Applying for a green card can be confusing. Here's a list of steps to get you started.
Submit Form I-130, which establishes that you are a US citizen who wants to sponsor an alien relative. Also complete Form I-864 using your income and tax information. You and your spouse must each complete Form G-325A, separately. Your spouse must submit Form I-485 and must be present in the US to file this form. If your spouse is currently outside the US, check out our article on sponsoring your spouse from abroad.
There are two optional forms that you should consider. Most people wish to obtain a work permit to use while their case is in process; your spouse can apply for a work permit by submitting Form I-765. If your spouse wants to travel abroad while the case is in process, your spouse must obtain a travel document (called advance parole) before departing the US. This can be done by submitting Form I-131. Mail your forms and other items on this list to USCIS at the designated filing address.
The US Government charges filing fees for different forms. The filing fee for Form I-130 is $535, and for Form I-485 it is $1,225. Pay each of these fees with a check or money order payable to US Department of Homeland Security. Use a separate check or money order for each fee. No additional fees are charged for Form I-765 and Form I-131 when you file either or both forms at the same time as Form I-485.
You and your spouse must each submit one (1) color passport photo with Form I-130. Your spouse must submit four (4) additional color passport photos, in total, with the remaining forms. All photos must be 2x2 inches on a white background. On the back side of each photo, write the person’s full name using a pen or pencil. Attach all photos to the forms by placing them in a small envelope or clear plastic baggie and stapling it to the first page of the forms.
Submit a copy of your marriage certificate. Submit a photocopy when you file the case, but bring the original with you when you go to USCIS for your interview.
If you or your spouse were previously married, submit proof that the previous marriages were terminated. This means a photocopy of the divorce decree if the marriage ended in divorce, or a photocopy of the death certificate if the previous spouse is deceased.
A photocopy of your spouse's birth certificate is sufficient for filing your case. However, your spouse should bring the original birth certificate (or certified copy) when you go to USCIS for your interview.
Submit a copy of your (1) US birth certificate, (2) naturalization certificate or (3) US passport biographical and signature pages. Submit a photocopy when you file the case, but bring the original document when you go to USCIS for your interview.
Your spouse must submit a medical exam report, completed by a USCIS-approved doctor. Medical exams generally cost $50 to $200. You can find an approved doctor in your neighborhood by visiting my.uscis.gov/findadoctor.
The US government requires information about how your spouse most recently entered the US. Form I-485 asks for your spouse’s I-94 arrival/departure record number. If your spouse most recently entered the US by air or sea before April 2013, the I-94 is the card that was inserted into your spouse's passport. In this case, your spouse should submit a photocopy of this card (front and back sides). If your spouse entered after April 2013, the I-94 number can be obtained online.
Your spouse may submit a printout of the online I-94 record, but this is not required. If your spouse does not have an I-94 card, other proof of inspection and admission, such as a copy of a stamped passport page, must be submitted.
Your spouse must also submit a photocopy of the passport page containing the visa that your spouse used to enter the US most recently. Your spouse should should bring the original passport to the interview at USCIS.
Submit a photocopy of your most recent federal tax return (IRS forms 1040 and all W2’s) with Form I-864. If you think your previous year's income may not be enough to meet the requirement, submit additional proof of your current income. This can be either (1) copies of your pay stubs for the last six months, or (2) a letter from your employer verifying employment status, date of hire, and salary (or hourly rate and hours worked).
If your previous year's income was less than 125% of the federal poverty limit, you may have a household member complete Form I-864A, demonstrating that the household member will make funds available to you to support the immigrant. If you use this option, also submit a photocopy of the household member’s most recent federal tax return (IRS forms 1040 and all W2’s).
Alternatively, find a joint sponsor who is not a household member. The joint sponsor must complete Form I-864. Submit the completed form, along with a photocopy of the joint sponsor’s most recent federal tax return (IRS forms 1040 and all W2’s).
Documents submitted in a language other than English must be accompanied by a translation.
The translator must attach a statement certifying that he or she is "competent to translate from [foreign language] to English, and the translation of the document is correct and true to the best of the translator's knowledge." The certification form should include the translator's name, signature, address, and date of certification.
Anyone fluent in English and the foreign language may serve as a translator.