Marrying a Citizen of India? How to Get a Green Card for Your New Spouse (2023)

Special instructions for U.S. citizens and permanent residents wishing to petition for a fiancé or spouse from India.

If you are marrying someone from India, and plan to sponsor your new husband or wife for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence), here is some important legal and practical information.

Warning: This is a general overview of how the process works for most people. Your situation might contain complicating factors or qualify for exceptions; see an attorney for a full analysis.

ALSO: Owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. consulates around the world are canceling or limiting visa appointments to emergency ones, and most offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the U.S. are closed for visits and interviews. Travel is also ill-advised at this time. The below describes how the process normally works; expect changes and delays.

Immigration Eligibility Based on Engagement or Marriage

First, a little background on U.S. immigration law. Marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident provides foreign-born persons a direct path to U.S. immigration. Contrary to popular rumor, however, the foreign national does not immediately or automatically receive the right to immigrate, nor U.S. citizenship.

If you are a U.S. citizen, your new spouse becomes your "immediate relative," and might receive an immigrant visa and green card as soon as the two of you make it through the application process. This can take several months.

If you are not yet married and your fiancé(e) is still in India, you can, if you are a U.S. citizen, petition for your fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa in order for the two of you to get married in the U.S.—and then your new spouse can apply for a green card, if desired. You can also choose to get married first in India or another country, and then apply for an immigrant visa with which to enter the United States. The visa will turn into a green card when your spouse arrives.

(Video) Green Card through Marriage to US Citizen Process Explained (2020-2021)

If you are a lawful permanent resident, your new spouse becomes a "preference relative," in category F2A. That means your spouse can obtain permanent residence in the U.S. only after a "visa number" (space for another permanent resident) has become available. At that time, he or she can apply for an immigrant visa (and enter the U.S.). Because of annual limits on the number of people who can get permanent residence in category F2A, a waiting list has developed, based on one's "priority date." The application process often takes several years as a result.

Permanent residents cannot petition for fiancé(e)s.

Overview of Obtaining a Green Card Based on Marriage

The application process for a green card based on marriage involves multiple steps, such as submitting forms and documents and attending an interview with U.S. immigration authorities. The purpose of all this is to prove:

  • the status of the U.S. petitioner (as a citizen or permanent resident)
  • that a valid marriage has occurred (or will occur, in the case of a fiancé visa)
  • that the marriage is bona fide (not a sham to get a green card), and
  • that the immigrant is not inadmissible to the U.S. for medical, criminal, financial, or other reasons. (See Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out for details.)

Procedurally, you might have more than one option as to where and how you apply, as described below.

Procedures When Applying for a K-1 Fiancé Visa

If you and your intended (who lives outside the U.S.) have not yet married—or have held an informal ceremony that does not count as an official marriage in the location where it was held—you can apply for a temporary (90-day) visa with which your fiancé can enter the U.S. and hold the wedding.

The U.S. citizen starts this process by filing a visa petition on Form I-129F with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After USCIS approves the I-129F, it will transfer the case to the U.S. consulate in Mumbai, India.

Your fiancé will apply for a K-1 visa through the consulate. This involves submitting forms and documents and attending an interview with a U.S. consular official.

(Video) Does your spouse have to apply for citizenship after receiving a green card?

After your marriage in the U.S., your new spouse can apply to USCIS for a green card, through a process called adjustment of status. The two of you will attend a green card interview at a local USCIS office.

Procedures for Your Spouse to Come from India on an Immigrant Visa

If you and your husband or wife have already married, and your spouse is currently in India, you would start the permanent resident application process by filing Form I-130 with USCIS. (See Preparing an I-130 Visa Petition for the Immigrating Spouse of U.S. Citizen or Preparing an I-130 Visa Petition for the Immigrating Spouse of a U.S. Permanent Resident.)

After USCIS approves the I-130, spouses of U.S. citizens can continue on with visa processing.

Spouses of permanent residents must wait until the National Visa Center (NVC) says they can apply for an immigrant visa. The State Department publishes a Visa Bulletin to let you know when your application date is approaching. (See How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date To Become Current?)

Next, your spouse will go through consular processing for an immigrant visa. This means your spouse submits paperwork to, and attends an interview at, the U.S. consulate in Mumbai. The U.S. petitioner is not required to attend, and in most cases would not be allowed to attend.

Upon approval, your spouse enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa, at which time he or she becomes a lawful permanent resident (and receives a green card by mail soon after).

Where in India the Interview Will Be Held

Although the U.S. has consulates in several cities in India, most of them do not process immigrant visas based on marriage. At this time (2019), only the consulate in Mumbai handles immigrant visas or fiancé visas.

(Video) Marriage-Based Green Card Application | How long it took | What you need to know | Simple Citizen

You will be given instructions on where to go when you apply, or can check the websites of individual U.S. consulates by using the State Department's page for Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions.

If your spouse happens to be living in another country than India, the consulate there would likely be the one to handle the case.

Procedures If Your Spouse Is Already in the U.S.

If your spouse initially came to the U.S. legally (such as on a fiancé or student visa or as a tourist), and either you are a U.S. citizen or your spouse is still in valid status, he or she is most likely eligible to apply to adjust status without leaving the United States. The main form for this is USCIS Form I-485. The two of you will attend an interview at one of USCIS's field offices.

Information about USCIS locations or service centers can be found at its website, www.uscis.gov. (Just make sure your spouse didn't commit visa fraud by using the nonimmigrant visa specifically to enter the U.S. and apply for a green card—see Risks of Entering the U.S. as a Tourist, Then Applying for Marriage- Based Green Card for details.)

If, however, your spouse entered the U.S. without inspection or by using a fake visa, or you are a permanent resident whose spouse is no longer in legal status or has worked illegally in the U.S., your situation is more complicated than this article can address. You might have difficulty obtaining a green card for your spouse, though it is not impossible. See an immigration attorney for details or if you have any questions about whether you qualify to adjust status.

Entering Into a Legally Valid Marriage

No matter where you marry, you will need to obtain a certificate that convinces the U.S. immigration authorities that it was legally recognized in the state or country where it took place. Below are some tips on doing that.

Obtaining Documentation of a Valid Marriage in India

If you have married, or plan to get married in India, you will first need to look into India's requirements for legal marriage.

(Video) Married to a Green Card Holder? What are the Options for Obtaining a Green Card in USA? | USCIS NEWS

According to information provided by the U.S. consulate, valid Indian marriages can take the form of either a religious or a civil ceremony. Some, but not all religious ceremonies will lead to a certificate that is considered sufficient for U.S. immigration and other legal purposes. If you don't receive the necessary sort of certificate, you might be able to get one from the Registrar of Marriages.

You might be asked by the Indian authorities to provide a "no objection letter," which is basically an affidavit in which you state that you are not currently married, and are eligible to marry. The U.S. consulate can help you prepare this.

If you're doing a civil ceremony or if you and your intended spouse are of different religions, you might also be asked to register your marriage under a law called the Special Marriage Act. Plan ahead, because this involves a marriage officer publishing a newspaper ad allowing people to object to the marriage within 30 days from the date of your initial application.

After the marriage ceremony, you will need to obtain a certificate of that marriage for purposes of U.S. immigration. The U.S. government keeps track of what documents are considered legally valid from each country, India included, and will reject your marriage certificate if it doesn't come from the proper source.

So-called "Arya Samaj" ceremonies, though legal in India, have led to a number of consular rejections. They are popular among couples, because they do not require the same rituals as other marriages; they may be performed in about an hour, with the priest, fire, and other elements acting as witnesses. If this is your choice of marriage ritual, your best bet is to present not only the Arya Samaj marriage certificate, but a certificate showing you registered the marriage with the Indian government, along with extra evidence that the marriage is bona fide.

Check the State Department's Country Reciprocity Schedule to get further details on what documents from India it considers valid.

Obtaining Documentation of a Valid Marriage in the United States

If you will hold your wedding in the U.S., you need to follow the laws of the state where you marry. You will need to obtain a marriage certificate from a local government office. A church certificate, for example, is not enough.

(Video) I am married to a Green Card Holder? What Are My Options

FAQs

How long does it take for a green card holder to bring his spouse from India? ›

Processing time for an application like this is usually 7-14 months, if not longer. You must submit both Form I-130 and Form I-1485, Petition to Adjust Status, to adjust the visa status of your spouse. Once the application is submitted, your spouse will be a legal U.S. resident.

How long does it take for a married person to get a green card? ›

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you currently live in the United States, it takes on average 12-22 months to get a marriage-based green card. Spouses of U.S. citizens living in the United States can file their I-130 and their I-485 at the same time.

Can a foreigner get a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen? ›

Yes, there is an important and very time relevant difference. Persons married to US citizens are considered "immediate relatives" in the immigration process and can apply immediately for LPR status. The USC spouse may file an immigrant petition (Form I-130) for the alien spouse immediately after the marriage.

How long does it take to bring spouse to USA 2022 from India? ›

Spouse Visa Processing Time

The processing time for the visa is often between 3 and 5 months. Since there are no limits on visa numbers when immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are in question, these applications have priority. In some cases, petitions can be processed in just two months.

What is the fastest way to bring my spouse to us? ›

Answer: A United States Citizen or Permanent Resident may file a petition for an immediate relative while living abroad. However, the sponsoring spouse must be able to prove to the National Visa Center and the selected Embassy that they are still domiciled in the United States.

How long does it take to get a green card through marriage 2022? ›

Current means that there is no wait. The I-485 processing time is the same for citizen and noncitizen spouses, ranging from 10 to 29 months as of August 2022. Although processing time can be much longer if your receive an RFE due to incomplete application details.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for a green card through marriage? ›

You do not have to hire an immigration lawyer to apply for a Marriage Green Card. More than half of all marriage Green Card applications are filed by individuals who do not work with an attorney. You can definitely do it!

What are the chances of getting a green card through marriage? ›

An entire family can receive Green Cards in one go and without long waiting periods if at least one of the spouses participates and wins in the Green Card Lottery. The odds of winning are currently very high at 1:25.

Can my wife stay in the U.S. while waiting for green card? ›

It's possible to visit your spouse in the United States while your marriage-based green card application is pending. In order to do so, you would need to apply for a tourist visa.

Is it faster to get a green card through marriage? ›

As a review, the K1 fiance visa is faster, generally speaking, for somebody to enter the United States. However, the marriage-based green card process is faster, generally, for somebody to actually obtain their lawful permanent resident status (get their green card).

How long does it take to bring spouse to USA 2022? ›

Spousal Sponsorship I-130 Processing Time 2022

It will usually take anywhere from 7 to 24 months for USCIS to process and approve a spousal sponsorship visa. It can take an additional 6 to 10 months to get an immigrant visa to the US. Learn more about US Spousal Sponsorship.

Can a U.S. citizen get married in India? ›

The procedure for an American citizen (or any non-Indian) to get married in India depends on whether the parties wish to participate in a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony.

Can I get married on a tourist visa to a U.S. citizen 2022? ›

The short answer is: yes, you can get married in the US while on a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or on a visa waiver program. There is nothing in the regulations that say individuals who are in the US as visitors cannot get married.

How long do you have to stay married to get citizenship vs green card? ›

All green card holders, as long as they meet key conditions, can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years (known as the “five-year rule”) — but those with a U.S. spouse and a green card through marriage can apply after only three years (known as the “three-year rule”).

Which is faster fiancé visa or spouse? ›

Application Process and Timeline for Fiancé(e) and Spousal Visa. If your main goal is to get to the U.S. as quickly as possible, then the K-1 fiancé(e) visa is likely the fastest option. But if your goal is to get an actual green card as soon as possible, then a marriage-based visa will be quicker.

How can I bring my spouse to USA from India? ›

You must file an I-130 form (Petition for Alien Relative) along with two passport-time pictures of the spouse and filled-out Form I-130A for the spouse. Once the I-130 form is approved, the case will be transferred to the National Visa Center for further processing.

How much money do I need to bring my wife to USA? ›

The most common minimum annual income required to sponsor a spouse or family member for a green card is $22,887. This assumes that the sponsor — the U.S. citizen or current green card holder — is not in active military duty and is sponsoring only one relative.

Can I live in the US while waiting for spousal visa? ›

Can My Spouse Come to the United States to Live While the Visa Petition Is Pending? If you are a U.S. citizen, once you file Form I-130, your spouse is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa. This will entitle him or her to come to the United States to live and work while the visa petition is pending.

Can I work while waiting for green card through marriage? ›

You can work while you wait for your marriage-based green card, provided you have employment authorization or a valid work visa. However, that depends on certain factors, including whether you're related to a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

Can I visit the US while waiting for green card? ›

Can I travel to the United States while my application for an immigrant or fiancé(e) visa is being processed. If you intend taking up permanent residence in the United States, you are required to wait until the immigrant or fiancé(e) visa is issued.

Why would a marriage green card be denied? ›

If you are currently in removal proceedings, you are ineligible to apply for a green card from within the United States. If you originally entered the United States on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa sponsored by a different partner, but did not marry that person, you generally won't be able to apply for a marriage green card.

How much does it cost to get a green card with a lawyer? ›

Green card lawyer fees generally average at the following: Marriage based green card – $800 to $4000. If you are a sibling of a U.S. citizen – $795. If you are a parent of a U.S. citizen – $795.

Do marriage Green Cards get denied? ›

The USCIS grants adjustment of status at its discretion, meaning it doesn't just grant it to anyone. In other words, a marriage certificate doesn't automatically give you a “right” to a marriage-based green card. As such, if your application is denied, you can either appeal the decision in court or reapply.

What percentage of marriage green card is denied? ›

Marriage-based green card denials constitute nearly 50% of this total. Many USCIS denials can be countered with either a new application, properly prepared, or I-290B motions to reopen or I-290B motions to reconsider due to government miscues. Other times, the battle spills over to immigration court.

How do I prove my marriage is real for my green card? ›

Joint bank account statements showing the names of both spouses. Titles or deeds for jointly owned property (real estate or vehicles) Mortgage or loan documents showing joint responsibility for payments. Joint credit card statements showing the name of each spouse as either account holder or authorized user.

How fast can I bring my spouse to us? ›

Spouses and family members who are considered to be in the immediate relative category usually obtain their visas within 5-12 months of submitting their applications. Those in the family preference category will experience a longer wait as it can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years to obtain their visas.

What documents do I need to file for green card through marriage? ›

Permanent residence based on marriage
  1. Form I-485. In Part 2 of Form I-485, check box a. ...
  2. Application fee. ...
  3. Two color passport photos of each spouse. ...
  4. A photocopy of your birth certificate. ...
  5. Form I-864. ...
  6. A sealed I-693 Form. ...
  7. Photocopies of your passport. ...
  8. Evidence of valid nonimmigrant status.

How long it takes for a U.S. citizen to bring his wife? ›

If a spouse is a U.S. citizen, the approximate waiting times for a spouse visa as of August 2022 are from around 11 months to over two years, regardless of whether you currently live in the U.S. or abroad.

Will USCIS speed up 2022? ›

USCIS committed to improving processing times for petitions and key documents back in March 2022, which we reported on in detail here. Specifically, USCIS announced the following goals: I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD): within three months.

Can Indian get green card by marrying a U.S. citizen? ›

When a U.S. citizen, residing in the United States, marries an alien, the alien is eligible to receive a green card based on that marriage. If you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse is considered an "immediate relative" and he or she may apply for permanent residency.

Can an Indian marry an American for green card? ›

Your fiancé will apply for a K-1 visa through the consulate. This involves submitting forms and documents and attending an interview with a U.S. consular official. After your marriage in the U.S., your new spouse can apply to USCIS for a green card, through a process called adjustment of status.

Can I stay in India if I marry an Indian? ›

There is a 30-day notice requirement to be given in India if one partner is permanently and the other temporarily resides in India. Marriages between an Indian and a foreign national also shall be registered under this Act.

Can I enter the US if I am married to a U.S. citizen? ›

If you are a U.S. citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live. They are: Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required. Learn more.

Can I invite my fiancé to USA with green card? ›

U.S. green card holders are not eligible to apply for fiancé visas. You and your fiancé must prove that your relationship is authentic—through photos, correspondence, and written statements from people who know you as a couple. It's generally best to have concrete wedding plans in the United States.

Can I apply for green card while on tourist visa? ›

A B1 visa and B2 visa do not grant permanent resident status — they are temporary visas – but the holder can apply for a green card. The maximum amount of time issued for B visas is 180 days. These visas allow for multiple entries into the United States.

Can I apply for citizenship after 3 years of marriage without green card? ›

The spouse must have continuously resided in the United States after becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and must have lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse for at least those 3 years.

What is the 4 year 1 day rule for U.S. citizenship? ›

The statutory period preceding the filing of the application is calculated from the date of filing. Once 4 years and 1 day have elapsed from the date of the applicant's return to the United States, the period of absence from the United States that occurred within the past 5 years is now less than 1 year.

How long does it take for a green card holder to sponsor a spouse 2022? ›

The petitioner (green card holder) has to file the Form I-130 package and Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, and wait for the approval of the green card application, usually about 7-10 months.

How fast can I bring my wife to USA? ›

Spouses and family members who are considered to be in the immediate relative category usually obtain their visas within 5-12 months of submitting their applications. Those in the family preference category will experience a longer wait as it can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years to obtain their visas.

Which is faster fiance visa or spouse? ›

Application Process and Timeline for Fiancé(e) and Spousal Visa. If your main goal is to get to the U.S. as quickly as possible, then the K-1 fiancé(e) visa is likely the fastest option. But if your goal is to get an actual green card as soon as possible, then a marriage-based visa will be quicker.

Can I stay in the U.S. while waiting for marriage green card? ›

It's possible to visit your spouse in the United States while your marriage-based green card application is pending. In order to do so, you would need to apply for a tourist visa.

How much does a US spouse visa cost? ›

Estimated marriage-based visa cost: $1,200

The U.S. citizen spouse submits the marriage relationship form (I-130 petition) and other required materials to USCIS, along with the $535 filing fee.

What is the easiest way to bring my fiancé to USA? ›

The K-1 fiancé visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their foreign partner to legally enter the United States. Each partner must prove they plan to marry within 90 days after the foreign fiancé arrives in the U.S.

How long does it take to get spouse visa for USA from India? ›

The average processing period for a visa is 15 to 30 working days. It can take much longer depending on a variety of circumstances like as the workload at the embassy or consulate, express delivery, the kind of Dependent visa USA, and so on.

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