A marriage green card refers to a United States lawful permanent residency (LPR) card obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, they may be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card, officially known as a “Permanent Resident Card” (Form I-551).
The process typically involves several steps:
- The U.S. citizen or green card holder files a petition on behalf of their foreign national spouse using Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
- Visa Availability:
- For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (including spouses), there is usually no waiting period for a visa to become available. However, if the sponsoring spouse is a green card holder, there may be a waiting period depending on visa availability.
- Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing:
- If the foreign national spouse is already in the U.S., they may apply for adjustment of status to obtain a green card without leaving the country. If the foreign national spouse is outside the U.S., they may go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Conditional Green Card (if applicable):
- If the marriage is less than two years old at the time the green card is granted, the foreign national spouse will receive a conditional green card. Within the 90-day period before the expiration of the conditional green card, the couple must jointly apply to remove the conditions and obtain a permanent green card.
Learn more about applying for a marriage green card in this article.
Marriage Green Card Income Requirements
The income requirements for a marriage-based green card in the United States are governed by the Affidavit of Support, a legal contract between the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsoring the foreign spouse) and the U.S. government. The Affidavit of Support is typically submitted on Form I-864, officially titled the “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA.”
Here is a general guide to the income requirements for the Affidavit of Support:
- Sponsor’s Income:
- The sponsoring spouse (petitioner) is required to demonstrate that their income is at least 125% of the U.S. federal poverty guidelines for their household size. This is to ensure that the sponsored immigrant will not become a public charge and that there is enough financial support to meet the immigrant’s basic needs.
- Household Size:
- The household size includes the sponsor, the sponsor’s dependents, and the intending immigrant. It is essential to accurately determine the household size as it affects the income requirement.
- Proof of Income:
- The sponsoring spouse must provide evidence of their income, which may include tax returns, W-2 forms, recent pay stubs, and other relevant financial documents. If the sponsor’s income is insufficient, they may use assets or have a joint sponsor.
- Joint Sponsor:
- If the sponsoring spouse’s income is below the required threshold, a joint sponsor may be used. The joint sponsor is another individual who is willing to assume financial responsibility for the immigrant. The joint sponsor must also meet the income requirements and be a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
- In addition to income, certain assets may be considered in meeting the financial requirements. However, not all assets are eligible, and there are specific guidelines for valuing and documenting assets.
It’s important to note that the income requirements may change, and it’s advisable to check the latest guidelines on the official website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or consult with an immigration attorney for the most up-to-date information.
What to do if the sponsor doesn’t meet the income requirements?
If a sponsor doesn’t meet the income requirements for U.S. immigration, there are a few potential options to explore. It’s important to note that immigration laws and policies can change, so it’s advisable to check the most recent guidelines and consult with an immigration attorney for up-to-date advice. Here are some general suggestions:
- Joint Sponsorship:
- A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the intending immigrant along with the original sponsor.
- The joint sponsor must meet the income requirements on their own. They must fill out a separate Affidavit of Support and provide their own financial documents.
- Combine Income of Household Members:
- In some cases, the income of other members in the household can be considered if they are willing to be included on the Affidavit of Support.
- This can include the income of the intending immigrant if it can be legally counted.
- Some immigration programs allow the use of assets to meet income requirements. However, not all assets are considered, and the specific rules may vary depending on the immigration category.
- The intending immigrant or a joint sponsor can use assets to supplement income, but these assets must meet specific criteria.
- Some programs or visa categories may allow for co-sponsorship, where multiple sponsors collectively meet the income requirements.
- Exploring Other Visa Options:
- Depending on the circumstances, it may be worth exploring alternative visa options that have different or no income requirements.
- Consult with an Immigration Attorney:
- Given the complexities of U.S. immigration laws, it’s strongly recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. They can provide personalized advice based on the specific details of the case.