Our spouse visa lawyer discusses the immigrant visas available to spouses of US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders). Apart from the marriage-based green cards for spouses of US citizens and green card holders, there is also K1 visa available to fiancés of US citizens.
First, let’s look at definition of who will be considered a spouse of a US citizen or a US permanent resident. According to US immigration law, a spouse is broadly defined as a legally wedded husband or wife. For immigration purposes, merely dating and living together does not qualify as a marriage.
However, common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes if the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurred permit such a marriage and certain conditions are met.
Our marriage visa lawyer explains that for marriages that occurred in countries where polygamy is allowed, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for US immigration purposes.
Immigrant visas are available to spouses of both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR). There are two types of marriage visas:
- CR-1 visa, which is available to spouses of U.S. citizens, and
- F-2A visa, which is available to spouses of LPR (green card holders).
These two marriage visas are very similar, but the F-2A visa takes longer to process.
The basic requirements for the marriage visas are:
- The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen (CR-1) or lawful permanent resident (F-2A).
- The sponsor and the applicant must be already married, have a marriage license and provide additional proof to show there is a bona fide marriage. A bona fide marriage means the marriage is real and for entered into genuine reasons and not to evade US immigration laws.
- The sponsor is able to financially support their spouse by meeting at least the minimum federal poverty guidelines.
In cases where the US citizen or permanent resident does not have enough money to qualify, he or she may be able to use a co-sponsor, for example a parent or another close relative. Another option is for the sponsor to show that he or she has assets such as real estate, cash in a bank account or other investments such as stocks, bonds or crypto currencies.
Steps to apply for marriage visa
Our spouse visa lawyer explains that for spouses outside the US, the steps to apply for a marriage visa are:
- US citizen or permanent resident files I-130 and I-130A immigrant petition with US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)
- If I-130 petition is approved, it is then sent to the National Visa Center (NVC)
- After NVC, the case is sent to the consulate where the spouse resides
- US Consulate or Embassy contacts spouse with instructions about how to make a visa interview appointment and other steps necessary to get the spouse immigrant visa
- Spouse attends visa interview at US Consulate
The USCIS processing time for I-130 petitions for spouses of US citizens is approximately 10-13 months. Then the processing time at NVC and US consulate is about 3 to 6 months depending on location and the local conditions.
For spouses of US permanent residents, the process is likely to take between 2 to 2.5 years. However, the processing time is expected to decrease due to recent policy changes.
Our marriage visa lawyer explains that for spouses currently in the US, the sponsoring US citizen or US resident has to submit the same I-130 immigrant petition to USCIS as those filing for spouses outside the US. At the same time, the spouse can submit an I-485 application for adjustment of status. To learn more about applying for a marriage visa while present in the United States, visit our page.
There are two other optional applications that can be submitted together with the I-485 application to adjust status:
- I-765 Application for employment authorization; and
- I-131 Application for travel document
If approved, the I-765 application for employment authorization gives the spouse the right to work in the United States until the marriage green card arrives. The I-131 application for travel document allows the spouse to travel outside of the US while waiting for final green card approval.
For spouses who have been married less than 2 years, the green card is conditional, meaning that it expires in 2 years if the condition is not removed. To do that, both spouses must submit a joint petition to remove the 2-year condition which should be done 90 days before the conditional green card expiration date.
Malescu Law P.A. – Immigration Lawyers