Step 1: The Green Card Application

Step-by-step guide to getting a marriage green card if both spouses live in the U.S.

Concurrent Filing

If the spouse seeking a green card is married to a U.S. citizen and living in the United States, you’re in luck—you can save time by combining two parts of the process as one “concurrent filing”:

  • Establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130, technically called the “Petition for Alien Relative”)
  • Applying for the green card (Form I-485, technically called the application for “Adjustment of Status”)

Green Card Application Contents

Required Government forms

  • Marriage relationship form (I-130)
  • Supplemental information form (I-130A)
  • Green card application form (I-485)
  • Biographic information form (G-325A)
  • Financial support form (I-864)
  • Additional supporting documents for the I-130 and I-485 (outlined below)

Optional government forms

If the spouse desires to work in the U.S. or leave the U.S. to travel, the following additional forms can be included in the complete green card application:

  • Work permit application form (I-765)
  • Travel permit application form (I-131)

Medical exam

Before mailing off the application package, the spouse seeking a green card must have a medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor. You can find one in your area by using the USCIS find a doctor tool.

These medical exams typically cost $200-300. Once the exam is complete, the doctor will give you a sealed envelope containing your exam results and vaccination record (Form I-693), which you include in your application package.

Total fees

~$2,000. $1,760, payable by check or money order to USCIS + $200-$300 for the medical exam. The USCIS total includes the $525 fee for the I-130, $1,140 for the I-485, and $85 for biometrics (fingerprints and photo). All other forms, including the work and travel permits, do not require additional government fees.

Required Supporting Documents

required documents for the i-130 form

The main purpose of the marriage relationship form (or I-130 petition) is to establish that a valid marriage exists. USCIS requires the following documents:

  • Proof that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (copy of birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or valid U.S. passport)
  • Proof that a legally valid marriage exists (a marriage certificate showing the names of both spouses, the place of marriage, and the date of marriage)
  • Proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (for example, a joint lease, joint bank account statements, and pictures together)
  • Proof that any previous marriages for both spouses have been terminated (typically, a divorce document or death certificate for the previous spouse)
  • Proof of name changes for both spouses, if any (typically, a name change order)
  • Proof of the beneficiary spouse’s nationality (copy of birth certificate and passport)

Required documents for the I-485 form

The main purpose of the green card application form (or I-485) is to establish that the spouse is eligible for U.S. permanent residency. USCIS requires the following documents:

  • Proof that the spouse entered the United States using a valid visa, demonstrated by a copy of this prior visa and the I-94 travel record (available here)
  • Proof of the foreign spouse’s nationality (copy of a birth certificate and foreign passport)
  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (copy of the sponsoring spouse’s latest federal income tax returns and pay stubs)—for more details, see our explanation of the “Affidavit of Support.”
  • If the spouse seeking a green card has ever been arrested, proof that there was no conviction (certified copy of the court record)

certified translations

If the application includes any documents in a language other than English, you must also include a translation of each document, certified as accurate by the translator.

Submission and Approval

Your spouse green card application package includes all of the above forms, fees, and documents. Once your green card application package is complete, you will mail it to the appropriate USCIS address. You will then get official receipt notices in the mail from USCIS (one each for the I-130 and the I-485), typically within two weeks. If USCIS needs more information or documents to process your green card application package, they will send you a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) within 2-3 months.

Once USCIS has everything they need, you will typically receive notice of a biometrics appointment about 1 month after USCIS receives your application.