Step 2:  Waiting Period and Applying for the Green Card (Adjustment of Status)

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

I-485 Overview

If the spouse seeking a green card is present in the United States, the next step is to file Form I-485 (technically called the application for “Adjustment of Status”). The I-485 application is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and its primary purpose is to establish that the spouse is eligible for a green card.

The Waiting Period

For spouses of U.S. green card holders (permanent residents), the I-485 filing package cannot be submitted until the U.S. State Department determines that a green card is available, given various annual caps. The dates published in the State Department’s monthly visa bulletin are what determines whether or not an I-485 package can be filed. For more information, check out our guide on “How to Read the Visa Bulletin.”

The wait time is currently about a year and a half, but can vary by a few months depending on the home country of the spouse. While waiting for a green card to become available, the spouse seeking a green card must maintain continuous lawful immigration status in the United States.

This means that the spouse seeking a green card should be in valid “nonimmigrant status” (for example, having a valid student visa or temporary work visa) for the entire time that they are waiting for a green card to become available. Unlike spouses of U.S. citizens who may still file a green card application even if their immigration status lapses, spouses of U.S. green card holders may not file green card applications if they have such a lapse.

I-485 Application Contents

Required Government forms

  • Green card application form (I-485)
  • Biographic information form (G-325A)
  • Financial support form (I-864)

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)

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)
  • 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.

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

~$1,500. $1,225, payable by check or money order to USCIS + $200-$300 for the medical exam. The USCIS total includes the $1,140 fee 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.

Submission and Approval

Your green card application package should include 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-485, the I-765, and the I-131), 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 the I-485 filing package is submitted, USCIS typically processes it within 8-10 months.