How to get my alien spouse a green card

My fiancee is originally from mainland China and has been here in the U.S. for the last 2 1/2 years on an H1 work visa. We are getting married at the end of April. I have heard many times that it is relatively easy for somebody to get a green card once they marry a U.S. citizen, but I have no idea what the process involved is or how long it actually takes. I’ve tried searching on-line, but all the information I can find seems to deal exclusively with foreign spouses wanting to immigrate to the U.S. and not with spouses that are already here on a work visa.

And please, no alien jokes, OK? :wink:



Check out the BCIS (formerly INS) website and look at the “Visas-marriage” section:


(S)he won’t need one after your’re married, will (s)he? I thought you can become a citizen through marriage.

She has to first apply for permanent resident status and then she will be on the fast-track to citizenship. It still takes time, though, and as long as she only has a work visa there is a risk she could lose her job and be deported. Which would be a bad thing.


The moment you’re married, she should file an Adjustment of Status (I-485). Concurrent with that, you need to file I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and you both need to submit copies of G-325A, biographic information.

You need to file I-864, Affadavit of Support, and provide the last three years’ income tax returns, plus additional information if your average income over three years was below the poverty line.

The nice thing about being a spouse is that she does not need to wait for a visa number to become available. She is eligible for permanant residency immediately.

If she wants to work once her H-visa is expired, she’ll need to file I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.


She’ll have to file a whole shitload of forms, go through at least one interview and wait anywhere from 9-18 months (or possibly more) just for her provisional green card. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though, because she’ll be eligible for work and travel authorisation (independent of her H-1, which she’s entitled to keep anyway) once the application is filed.

Although the process is complicated, it is possible to do without the help of a lawyer. But you should talk to one if there is anything remotely dodgy in her past - any criminal record, any questionable political affiliation, or even the slightest violation of US immigration law, etc.

Best wishes.

ruadh: Does that mean that once she files the application she won’t have to worry about being deported if she loses her job? That’s really our biggest concern, especially with the current economy.

And no, there’s nothing even remotely dodgy in her past…


If she’s an alien from Mars, she won’t need a green card, because she’ll already be green. :stuck_out_tongue:

I should put in a disclaimer here that it’s been three years since I worked in the immigration field and the laws may have changed in the interim (though I think these particular laws are unlikely to have changed). Assuming they haven’t, she’s permitted to remain in the country while her I-485 is pending - and since it’s an application based on marriage rather than employment, she can even turn in her H-1 and quit her job if she likes. However, she’ll need to obtain an Employment Authorization Document before she can take on a new job.