As a Miami immigration attorney, I am frequently asked about the Permanent Residency (Green Card) process based on marriage to a Non-citizen. Patience and perseverance are two of the main qualities needed for the Green Card process for your spouse (aside from the form filling, documentation and interviews) – however, it will pay off in the end. Below you will find some Frequently Asked Questions:I am in the U.S. and my Non-Citizen Spouse is inside the U.S.. How do we apply for his/her permanent residence?To apply for Permanent residency through marriage with an American citizen, you will need to fill out a Green Card through Marriage Application; the principal permanent residency (Green Card) document is Form I-485, the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.” This application must be supported with an marriage visa petition (I-130).

What are the benefits of permanent residency?

As a Green Card holder, you can:

  • Travel abroad without restraint and re-enter the U.S. without the possibility of being denied access into the country.
  • After five years (or 3 years if still married to U.S. citizen) of successfully becoming a Green Card holder, you can apply for U.S. Citizenship. It is not mandatory to apply for U.S. Citizenship and you can remain a Green Card holder forever. However, as an experienced immigration lawyer, I can attest to the importance of pursuing citizenship once it is available.
  • You may apply for government sponsored financial aid education.
  • If you work for a minimum of 40 quarters in America before you retire, you can enjoy Social security benefits.
  • You may petition for and bring your spouse and unmarried minor children under the age of 21, to America. You can grant them permanent residency status in the U.S.

Can we apply before we get married?

No, to be eligible under U.S. immigration law, you and your spouse must show that you are legally married. However, you and your fiancé may very well prepare the documentation needed to file for the Permanent Residency of your spouse.Do I automatically receive permanent residency just by marrying a U.S. Citizen?No, in order to ultimately receive permanent residency (although not guaranteed), you must file an application with USCIS with the required documentation and pay the assessed fees for the application.

How long does the process take after I’ve filed the application with USCIS?

You should verify with the office where you will be filing since it differs from each USCIS office and can take up to 12-18 months to process.

Will I get my green card after the interview?

No, although your permanent residency status will take into effect as of the day it is approved at the interview, it usually will take about 3 weeks to receive your official Green Card.Will both my spouse have to be interviewed individually? What are some questions USCIS will ask us?If scheduled for a Stokes Interview, you and your spouse will be separated to be interviewed as well as together, sworn in and questioned; everything that is said may be recorded, since both you and your spouse are under oath, it is extremely important to tell the truth. Giving false testimony under oath, will not only result in denial of your green card, it is also a crime. The immigration officer is free to ask a series of wide-range questions and these interviews are often quite long.

Where is my local USCIS office?

You can visit where you can use the field office locator to find your closest USCIS office.

What is a “Stokes Interview?

A “Stokes Interview” is scheduled when a married couple fails to convince the immigration officer at the initial interview that the marriage was a bona fide marriage and not entered into, merely for immigration purposes. Because of this, the Stokes Interview process may take several hours.

How can I prepare for a green card marriage interview with my spouse?

Before attending the interview, make sure to review the questions and answers provided on your paperwork as well as your spouse’s. Reading over information that you already know might become repetitive and seem unimportant, but this is not the case for a USCIS official, he/she will ask questions such as dates of your visits, spouse’s financial information, in order to determine whether your marriage is legitimate and not solely for immigration purposes. Make sure to bring important documents and forms needed to attest to your bona fide marriage between you and your spouse. In my office, I often conduct an person practice interview so that both individuals are comfortable and prepared for appointment.

Is it necessary for a spouse to attend the immigration interview?

Yes, it is. It is an interview for permanent residency hence; the officer is going to want to speak to the petitioner as well as the beneficiary, because since the application is based on marriage, he wants to make sure that the marriage is based on good faith. However, there are certain exceptions for those that are:

  • Military
  • Hospitalized
  • Incarcerated

What happens during the marriage-interview?

The immigration office will go over the paperwork and documents provided and ask basic questions to confirm your identity, your occupation and address, etc. The officer will also ask personal questions to test whether the marriage is bona fide; and finally the officer will question about the financial support and criminal history, etc. in order to complete the adjudication of the adjustment of status application.

If you would like more information on obtaining a green card through marriage, please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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