When you first visit the official USCIS page to find out how to bring your spouse to live in the United States as a permanent resident, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused with all the different alternatives, requirements, and form numbers.
To help you with your spouse’s immigration process to the United States, we’ve put together a quick guide to explain the necessary steps, so you can be with your loved one as soon as possible.
The first variable that needs to be analyzed is if you, as the petitioner, are a U.S. citizen, or a permanent resident (“Green Card holder”). Only U.S. citizens or permanent residents can file a petition for a relative.
The process will be slightly different depending on whether your spouse is living or not in the U.S. at the time the petition is filed or approved.
Let’s examine these options one by one.
How to Bring Your Spouse to the U.S. If You're a U.S. Citizen
If you’re a U.S. citizen, the process is easier and quicker.
The first step is to fill out and sign the form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”, and pay the filing fee of $420.
As we said before, the second step will depend on whether your spouse lives or not in the U.S. at the time the petition is filed:
- If your spouse lives in the U.S.: You can file the I-130 form and I-485 “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” on behalf of your spouse at the same time.
- If your spouse lives outside the U.S.: Fill out and file the I-130 form on your spouse’s behalf. After approval, your spouse will be notified by the consulate or embassy, and will be informed of the next step in the process.
How to Bring Your Spouse to the U.S. If You're a Permanent Resident
The process is different if you’re a permanent resident or “Green Card holder”, and it could take more time.
Again, the first step is to fill out and sign the form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”, and pay the filing fee of $420.
The petition will be placed on a waiting list until a visa number becomes available. According to the U.S. Department of State, the waiting period for a visa to be available depends on annual limits set in some visa categories, the date of the filing, and how many people filed for one. In any case, the regular waiting period goes up to two years.
You’ll have two possible scenarios, depending on whether your spouse lives or not in the U.S. at the time the petition is approved:
- If your spouse lives in the U.S.: After the visa becomes available, and the I-130 is approved, your spouse can file the form I-485 to adjust status as a permanent resident.
- If your spouse lives outside the U.S.: After the visa becomes available, and the I-130 is approved, your spouse will be notified via the local consulate or embassy, to complete the process.
To be eligible for an immigrant visa, a person should keep a lawful status while living in the United States; otherwise the approval of the petition will be at risk. Due to this, the spouse may be forced to leave the country before the visa application is approved.
What Documents Do I Need to File with Forms I-130 and I-485?
There are some documents you need to include with your I-130 petition. These documents will help you prove that there’s a real marital relationship between you and your spouse.
Some of these supporting documents, depending on your specific situation, are:
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce certificate
- Death certificate of a deceased spouse
- Marriage annulment certificate
- Name change certificate, or evidence of all legal name changes
As stated on page #2 of the instructions for Form I-130:
Therefore, make sure all of your non-English documents are accurately translated and certified, preferably by a professional USCIS translations specialist.
You should also include proof of your U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status (if applicable). For example:
- A copy of your birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship certificate
- A copy of your valid U.S. passport
- A copy of your GREEN CARD (both sides)
Also, you must provide any documents that evidence the legitimacy of your marriage along with your I-130 form.
When you file form I-485, it is necessary that you fill out and file form I-864, “Affidavit of Support”, as well. This affidavit of support provides proof that you have the necessary means to support your relative, without relying on government assistance.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of documents. Make sure to check every form, and include any and all requested paperwork.
Can My Spouse Live and Work in the U.S. While the Visa Petition Is Pending?
- If you are a U.S. citizen: After filing the I-130 petition, your spouse will be eligible to apply for nonimmigrant K-3 visa. This visa will allow your spouse to live and work in the U.S. while the permanent resident petition is pending. In this case, you will need to file form I-129F on behalf of your non-citizen spouse, after filing form I-130.
- If you are a permanent resident: If your spouse’s I-130 petition meets certain criteria, he or she may opt for a V Nonimmigrant Visa, which allow families to be together while waiting for an immigrant visa.
What Is "Conditional Residency"?
If you and your spouse have been married for less than two years at the time your spouse’s permanent residency is approved, he or she is considered a “conditional permanent resident”.
To remove this condition, you and your spouse should apply together using form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”. It’s critical that you file the petition within the 90 days before the conditional residency expires.
There are some documents that you need to include with your I-751 joint petition, that will help you prove the authenticity of your relationship, and therefore, remove the conditions on your spouse’s residence:
- Birth certificate(s) of the child or children you’ve had together
- Lease or mortgage contract of the house you share and/or own
- Financial records of joint bank accounts
- Any other documents that you consider necessary to prove that your relationship is legitimate
Remember that any document that contains a foreign language must be translated and certified by a professional translator.
What to Do if Your Spouse's Visa Petition Is Denied
If the I-130 residency petition is denied or rejected, there’s still the option to appeal, or file a new petition. The petitioner will receive a letter informing about the decision, and the reasons for the denial. The instructions of how and where to appeal will be in this letter as well.
How to Find out about the Status of a Visa Petition
When you file your petition, the USCIS will issue a number, with which you can verify its status. To check the status of your petition, visit the My Case Status page.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is not intended to be used instead of that provided by the USCIS. Please visit the USCIS website to find out about the official migration procedures and requisites.