U.S. immigration policies try to help keep families together. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and U.S. citizens can ask for visas that would let many of their foreign relatives come to the U.S.
The husbands or wives of U.S. citizens and green card holders might be eligible for a marriage-based green card that would let them permanently live and work in the U.S. Petitioning for your husband or wife for a marriage-based green card requires you to prove that your marriage is real. Also, you must show that you can financially support your husband or wife if their petition is approved and they get a green card. The process depends on your immigration status—U.S. law limits the number of visas that can be granted for certain categories of people.
There are two ways to get a marriage-based green card for your husband or wife:
1) consular processing and
2) adjustment of status. The process that is right for you depends on your immigration status and where your husband or wife lives now.
My Husband or Wife Is Living Outside of the U.S.
Your husband or wife can get a green card through consular processing. With consular processing, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC) and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad work together to give out visas when they become available.
Once approved, a visa will allow your husband or wife to travel to the U.S. They will receive a green card when they enter the country.
To petition your husband or wife for a marriage-based green card, you should:
- File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and pay the filing fee of $535 USD. This form will let you petition a relative for a U.S. visa. The form will ask you to give information about your relationship with your husband or wife. You will need to send a copy of your marriage license as evidence of your marriage. Note that even if the USCIS approves your Form I-130, that doesn’t automatically mean that your husband or wife can legally work or live in the U.S.
- The USCIS will send you a notice in the mail that will either confirm that it has begun processing your application or let you that know that it needs more information from you. Be sure to send in all the necessary documents and complete all the forms correctly the first time.
- Once the USCIS is done reviewing your application, it will mail you its decision. If it rejects your application, it will let you know about any rights you might have to appeal. Once your application is approved, the NVC will let you and your husband or wife know when a visa becomes available so your husband or wife can apply for a visa. (Note: The husband or wife of a U.S. citizen doesn’t need to wait for a visa to become available.)
- The NVC will send you a fee of $120 USD to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. Fill out this form to show that you have enough money to support your husband or wife when they come to the U.S. Your husband or wife should submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) and pay the filing fee of $230 USD. Your notice from NVC will tell you how to do this.
- NVC will work with a U.S. embassy or consulate to schedule your husband or wife for an interview. An officer at this interview will decide whether your husband or wife is eligible for an immigrant visa.
- After the interview, the consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate will let your husband or wife know whether the visa is approved or denied. If the visa is approved, your husband or wife may enter the U.S. and receive their green card.
My Husband or Wife Is Already Legally in the U.S.
Your husband or wife might be eligible for a green card through adjustment of status. This means your husband or wife can change their status from a visa holder to a green card holder, allowing them to permanently live in the U.S.
It takes two forms for a person who’s legally in the U.S. to get a marriage-based green card: Form I-130 and Form I-485. The U.S. citizen or green card holder files Form I-130 for their husband or wife. The foreign national husband or wife files Form I-485. The husband or wife of a U.S. citizen can file Form I-485 at the same time as their husband or wife files Form I-130. This is called concurrent filing.
However, the process takes two steps for the husbands or wives of green card holders:
- First, you must file Form I-130 for your husband or wife and wait for the USCIS to approve it. Then you need to wait for the priority date for your husband or wife’s category to become current. (Their priority date is the date when the USCIS accepted your Form I-130 as properly filed.)
- The USCIS will send you Form I-797, Notice of Action, which will let you know whether your application has been received or approved. When the petition is approved and the priority date becomes current, the foreign national husband or wife needs to file Form I-485. They should send a copy of the receipt for Form I-130 or a copy of the Form I-797 notice with their application.
What If I’ve Become a U.S. Citizen Since I Filed Form I-130 for My Husband or Wife?
It’s important to make sure that the USCIS knows you have become a naturalized U.S. citizen since you filed Form I-130 for your husband or wife. Your husband or wife’s case could be approved faster if the USCIS knows you have become a citizen.
You should let the NVC know if this happens while your husband or wife is abroad and waiting for their priority date to become current. You can do this by sending a letter about your husband or wife’s case, a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization and a copy of your Form I-797 approval notice to this address:
National Visa Center
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914
How Long Will It Take for My Petition to Be Approved?
The time it takes to approve your petition depends on a lot of different things. The USCIS tries to process green card applications within five months. For the immediate relatives (the husband or wife, parent, or child under 21) of a U.S. citizen, it takes the USCIS about six months. And it could take longer if the USCIS is dealing with a large number of applications. Click here to see how long you can expect the USCIS to take to process your application.