Every year, thousands of people immigrate to the United States, leaving loved ones behind in hopes of one day reuniting.
Fortunately, U.S. immigration laws favor spouses and other immediate family members of a citizen or of a lawful permanent resident. They are given relatively high priority when it comes to the issuance of immigrant visas.
In U.S. immigration law, the term “spouse” refers to a partner you are in a legally recognized and legitimate marital relationship. There is a different process for fiancés waiting to be married.
According to the National Visa Center, an immigrant visa petition to bring your spouse to the United States may only be filed if you:
You and your spouse must follow a three-step process for your spouse to become a legal immigrant.
You will need to complete an Immigrant Visa Petition (Form I-130) and pay your spouse’s $550 filing fee.
If the applicant is a U.S. citizen, the spouse will not be placed on the waiting list. United States immigration law gives special consideration to the immediate family members of U.S. citizens.
The United States Department of State will ask your spouse to apply for an immigrant visa. This can happen as soon as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the petition using Form I-130.
If the applicant is a lawful permanent resident (has a green card), their spouse will be placed on a waiting list. They must wait to receive an immigrant visa number. Due to many applicants and other immigration restrictions, wait times are often two years or more.
If your spouse is not in the country legally, they may need to leave the United States to avoid accumulating evidence against their eligibility. This could affect their qualification to receive an immigrant visa number.
Check the Department of State visa bulletin to determine the current wait times for your spouse to receive a visa number.
If your spouse is outside the United States, they will wait until the visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa number is available (if necessary). Then they will be notified to go to the local consulate or U.S. embassy and complete the immigrant visa application process with a consular officer.
If your spouse is legally in the United States when the visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa number is available (if necessary), you can use Form I-485 to adjust your permanent legal resident status.
Spouses of U.S. citizens who are legally in the United States can file their petitions using Form I-130 and Form I-485 to adjust their status at the same time.
Suppose a couple has been married for less than two years when the permanent resident status is granted. In that case, the spouse will receive a conditional or temporary permanent residence card.
Both you and your spouse must file a joint application using Form I-751 to remove conditional status. The application must be submitted within 90 days before the expiration date on your spouse’s conditional permanent resident card to remove conditional status.
If you do not apply within this period, your spouse’s legal resident status will end, and you may face deportation.
Yes. If you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse qualifies to apply for a K-3 visa once you file the I-130 form. This document allows you to come to the United States to live and work while the visa petition is pending.
Spouses of permanent residents cannot come to the United States to live or work while their visa petition is in process.
When it comes to immigration and whether you can live and work where you want, every detail matters. When the slightest paperwork error or missed deadline can mean years of delays, it is essential to do things right the first time. An experienced immigration lawyer can address your particular needs with immigration, and put you in the best position for a positive outcome. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your rights and specific situation.