customer service agent may be able to find and check your application status.

File a Case Inquiry With USCIS

You can submit a case inquiry to USCIS if you have a case pending with USCIS outside normal processing times. You will need to have your receipt number, A-Number, date when you filed your application, the type of application you filed, or your email address on hand to submit an inquiry.

If You Applied From Outside of the U.S.‍

If you filed your application from outside the United States by consular processing, your application will be handled by USCIS, then by the State Department, and then by an embassy or consulate near you. You should reach out to one or all of these organizations for application updates. Who you should contact first will depend on where your application is in the process. 

How to Track the Status of Your Application With USCIS

Marriage Green Cards applications start with USCIS. If you have not heard from the National Visa Center telling you that you can apply for a marriage green card, your application is probably still with USCIS. You can check your case status for your visa application on the USCIS website by entering the receipt number on your receipt notice into the USCIS online case status tracker.

You can also contact USCIS. You can reach USCIS customer service at 1-800-375-5283. The customer service agent may ask for your A-number, receipt number, application date, and type of application.

How To Track the Status of Your Application With the National Visa Center

If you have received a notice from the NVC telling you that you can apply for a marriage green card, the NVC is now the primary contact for your application. You can track your application by entering your immigrant visa case number into the State Department’s online visa status checker tool. This tool will show you the current status of your marriage green card application.

You can contact the NVC by calling (603) 334-0700. You will need your receipt number, A-number, date when you filed your application, the type of application you filed, or your email address when you call.

How To Track the Status of Your Application With the U.S.Embassy or Consulate Processing Your Case

If you have filed Form DS-260 and received an interview notice from the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case, they will be your primary contact for case updates until after your marriage green card interview. 

You can find contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case on the U.S. embassy website. This contact information should also be on any notices you receive from the embassy or consulate.

What Should You Do if You Still Can't Get Answers About Your Case?

If you try the steps above and still can't figure out what is going on with your marriage green card application, the next steps would be to file a FOIA request and/or find a lawyer to help you.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is an official way to ask for information from the U.S government. If you file one, the government has to respond to it within a specified time frame. If you have tried all of the options above to find out what is going on with your marriage green card application, you might consider filing a FOIA request with USCIS or the State Department.

No matter what stage of the process you are in, an experienced immigration lawyer can help you with application issues. You can access expert immigration lawyers for free or at a low cost at USA.gov.


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