I am illegally in the United States but entered the U.S. legally. I have just married a U.S. citizen. How do I apply for my green card?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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After you get married, the U.S. citizen spouse must file with the INS an I-130 Relative Petition for you, together with the I-485 application for permanent residence, with all supporting documents, if you originally entered the United States legally. You can also apply for an employment authorization card and advance parole, which will allow the alien to travel abroad pending the INS interview. Depending on the INS workload, an interview will be scheduled anywhere from six months to more than one year from the time the application is filed.

At the interview, the INS will question the couple to make sure that the marriage is bona fide, meaning that the couple did not get married solely for the purpose of getting an immigration benefit for the alien spouse. If the I-485 is approved, the alien spouse will receive a two-year conditional green card. Within 90 days prior to the 2nd anniversary of receiving the green card, the couple must file a petition with the INS to remove the “condition.” Documents must be submitted to prove that the couple has a bona fide marriage, such as joint credit cards, joint bank accounts, proof of children born to the couple, joint health insurance, among other forms of proof. If the INS is satisfied by the evidence submitted, the condition will be removed. If the couple fails to file the removal petition within 90 days, then the green card will automatically terminate.

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