How to apply for a US Spouse Visa
For non-US nationals married to a US citizen or to an individual holding US permanent residence, there are two possible routes to seek permission to come to the US under a spouse visa for the USA:
- Immigrant visa (Green Card) for a spouse of a US citizen
- Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3 visa)
Looking specifically at the immigrant visa option, how can a non-US spouse secure a Green Card?
The process of applying for a Green Card through marriage will depend on whether you’re applying from within the US or from overseas, and whether your spouse is a US citizen or a US permanent resident.
Eligibility for a Green Card through Marriage
To apply for a Green Card through marriage, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- If you are applying from overseas, you must be eligible to be granted an immigrant visa
- If you are applying from within the US, you must complete and file form I-485.
- You pass USCIS scrutiny and have been ‘inspected and admitted’ or ‘inspected and paroled’ into the US.
- You are in a genuine and existing marriage to the sponsoring US citizen spouse or US permanent resident spouse.
- You are the beneficiary of a filed and ultimately successful form I-130 completed by your spouse.
- You are not precluded by any bars to adjustment.
- You are admissible to the US for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.
If you do not meet these requirements, it’s highly likely your application will be rejected, and as a result, you will lose your application fee. As such, it’s advisable to take professional guidance if you are concerned about eligibility before you submit your application.
Immigrant Spouse Visa Application Process
To apply for your Green Card through marriage, you will be required to complete and file an immigrant petition with USCIS and attend a visa interview at a US consular post abroad if you are applying from overseas or make an application to adjust your status if within the US.
If your spouse is a US citizen
US citizens sponsor their spouses as ‘immediate relatives’ using form I-130.
If approved, a visa number will be provided without a backlog as immigrant visas for immediate relatives of US citizens are unlimited and always available – which you then use to file Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status and apply for a Green Card.
If your spouse is a US permanent resident
Once form I-130 has been approved, you will have to wait for a visa number to become available, and for your ‘priority date’ to become current.
To track your priority date, check the US State Department’s monthly “Visa Bulletin“.
There is an annual cap on the number of visas issued each year under this route. As a result, there is a waiting list. This is a longer process than if your spouse is a US citizen, and can take anywhere up to 4 or 5 years before a visa number becomes available.
When the visa number is issued, you can then apply for a visa or to adjust your status.
If your application is successful and you are in the US
Once your visa number has been issued, if you are inside the US you may apply to adjust your status to that of a US permanent resident.
Prior to submitting your application to adjust status, you will be required to attend a medical exam at an authorized physician’s office. You will need to submit these results with your application to adjust your status.
Once the application to adjust status is complete, it will be submitted to USCIS for adjudication. Application processing times may vary depending on USCIS workload; it’s best to confirm current processing times when the application to adjust status is filed.
Following submission of the application to adjust status, you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment at a local USCIS office.
You may also be asked to attend an adjustment of status interview at a local USCIS office.
At the adjustment of status interview, the interviewing officer may ask you questions to confirm the accuracy of the information and documentation provided in the application. In addition, the interviewing officer may request to review the original supporting documents submitted as copies with the application to adjust status.
If during the adjudication process a USCIS adjudicating officer determines that additional information and/or documentation is needed to render a decision on a case, a request for additional information will be issued. Such requests vary in length depending on the extent of information and documentation requested. Upon receipt of the requested information and documentation, USCIS will resume processing of the application and making a final decision.
If your application is successful and you are outside the US
If you are outside the US it will be necessary for you to obtain an immigrant visa at a consular post abroad for you to enter the US as a permanent resident.
Following petition approval, the immigrant petition will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) for immigrant visa pre-processing. NVC will collect documentation necessary to verify your eligibility for the immigrant visa.
Such documentation includes (but is not limited to):
- Copy of your birth certificate; and
- Copies of police certificates for any jurisdiction where you have resided or been arrested.
You will also be required to attend an immigrant visa interview after the NVC transfers the supporting documentation to the consular post.
At the immigrant visa interview, a consular officer will ask you questions to confirm the accuracy of the information provided in the immigrant petition. In addition, the consular officer may request to review the original documents submitted as copies to NVC. You will be notified of the decision made on your application at the interview. Provided the application is approved, the consular officer will retain your passport for visa stamping.
Your passport with embossed immigrant visa stamp will be returned to you within approximately one week of the interview. You will also receive a sealed immigrant packet to present upon your initial entry to the US as a permanent resident.
Upon receipt of your passport, you may enter the US by presenting your unexpired immigrant visa and sealed immigrant packet at a US port of entry. Your permanent residency will become effective on the date you are admitted.
Your immigrant visa will serve as evidence of your permanent residency until your permanent resident card, or Green Card, is issued.
Maintaining Permanent Residence
Successful applicants will be provided a Green Card, or permanent residence card, valid for ten years, at which point you will need to apply to renew the card.
You will need to continue to meet certain conditions to retain your permanent residence status. For example, you must continue to reside in the US, and be mindful that any long-term or frequent travel outside the US may lead to unintentional abandonment of your permanent resident status.
Permanent residence may also be revoked following the commission of serious offenses.
NNU Immigration’s specialist US immigration attorneys can help with all Green Card applications, including eligibility through marriage.
If you have a specific question or require support with your spouse visa application, please get in touch contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.
Last updated: 13 December 2019