SPOUSE OUTSIDE THE U.S.
Marriage to the U.S. citizen is the most common and fastest way of getting a green card for a foreign national. If a foreign national marries the U.S. citizen abroad, the foreign national becomes an immediate relative of the U.S. spouse regardless of the place where marriage took place. The biggest advantage of being classified as an immediate relative for immigration purposes is they can immigrate to the United States without waiting in the line until priority date becomes available for them.
Avoiding Potential Problems with Tourist Visa
The processing time of reviewing application for a green card for the spouses of U.S. citizens who reside abroad usually takes from 6 to 9 months, sometimes even more if the paperwork was filed incorrectly or the U.S. consulate abroad experiences delays. Majority of clients usually ask us if there is a way around it. Sometimes, couples think that it would be easier and faster if the spouse comes to the U.S. on a tourist visa and adjust her status here in the U.S. However, doing so can be dangerous and cause extra problems. In some cases, the fastest way to bring your spouse to the U.S. may not be the best.
For example, the spouse of a U.S. citizen, who resides in Ukraine, applies for a travel visa with the U.S. consulate. During the interview, she told the U.S. consul that the main purpose of her trip to the U.S. is to visit New York, Los Angeles, and other touristic places. Nonetheless, spouse’s original intention was to come to the U.S. to reconcile with her husband and apply for a green card. In this case it can be considered misrepresentation and cause problems when filing for adjustment of status. A similar scenario, a spouse of a U.S. citizen who was issued a tourist visa before marriage. After marriage, she decided to use her valid tourist visa to come the U.S. to reconcile with her husband and apply for a green card in the U.S. At the port of entry, she told the Customs and Border Protection officer that she came to the U.S. to visit new places. The spouse’s misrepresentation and fraud made during the interview and on the customs border can significantly hurt her application for green card in the U.S. and in some cases will make her inadmissible to adjust status or enter the U.S. again.
THE PROCESS OF BRINGING YOUR SPOUSE TO THE U.S.
1. FILING PETITION FOR ALIEN RELATIVE WITH USCIS
The process of bringing your spouse to the U.S. starts from filing Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS by the U.S. citizen. The purpose of this form is to establish the legitimacy of the family relationship. The mere existence of a marriage certificate will not be enough to establish a bona fide marital relationship. You will be required to submit comprehensive package emphasizing the legitimacy of your family relationship that includes signed affidavits from friends, love letters, joint bank account, joint lease or mortgage and so on.
2. NATIONAL VISA CENTER PROCESSING
After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition and instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant and petitioner with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, and more.
3. VISA INTERVIEW AT THE U.S. CONSULATE OR EMBASSY
– Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they will schedule an interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing immigration petition and supporting documents, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the spouse will be interviewed for a visa.
– During the interview, immigration officer will review visa application again to ensure that spouse is admissible to the U.S. If the visa application is approved, spouse will receive immigrant visa that can be used to come to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
– If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents you provided before. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States.
– You are required to enter the United States within 6 months after being issued an immigrant visa.
4. AT THE PORT OF ENTRY
At the port of entry the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will stamp your spouse’s passport with temporary Form I-551 (green card) evidencing lawful permanent resident status. Your actual green card will be mailed to you lately at the mailing address that you provided to NVC.
5. REMOVING CONDITION ON YOUR GREEN CARD
If you have been married less than 2 years when your spouse was granted permanent resident status, your spouse will receive two year conditional green card. In order to remove the condition on the spouse’s green card, both spouses need to jointly petition to remove the condition within 90 days before the expiration date on the conditional resident card. If you fail to file during this time, your spouse’s resident status will be terminated and he or she may be subject to removal from the United States. If the couple has been married for more than 2 years prior to adjustment of status, the foreign national will receive a green card without conditions valid for 10 years.
6. APPLYING FOR CITIZENSHIP
As the spouse of the U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship in 3 years of continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder. You will also need to meet other requirements, such as:
– Be at least 18 years old
– Remain married to their U.S. citizen spouse
– Have been married and living with the same U.S. citizen spouse for the past three years, and
– The U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for the past three years
If any of the above conditions are not met, then the permanent resident spouse will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization following 5 years as a permanent resident.