Green Card Marriages, true love?

Most people assume two things about marrying an immigrant: 
  1. That it is a false relationship or a “green card marriage” 
  2. That the immigrant will have a very easy process and receive their USCIS documents quickly  

However, both assumptions can be wrong.

Marriage green cards can be applied for in the U.S. or from abroad. A green card allows an immigrant to live and work in the U.S. as a permanent resident, and it is the first step toward U.S. citizenship. Applying for a marriage green card can take anywhere from nine to 38 months and cost between $1,400–$1,960. This fee can greatly affect a newly married couple’s budget, for this reason we recommend reviewing these immigration fees and utilizing our resources as OPA supports the citizenship goals of all immigrants.  

What is a Marriage Green Card?

Marriage-based green cards are valid for a period:  

  • Immigrants married for more than two years can receive the IR1 green card, which lasts for 10 years
  • Immigrants married for less than two years can receive a CR1 green card, which is valid for two years. After two years it can be renewed for 10 years

While it may seem simple, the process for a marriage green card is as tedious as a normal green card application. It is true that soliciting a spouse expedites the process, but with the current USCIS wait times, due to staffing and resource issues, the wait periods rival those of regular applications. Plus, depending on an immigrant’s case, couples may be waiting longer, have their request denied, or be reunited after years of soliciting a marriage green card if the immigrant lives outside the U.S.

As one writer shared, her experience with a marriage green card was anything but simple.  

“Over $2,000 in fees later, our application was in the hands of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It was now up to the government to assess if we were in a real relationship. Our life was on hold, with no predictable timeline, and no guarantee of the result,” wrote Jordan Arellano for Yes! Magazine. “There is plenty of work still to be done to support legal immigration. With so many shifting variables and unknowns, there is great need for more support and resources for couples petitioning for residency from all nations.” 

Green Cards and Fake Marriages 

Green card marriages being fake relationships is also an over popularized stereotype. While there have been cases of false marriages, USICS is extremely diligent in vetting applicants. Immigrants who married a green card holder or U.S. citizen must: 

  • Prove their marriage is legal, recognized by U.S. law or the law of the country where the couple married 
  • Prove their marriage is legitimate, so a couple must prove that the marriage is genuine and there is an intention to stay together 
  • Prove neither person is currently married in the U.S. or another country  
  • Provide a variety of documents proving shared use of financial resources like bank accounts, credit card statements, tax returns, insurance policies, home mortgage or loan, leases, etc.  

When USCIS denies a marriage green card it may happen because: 

  • USCIS did not believe the marriage was bona fide, or legitimate  
  • An immigrant’s history created issues for the application, such as violating an immigration status 
  • There were errors on the petition forms or application. In these cases, couples can refile and pay the fee again

Marriage Green Card Process

Overall, couples who are sincerely in love and married for the right reasons go through the same struggles other immigrants do and can expect the same scrutiny. As Arellano wrote when sharing her and her husband’s green card process, what is needed is a change in the immigration processes so all people applying are treated humanely. 

“We all know rom-coms aren’t real life, especially the ones about green card marriages.” 

If you know a couple seeking financial support to complete their green card request, OPA's 1% interest loan can help.


The information provided on is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered as professional advice or a substitute for seeking professional guidance.

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