It’s common for active-duty military personnel to fall in love while stationed abroad. If the couple meets the requirements, the foreign spouse can get a marriage green card in three simple steps. They will apply for a green card either from the United States or abroad, attend a green card interview, and wait for a response from the U.S. government. This article explains the requirements for the military spouse green card and the application process to follow depending on where you live.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated October 24, 2022
What Are the Military Spouse's Green Card Requirements?
There are different requirements for your military service member spouse who will sponsor your green card, and you, the military family member. There are also joint requirements for both of you. You both must demonstrate your marriage authenticity, prove that you terminated previous marriages, and provide supporting documentation like military service records.
Requirements for the Sponsoring Active-Duty Spouse
Your spouse, a U.S. military member, must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder. They must also earn at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines for your household size. Your household includes you and your dependents. Your spouse must also accept financial responsibility for you. And they must not have committed certain crimes.
Requirements for the Spouse Applying for the Green Card
You have to prove your identity, nationality, and/or current U.S. immigration status. You also need to show you have “good moral character.” This means you haven’t committed certain crimes or violated immigration requirements, such as overstaying a visa. If you have, you can still apply for a green card, but you may need to submit a waiver of inadmissibility.
What Is the Application Process for a Military Spouse’s Green Card?
You and your spouse will follow a three-step process to get your green card. First, submit your green card application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Both you and your spouse need to file certain forms. Then, you attend a green card interview. Finally, you receive your green card!
Step 1: Submit Your Green Card Application
There are two different green card application processes. The one you use depends on whether your spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and whether you live inside or outside the United States.
If both you and your spouse live in the United States, you will file for an adjustment of status. If your spouse is a green card holder, you can stay in the United States for the process if you maintain a valid visa. However, with a U.S. citizen spouse, you do not have to keep a valid status. In this case, you can also file all your forms simultaneously. This filing is called "concurrent filing."
If you live in the United States, you will apply through Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
If you or both you and your spouse currently live abroad, you need to undergo consular processing. You will apply for your green card at a U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy. If you live abroad, you will use Forms DS-260 and DS-261 to undergo the Marriage Green CardConsular Process.
You and your spouse must prove your marriage is valid and not only for immigration benefits. Your spouse, a member of the U.S. armed forces, will file Form I-130, "Petition for Alien Relative." As your immediate relative, they can sponsor your application for a green card.
Green card application timeline & cost
Generally, this entire process will take 10 to 38 months, including your interview. It will likely take longer if your spouse is a non-citizen and green card holder. You will then have to wait for an "immigrant visa number" to become available before applying for a green card. These visa numbers are automatically available to spouses of citizens.
This process costs $1,200 to $1,760 in government fees, depending on where you live. You also have to get a medical examination, which costs $100 to $500.
Step 2: Attend Green Card Interview
After you submit your forms to USCIS, you must attend an in-person green card interview. USCIS officers use the interview to determine if your marriage is legitimate.
If you apply from within the United States, your interview will be held at a local USCIS office. Both you and your spouse must attend unless your spouse is deployed as a member of the military. If your spouse is deployed, you should bring evidence of your spouse's military orders. You can bring a photocopy of the official orders or a letter from the commanding officer.
If you apply from abroad, your interview will be held at a U.S. consulate. In most cases, only you have to attend.
Step 3: Receive Green Card
Your physical green card will arrive two to three weeks after your final approval if you applied from within the United States or after you arrive in the United States if you applied from abroad. You will then have lawful permanent resident status!
However, there are different kinds of green cards. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) differentiates based on how long you and your spouse have been married.
If you have been married for less than two years, you will receive a conditional green card or CR1. This green card expires in two years. After two years, you and your spouse must apply to "remove conditions" through Form I-751. When you remove conditions, you convert your green card from conditional to permanent. As part of the process, you and your spouse must have a second interview with USCIS to prove your marriage is still valid.
If you have been married for longer than two years, you will receive a permanent green card. The permanent card is valid for 10 years. Renewing your green card will be simple, and you won't need to re-verify your marriage.
Three to five years after getting your green card, you can file a naturalization application to become a U.S. citizen. If your sponsoring spouse is abroad and you meet specific requirements, you will qualify for the overseas naturalization process. You can become a U.S. citizen faster under immigration law because of your spouse's status.