typical items in a green card welcome kit, when you receive your permanent residence card

Apply for a green card

This is a step by step instruction on how to apply for adjustment of status after you have been married to a US Citizen. This is a guide intended for people who are currently in America and have recently gotten married to a US Citizen and are ready to apply and receive a green card via a petition by the US Citizen spouse. This type of visa is completely unlimited and also the fastest to get permanent residency in America. Self-applying is absolutely acceptable and possible. There is no need to hire a lawyer as long as you have all the documents necessary and uncomplicated situations. I personally have done it, I know three other couples who have done it on their own. I was the fastest out of all the couples, at just under 3 months from mailing the entire application package to USCIS and having the green card in hand. I will share with you exactly how I did it and hopefully you can also have a speedy application.


Note: I provided the forms for direct download here but you should ALWAYS check if there is a newer version that you may need to use on http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis

1. First thing to do is get married legally

I assume you have done this. If not, please go ahead and find the nearest government office that can do it for you, likely your city government. You must be legally registered and have signed a marriage application to receive a marriage certificate. It does not matter if you legally register the marriage in a foreign country. USCIS recognizes marriages between a man and a woman from anywhere in the world, as long as it is a proper government official marriage record. After you have registered, you should get a copy of the marriage certificate.

2. Schedule an appointment for the medical exam

Use the following link to find a civil surgeon. https://egov.uscis.gov/crisgwi/go?action=offices.type&OfficeLocator.office_type=CIV. You cannot go to a random doctor to have the medical exam because 1. they are not certified by USCIS to do so and 2. they probably have no idea how to fill out the I-693 form. You have to go to a doctor listed in the USCIS website. Also, no insurance will cover the cost of the examination. In NY area, it cost anywhere from $200 to $500 dollars. You have to pay this out of your own pocket. It is a simple exam to test your blood, immunizations and a general physical checkup. Once you receive the I-693 after you pay the examination fee, it should be sealed in an envelope. DO NOT OPEN IT. You need to send it in sealed.

3. Take some passport photos

Use my guide here to make your own passport photos to save on some money. You can have professional ones taken if you want to but you really don’t need to.

4. Gather some important and necessary documents

Filing for adjustment of status will require several documents that you must have. Sometimes these documents may take time to get so be sure to obtain them in hand before you start the application. All documents that are not originally in English must be certified translated. You can use a professional translation service that will cost hundreds, or you can use my absolutely free method, detailed in this guide here.

  • Your birth certificate – this somewhat varies by country but generally you need a certified copy from your home country if you don’t have one. This is absolutely critical and without it you will likely be denied.

  • Your US Citizen spouse’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate – if your spouse was born in America, there is no excuse not to have a birth certificate. If your spouse was NOT born in America, you need to provide the naturalization certificate instead of the birth certificate. I don’t know why this works, but I suppose the American government thinks the naturalization is another ‘birth’ into America. The passport alone is NOT enough. You will need to provide birth or naturalization certificates.

  • Your home country police record – you should get this to certify that you have no criminal background. This is not cited as necessary in the application but good to have to avoid any issues. USCIS uses a name-check system to determine if you are possibly affiliated with any terrorist organizations. Sometimes, names are similar or mistakened and this will cause issues if somehow your name gets flagged.

  • Documents that demonstrate joint ownership – gather any documents that show you have joint bank accounts, property that is owned by both of you, a rental apartment lease that has both of your names on it. This is to demonstrate that you have a real bona fide marriage.

  • Your current status visa related papers – I-20s if you were in F-1 status, DS-2019 if you were in J-1 status, or any other papers that you received for your current visa. Make 3 copies of these.

  • Your I-94 information – print out your I-94 information from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94 if you do not have the white card. If you have the white I-94 card, such as you last entered America before May 2013, then you should just use the white card instead of going online.

5. Fill out the G-1145 form

This is an optional but good to have form to fill out. All you have to do is fill in your phone number and email. This lets you know when your application has been accepted and any updates from USCIS regarding your application will first be notified by text and email. This isn’t the official notification; it is merely a way for you to track and be updated at what stage your application is at.

6. Fill out the I-485 form.

This is the main form to apply for your adjustment of status. Everything on the form is pretty straight forward. For the address, you should use an address that you can receive mail without any issues for at least 7-9 months AFTER you have applied. The reason is simple: USCIS mails are not forwarded by USPS. Changing address with USCIS is also very problematic and sometimes do not work. You can use P.O. Box in the address for this form. You can also put your friend’s addresses, it does not have to be exactly the one you are living in now, if you plan on moving. If you absolutely have to move and no friends’ addresses can help you, try the guide to change mailing address after you move. Keep in mind this isn’t guaranteed.

7. Fill out the I-130 form

This is the main form that your spouse has to fill out. This is for your spouse to petition for you to become a permanent resident. For the address in part B and C, it is ok to put an address that you may not be able to get mail 7-9 months from the time you file, because all USCIS will send to this address is notifications about the petition application. They are not necessary for travel or any other purpose than an official notification. Despite whatever address you used on I-485, you can be honest and put your current addresses on where you intend to live and other address related questions, because again this form will not be used to send the green card, EAD card and interview notice.

8. Fill out the I-864 form

This is to prove that your spouse and you have sufficient financial ability to live in America without government assistance. Your spouse needs to provide past 3 year’s Federal tax returns as well as job information to prove he/she have steady income to support the both of you. You can also include information about your own job, if you have one, to help establish that both you and your spouse have enough money to live. You can also add savings account statements here if you have significant amount of money saved. Employment is more important though, so make sure both you and your spouse have steady jobs with steady incomes. For any section that asks for mailing address, put the address you used for I-485. For actual residence address, you can put the one that you are currently living in.

9. Fill out the G-325A form for you and your spouse

Both you and your spouse need to fully fill out G-325A. This asks biographical information and information about your past residences. Do your best to write the correct information, you shouldn’t try to hide anything here or else your application might be denied. For me, I moved around so much that it was hard to keep track exact dates, but I tried to be as thorough as possible and it was ok. Just do NOT put any false information or omit real serious information.

10. Fill out the I-131 form

This is a form to allow you to travel internationally while your application is pending. Without this form, during the time that your application is pending you CANNOT travel outside of the country. This is because your status is pending and if you leave the country, it may be considered abandonment of your application. When you try to return, because you were attempting adjustment of status, your previous status (F-1, J-1, B-2, etc) has already been TERMINATED, so you have no status to return into America. This is why you need to file the I-131 form for advanced parole. This lets you return from a short trip out of the country during the application. For your address, use the same address as I-485. Check item D in part 2. For part 3, if you technically have no plans but it might be necessary for you to travel, just put estimated dates of travel. They do not have to be exact because plans change. You should want the document to be sent to the address on I-485 (it is actually not a separate document as it will be combined with your EAD card) . In part 4, a simple statement like this will be enough (if you might be going home)

To be able to visit my parents and relatives while adjustment of status is pending

If approved, your EAD card will show Serves as I-512 Advanced Parole.

11. Fill out the I-765 form

This is a form for work authorization while your application is pending. You are requesting the Employment Authorization Document or EAD. It is a card commonly called the EAD card. Technically even though you have not yet received your green card, you can already start working unrestricted in America. You should definitely apply for the I-765 because 1. it lets you work while your application is pending and 2. it also combines the Advanced Parole document so that you can travel internationally while your application is pending. The address to use must be the one you used for I-485, because you absolutely need this card before you get the green card. The category to use is c(9) which is for any applicants that is applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence. If approved, the EAD card will be sent to the address you wrote on the form.

Employment Authorization Card (EAD) for Adjustment of Status to Green Card, with Advanced Parole approved

Employment Authorization Card (EAD) for Adjustment of Status to Green Card, with Advanced Parole approved


Assemble your application

Now you need to build your application package. This will be a very thick package so make sure you have large binder clips in hand. You can staple individual single documents, but you cannot staple everything together. This is what I did: ( you are the beneficiary and your spouse is the petitioner)

Use a medium sized binder to bind:

  • I-485 form

  • Check payable to Department of Homeland Security for $1040

  • Small envelope holding 2 passport photos of you

  • Your G-325A

  • Copy of your birth certificate + translation if necessary

  • Copy of all visa related documents such as all I-20s ever issued, DS-2019

  • Copy of I-94 information

  • Copy of visa stamp in passport

  • Copy of passport ID page

  • I-693 Medical Exam envelope, sealed

Use another medium sized binder to bind:

  • I-130 form

  • Check payable to Department of Homeland Security for $420

  • Small envelope holding 1 passport photo of you, 1 passport photo of your spouse

  • Copy of marriage certificate + translation if necessary

  • Copy of your spouse’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate

  • Your G-325A

  • Your spouse’s G-325A

  • Copies of documents that demonstrate joint ownership (see above in step 4)

Use another medium sized binder to bind:

  • I-864 form

  • Copy of your spouse’s past 3 years W-2s or 1099

  • Copy of your spouse’s employment verification letter

  • Copy of your spouse’s last 2 pay stubs

  • Copy of your employment verification letter, if working legally

  • Copy of your past 2 pay stubs, if working legally

  • Copy of savings accounts statements

Use another medium sized binder to bind:

  • I-765 form

  • Small envelope holding 2 passport photos of you

  • Copy of all visa related documents such as all I-20s ever issued, DS-2019

  • Copy of I-94 information

  • Copy of visa stamp in passport

  • Copy of passport ID page

Use another medium sized binder to bind:

  • I-131 form

  • Small envelope holding 2 passport photos of you

  • Copy of I-94 information

  • Copy of visa stamp in passport

  • Copy of passport ID page

Use a large binder to combine all these binded documents together. At the top of the document package, put the G-1145 form. On top of the G-1145 form, put a cover page that says:

Spouse-based Adjustment of Status Application

Co-filing forms:

Form I-485

Form I-130

Form I-864

Form I-765

Form I-131

G-1145

Send your application

I recommend using the USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope to send the application, since your application could be heavy with all the papers. The flat rate option lets you stuff as much as you can into the envelope for one cost. USPS Priority Mail also provides tracking number and delivery confirmation. Not only that, generally anywhere except Alaska and Hawaii typically takes 2 days at the most to reach the Chicago lockbox.

The addresses to use are:

If using any USPS services, such as the Priority Flat Rate:

USCIS

PO Box 805887

Chicago, IL 60680-4120

If using FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc

USCIS

ATTN: FBAS

131 S DEARBORN ST FL 3

CHICAGO IL 60603-5573

Next Steps:

You should receive several I-797C in the mail as your application progresses. You will also receive notifications for the biometrics appointment and the interview appointment. I think the most important is your mails, even though your spouse will also receive I-797Cs notifying if the application has been accepted and approved. The approximate timelines should be as follows (every case is different, this is a best-case scenario timeline):

Day 1 – mail the application

Day 7-8 – checks cashed

Day 7-8 – text/email notification that your application has been received

Day 12-15 – receive I-797C for I-485, I-131, I-765 and I-797C for I-130

Day 20 – receive biometrics appointment notification. Mark your calendar to attend

Day 40 – do the biometrics appointment

Day 60 – interview appointment notification. Mark your calendar to attend. DO NOT RESCHEDULE unless in a life/death situation. Check out this guide for tips and resources to make your interview successful.

Day 75 – should receive the EAD card in the mail

Day 80-120 – the interview

Day 100-130 – should receive the green card in the mail.

Good Luck!


17 thoughts on “Guide to Immigration by marriage – Part 2 – Applying for Green Card

  1. Pingback: Guide to Immigration by marriage - Part 1 - Finding Someone - IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

  2. Pingback: Modern Immigration Story | immigratetoamerica4all

  3. Lucas

    Hi.

    Just wanted to thank you for this website. I followed your guide basically 1:1. The time-line was a little faster for us. (we live in Sacramento, CA).

    We have filed everything late August after we got married. Everything went super smooth. Besides my I-765 for EAD, I also filed for Advanced Parole which was granted. Last Tuesday, we had our interview. They basically just checked our filed forms for mistakes, wanted to see originals of the supplemental documents, and that was it. SO EASY.

    I’d say be prepared (in regards to your paperwork), and it should go well.

    Good luck to everybody out there!

  4. Pingback: Family Based Green Cards Common Questions and Answers - IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

  5. montaz klimatyzacja

    This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  6. steroidi anabolizzanti

    Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa?
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    1. admin Post author

      Sure, please send me an email through the contact form to get in touch.

  7. Pingback: F-1, J-1, Adjustment of Status common questions and answers - Part Three | IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

  8. Chandra

    VERY good stuff! Wish I had found your guide before I filed, but I am taking it into consideration while undergoing the rest of the process.
    Concise, precise, thorough.
    Thanks!!!

  9. Pingback: Filing Adjustment of Status – Do You Need a Lawyer?

  10. samina

    I am US citizen, my husband Came on visit visa IN January 2014 got married , April , WE applied for I 130, I 131, 1 485 AND 1 765 , VISIT VISA expired in June , date on 1130 RECIEPT IS SEPT. 29TH , when will we get green card ( does date of reciept matter) why was it so delayed while other forms were received earlier most important and can he travel on I 131

    1. admin Post author

      Time to get green card varies and AOS through US citizen spouse can take anywhere from 3 months to 9 months. There is no one that can tel you exact times and also no one can explain why it is delayed. Your most important question depends on if your spouse has received the EAD card with Advanced Parole endorsement. If he did not receive the EAD card, he cannot travel. Travelling without the EAD card and Advanced Parole endorsement means abandoning your AOS application.

  11. Pingback: Average Processing Times For Green Card Applications Through A US Citizen Relative | MyOrtak.net

  12. Pingback: Travel Rules for Green Card Holders - How Long Can you Stay out of America | IMMIGRATE TO AMERICA

  13. Patricia

    I came on a J1 visa and I am subject to the 2 yr rule to do a MA and completed my PhD on an F1. I always thought I was not eligible to adjustment of status via a petition from my husband of 5 years until I was granted a waiver or went back to my COO. Have I been misinformed all this time? My OPT is about to expire! What might be our best option not to break our family apart?

    1. admin Post author

      No, that is correct. If you are subjected to the 2 year rule, you must either get a waiver or stay out of the USA for an aggregate of 2 years before you can apply for a green card.

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