I Am a Non-U.S. Citizen Marrying a U.S. Citizen. What Should I Do?

When a non-U.S. citizen marries a U.S. citizen, there are certain steps and procedures that need to be taken before coming to the United States. Review this article to understand the marriage-based Green Card application including information about Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing depending on the marriage location.


I. How do I get a marriage-based Green Card?

Marriage-based Green Cards will allow the holder to live and work within the United States. Although there are certain wait times associated with marriage-based Green Cards, when married to a U.S. citizen, there are no wait times.

The first step will be to become married to the U.S. citizen, and then become sponsored by the main sponsor spouse. Once all necessary submissions and filings are submitted to the USCIS, and the necessary medical examination and fingerprinting appointments are finished, the only remaining step is to go through the marriage-based Green Card interview.

Then, the applicant will be well on their way to becoming a permanent resident of the United States. After residing as a marriage-based green card holder, the holder will also be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.


II. Where should the marriage occur?

Deciding where you and your U.S. citizen spouse should get married is a big step. There are different pathways that the marriage-based Green Card applicants can take to process their Green Card application. Each process has its benefits and concerns, but understanding each process can help better determine where the marriage should occur.

  1. Getting married inside the United States: the marriage-based Green Card process will be through Adjustment of Status. It is a process of changing a non-immigrant status to a permanent resident status within the U.S.

    The following are key procedures for the Adjustment of Status process.
    • Getting married within the United States, and getting registered is the first step
    • Review the 90-day Rule to see if that rule applies to the marriage-based Green Card applicant
    • File Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), along with supporting documentation
    • File Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). It can be filed together with Form I-130 through concurrent filing.
    • Attend medical examination
    • Attend fingerprinting/biometrics appointment
    • Attend marriage-based Green Card interview
  2. Getting married outside of the United States, the marriage-based Green Card process will be through Consular Processing. It is a process of processing the Green Card application through the overseas U.S. embassy or consulate office.

    The following are key procedures for the Consular Processing.
    • Getting married outside of the United States, and applying for a marriage-based Green Card application through the U.S. embassy or consulate office
    • File Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), along with supporting documentation
    • File Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application)
    • Attend medical examination
    • Attend fingerprinting/biometrics appointment
    • Attend marriage-based Green Card interview

III. What is a K-1 (Visa for Fiancé(e) of U.S. Citizens) visa?

When the U.S. citizen is abroad with their future spouse, the foreign nonimmigrant fiancé(e) may obtain a K-1 visa through Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)). This will allow the U.S. citizen and the foreign nonimmigrant fiancé(e) to come to the United States to get married within the United States. After the marriage, the U.S. citizen and the foreign nonimmigrant spouse can apply for a marriage-based Green Card through Adjustment of Status by filing Form I-485.