American citizens have two means of bringing their foreign husbands or wives to the United States to live. You may “sponsor” your spouse’s immigrant visa for entry to the United States. If you follow this process, your foreign spouse will complete the visa process completely outside the U.S., and then arrive in the United States and obtain permanent residency status immediately. You will need to submit an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative. After the USCIS, the National Visa Center and the U.S. Embassy complete all the necessary administrative processing your spouse will be granted an immigrant visa. Your spouse will receive an IR1 or a CR1 visa. An IR-1 (IR stands for “Immediate Relative”) visa allows your spouse to immigrate to the U.S. A CR1 Visa (CR stands for “Conditional Residency”) will be given to you if your marriage is less than 2 years old. It is conditional for two years.
You can also obtain a non-immigrant K-3 visa. K3 visas are granted normally within a few months. You should use the K3 visa to start the process outside of the U.S. and then travel to the U.S. to complete the immigration process. Please note that in this case, the application must be made in the country where the marriage took place. If your marriage took place in the U.S., your spouse must apply for a K3 visa through the U.S. Embassy in the country of his/her residence. In addition, the applicant needs to have also filed a Petition for alien fiancé on his/her behalf. Usually the USCIS requests a Petition for alien fiancé rather than a Petition for alien spouse. After the visa has been issued, the spouse can travel to the US.
To obtain either visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be legally married. Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration. Unmarried partners are ineligible to sponsor visas to the United States.
- In most cases you must have a residence in the U.S. to apply.
- You must be 18 years old before you can sign the Affidavit of Support, which is a form that will be required later in the process.
If you live outside the U.S.:
If you want to bring your foreign spouse to the U.S., but you are currently living outside the U.S., you must submit a visa petition to either your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or directly to the U.S. Embassy where your foreign spouse resides. Once the visa petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a packet from the National Visa Center (NVC). The packet informs your foreign spouse of the various documents which must be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (e.g., passport, police clearances, results of medical examinations, etc.). The packet includes certain documents requesting biographic data that must be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Usually, the foreign-born spouse is interviewed and granted an immigrant visa within three to six months. If you and your spouse are planning to remain outside the U.S. indefinitely, it is not recommended that you apply for a Green Card. The Green Card could be cancelled at the Port of Entry to the U.S. if you have spent more than six months outside of the US. The Immigration Officer at the Port of Entry will have to determine if the U.S. is your main home, so be prepared for a myriad of questions.
If you both already live in the US:
The U.S. citizen must submit a Petition for Alien Relative to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to prove that the marriage is genuine. The petitioner must also include in his package a plethora of biographical information which will determine his or her eligibility. At the same time, the foreign-born spouse, assuming he or she entered the U.S. lawfully, should submit an application for adjustment of status.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (516) 858-2620 to speak to an Immigration attorney! The Law Firm of Vaughn & Weber will be glad to be of assistance in any Immigration matters you may have.
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