Applying for a green card can be confusing. Here's a list of steps to get you started.
If your spouse is currently outside of the US, this article's for you. If your spouse is in the US, check out our article on sponsoring your spouse from within the US.
Submit Form I-130, which establishes that you are a US citizen who wants to sponsor an alien relative. You and your spouse must each complete Form G-325A, separately. Mail these forms and other items on this list to USCIS at the designated filing address.
Once USCIS has approved your Form I-130, the National Visa Center will contact you to submit Form I-864 using your income and tax information. At that time, your spouse will be prompted to complete Form DS-260 online.
If you reside outside the US, it may be possible for you to file Form I-130 directly with a US Embassy, which could save you time. This option is not available in all countries. Check the website of your nearest US Embassy for details.
The US Government charges filing fees for the applications that you file. The filing fee for for Form I-130 is $535. This filing fee must be paid with a check or money order payable to “US Department of Homeland Security”.
The remaining fees must be paid online through the National Visa Center. The immigrant visa application fee for form DS-260 is $325. The affidavit of support review fee for Form I-864 is $120. You can access the payment system by visiting the government website.
You and your spouse must each submit one (1) color passport photo with Form I-130. Photos must be 2x2 inches on a white background. On the back of each photo, write the person’s full name using a pen or pencil. Attach both photos to the forms by placing them in a small envelope or clear plastic baggie and stapling it to the forms.
When your spouse is scheduled for an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate, your spouse must bring along two (2) additional color passport photos with the same specifications as above.
Submit a photocopy of your marriage certificate with Form I-130. Submit another photocopy of your marriage certificate to the National Visa Center once they contact you to begin immigrant visa processing. Your spouse must bring the original marriage certificate and a photocopy of your marriage certificate to the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.
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. Submit these copies with Form I-130 at the beginning of your case.
Submit the same copies again to the National Visa Center once they contact you to begin immigrant visa processing. Your spouse must bring the original of each of the documents above to the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.
Once the National Visa Center contacts you to begin immigrant visa processing, your spouse should submit a photocopy of your spouse's birth certificate. Your spouse must bring the original birth certificate (or certified copy) to the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.
Submit a photocopy of your (1) US birth certificate, (2) naturalization certificate or (3) US passport biographical and signature pages. Submit these copies with Form I-130 at the beginning of the case.
After your spouse is scheduled for an interview, your spouse must undergo a medical examination by a US Embassy-approved doctor. Each US Embassy maintains a list of local doctors who are authorized to perform these examinations. The Embassy will send you the list when the immigrant visa interview has been scheduled, or you may be able to find the list of doctors on the Embassy’s website. Medical exams generally cost $50 to $200.
Once the National Visa Center contacts you to begin immigrant visa processing, you should submit a photocopy of your passport biographical page. Take your actual passport with you to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at the time of your interview.
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).
After the National Visa Center contacts you, your spouse must submit a police clearance for every country in which your spouse lived for at least six (6) months, after age 16. Your spouse should submit a photocopy of the documents to the National Visa Center and bring the original documents to the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. Information on obtaining police clearance is avalable online.
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.