Beyond Borders: A Blog on Marriage, Visas, and International Living


The process of getting a Green Card, or permanent residency in the United States, entails many procedures if you are married to someone who currently holds one and you live overseas. Here is a general guide on how to apply:

  • Petition Filing by the U.S. Green Card Holder:
    • US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, from the spouse who is in possession of a Green Card (the petitioner). The qualifying relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary—the spouse applying for a Green Card—is established on this form.
    • The petitioner must submit supporting documents, including proof of the marriage, such as a marriage certificate.
  • USCIS Approval:
    • Once USCIS receives the petition, they will review it and, if approved, send the petitioner a Notice of Approval (I-797).
  • Case Transfer to the National Visa Center (NVC):
    • After approval, the case is usually transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will provide information and instructions on the next steps, including the fees that need to be paid.
  • Visa Application:
    • The beneficiary will then need to submit a visa application to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country of residence. This involves completing Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
  • Affidavit of Support:
    • The Green Card holder spouse must also submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), demonstrating that they have the financial means to support the intending immigrant.
  • Medical Examination and Visa Interview:
    • The beneficiary will typically need to undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician and attend a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Visa Issuance:
    • If the visa is approved, the beneficiary will receive an immigrant visa on their passport.
  • Travel to the United States:
    • Once the immigrant visa is issued, the beneficiary can travel to the United States. Upon arrival, they will be inspected by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
  • Receive the Green Card:
    • After entry into the United States, the Green Card will be mailed to the beneficiary’s U.S. address.

What documents must be provided for spouse of permanent resident living abroad

When applying for a Green Card (permanent residence) as the spouse of a U.S. Green Card holder while living abroad, you will need to provide a set of supporting documents to establish your eligibility and the bona fide nature of your marriage. The exact requirements may vary, and it’s important to refer to the latest instructions from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or consult with an immigration attorney. However, here is a general list of documents you may need:

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative:
    • The Green Card holder spouse (petitioner) must complete and submit Form I-130 to initiate the immigration process.
  • Supporting Documents for Form I-130:
    • Marriage certificate: A copy of the official marriage certificate to establish the legal relationship between you and the Green Card holder.
    • Passport-style photos: Recent passport-sized photographs of both spouses.
    • Evidence of a bona fide marriage: Documents that demonstrate a genuine marital relationship, such as:
      • Wedding photos
      • Joint bank account statements
      • Lease agreements or property deeds in both spouses’ names
      • Correspondence or emails exchanged between the spouses
      • Affidavits from friends or family who can attest to the validity of the marriage
  • Proof of U.S. Green Card Holder’s Status:
    • A copy of the Green Card holder spouse’s Green Card (front and back).
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support:
    • The U.S. Green Card holder spouse must submit Form I-864 to demonstrate their ability to financially support the intending immigrant. This includes providing evidence of income, employment, and financial assets.
  • Proof of Termination of Prior Marriages:
    • Provide proof of the dissolution of the previous marriage(s), such as divorce decrees or death certificates, if any spouse has ever been married before.
  • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application:
    • The U.S. Department of State’s visa application form, Form DS-260, must be filled out online by the intended immigrant.
  • Medical Examination:
    • It’s possible that a panel physician who has been approved will need to examine you medically. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate receives the examination results directly.
  • Passport:
    • A valid passport for the intending immigrant.
  • Visa Application Fees:
    • Payment of the required visa application fees to the U.S. government.
  • Other Supporting Documents:
    • Any additional documents requested by the National Visa Center (NVC) or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case.

How to prove that our marriage is bona fide?

One of the most crucial elements in the immigration process when applying for a Green Card is demonstrating that your marriage is bona fide—that is, genuine and not created only for immigration purposes. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS carefully examines the evidence you provide to determine the legitimacy of your marital relationship. Here are some ways to demonstrate the bona fide nature of your marriage:

  • Marriage Certificate:
    • Provide a copy of your official marriage certificate. This is a fundamental document that establishes the legal relationship between you and your spouse.
  • Photographs:
    • Include recent, authentic photographs of you and your spouse together at various significant life events. This can include wedding photos, family gatherings, vacations, and other shared experiences.
  • Joint Financial Documents:
    • Submit evidence of joint financial responsibilities and commingled finances, such as:
      • Joint bank account statements
      • Joint credit card statements
      • Proof of jointly owned property or assets
  • Lease or Property Documents:
    • If applicable, provide documentation showing joint ownership or joint responsibility for a residence. This could include lease agreements, mortgage documents, or property deeds with both spouses’ names.
  • Correspondence:
    • Include letters, emails, or other forms of communication exchanged between you and your spouse. This can demonstrate ongoing communication and a genuine emotional connection.
  • Affidavits of Support:
    • Submit affidavits from friends, family members, or other individuals who have personal knowledge of your relationship. These affidavits should describe how they know you, how long they have known you, and any observations they have regarding your marriage.
  • Travel and Vacation Records:
    • Provide evidence of trips or vacations taken together, such as flight itineraries, hotel reservations, and photographs from these trips.
  • aShared Responsibilities:
    • Show evidence of shared responsibilities and commitments, such as:
      • Joint utility bills
      • Insurance policies listing both spouses
      • Evidence of joint memberships or subscriptions
  • Social Media and Online Presence:
    • Include printouts or screenshots of social media posts, photos, or other online interactions that showcase your relationship. Be cautious about privacy settings and ensure that any submitted content is relevant and appropriate.
  • Family Photos and Events:
    • Include photos or documents related to family events, gatherings, or celebrations involving both spouses and their families.

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