In order to bring your spouse (husband or wife) to live in the United States as a green card holder (permanent resident), you must be either a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
Who is a “Spouse”?
A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife.
- Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.
- Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs.
- In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.
How to apply?
The first step is to file a Petition for Alien Relative with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) for your spouse. In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition outside of the United States for their spouse. Once you receive an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa is available, there are two ways to apply for lawful permanent resident status (a Green Card). If you are outside of the United States, you may apply at a U.S. Department of State Embassy or Consulate abroad for an immigrant visa to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as “consular processing”. Following your arrival in the United States, you will be sent your green card. If you have been married for less than two years, you will be granted conditional residence.
What Is Conditional Residence?
If you have been married for less than two years when you enter the United States on an immigrant visa, your permanent resident status is considered “conditional”. The immigrant visa is a conditional resident (CR) visa, not an immediate relative (IR) visa. You must apply to remove the conditional status within the ninety days before the two-year anniversary of your spouse’s entry into the United States. The two-year anniversary date of entry is the date of expiration on the alien registration card (green card).
What if my Spouse is Already in the United States?
If you spouse was lawfully admitted into the United States, you may be able to file for an Adjustment of Status. Adjustment of status is the process that you can use to apply for lawful permanent resident status (also known as applying for a Green Card) when you are present in the United States. This means that you may get a Green Card without having to return to your home country to complete visa processing.
How Long Does It Take to Get my Spouse Permanent Resident Status/a Green Card?
The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer.
U.S. Sponsor Minimum Age Requirement
There is no minimum age for a U.S. sponsor (petitioner) to file a petition for a spouse. However, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a residence (domicile) in the U.S. before you can sign the Affidavit of Support. This form is required for an immigrant visa
for a spouse and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.
Is Residence in the U.S. Required for the U.S. Sponsor?
Yes. As a U.S. sponsor/petitioner, you must maintain your principal residence (also called domicile) in the United States, which is where you plan to live for the foreseeable future. Living in the United States is required for a U.S. sponsor to file the Affidavit of Support, with few exceptions.
What about same-sex spouses?
Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved petition.
What if my Spouse is in the United States Undocumented?
Depending on certain factors, there may be a way to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident Status (a green card) for your spouse. A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver may be available to you. Please visit our “Waiver” page for more information. If you or your spouse are in the Military, please visit our page on “Military & Immigration”.
What if we are not married?
A K-1 Fiancé visa may be right for you. Please visit our page on “K-1 Fiancé Visas”.