First and Foremost, to bring your spouse to live in the U.S. as a permanent resident (green card holder), you must either be a green card holder or a U.S. citizen. Furthermore, there are certain other requirements depending on your current status.
Your are a United States citizen and your spouse Is lawfully In the United States
You must not have committed one of the crimes addressed by the Adam Walsh Act, which include crimes of spousal violence and child abuse. You will need to file an USCIS's I-130 form (Petition for Alien Relative) and an I-485 form (Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status). Please note, there are ancillary forms including I-765 a request for Employment Authorization Document and I-131 — request for issuance of a travel document. There is also form G-325, which needs to be filled out. Filling out the form requires disclosure of biographical, family and employment information of both spouses. To avoid errors, which sometimes may lead to serious problems, take these forms seriously and follow the instructions on each form to the letter. Peruse the instructions before getting to filling out any of these forms.
If you are a United States citizen and your spouse is overseas
You must file an I-130 form (Petition for Alien Relative) along with two passport-time pictures of the spouse and filled-out form G-325A for the spouse. Once the I-130 form is approved, the case will be transferred to the National Visa Center for further processing. It is at that center where all the information is collected for the upcoming interview as well as the requisite immigrant via fees. Once the processing is completed the case will be sent to the consulate office at the place of your spouse's residence. The NVC will notify you and provide further processing information as to the interview's day and place. You should follow the instructions from the NVC carefully. Your delay in doing so would inevitably prolong the processing of the case.
You are a United States citizen. Can minor children accompany or join your spouse to the United States?
No, spouses of U.S. citizens fall into immediate relative category. Being a member of this category will allow your spouse to immigrate into the United States as soon as the visa process is completed or even sooner and without any additional wait caused by annual visa quotas, from which this category is exempt. The opposite side of this eligibility is the fact that immediate relatives are not allowed to bring any derivatives with them.
If you are a green card holder and your spouse is lawfully living in the United States
You must file and I-130 form and then wait until the priority becomes current. Presently the wait time this category is about two years. That, of course, is always subject to change, retrogression and other similar circumstances. After your petition's priority date becomes current, making a visa number immediately available to your spouse, he or she would be able to fill out form I-485 to seek to adjust status to permanent residency. Your spouse must have continuously maintained lawful status in the U.S. to be eligible to adjust status. Again, follow the instructions on each form carefully.
If you are a green card holder and your spouse is overseas
You must file an I-130 form (Petition for Alien Relative). Once the I-130 form is approved, the National Visa Center will notify you and provide further processing information. You should follow National Visa Center's instructions carefully. Failure to do so might result in serious delay in processing of your case.
Note: Members of the U.S. military may have special circumstances regarding their application.
The petitioner must submit:
- Form I-130
- Two signed and completed G-325A forms (one for you and one your spouse)
- A copy of your marriage certificate
- A copy of all divorce decrees, death certificates
- Passport style photos of you and your spouse (see Form I-130 instructions for photo requirements)
- Evidence of all legal name changes for you and/or your spouse (may include marriage certificates, divorce decrees, court judgment of name change, adoption decrees, etc.)
- If you are a U.S. citizen, you must provide proof of your status with
- A copy of your valid U.S. passport OR
- A copy of your U.S. birth certificate OR
- A copy of Consular Report of Birth Abroad OR
- A copy of your naturalization certificate OR
- A copy of your certificate of citizenship
- If you are a green card holder (permanent resident), you must provide proof of your status with:
- A copy (front and back) of Form I-551 (green card) OR
- A copy of your foreign passport bearing a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent residence
Conditional v. permanent residency
If you and your spouse have been married for less than 2 years at the time your spouse is granted permanent resident status, your spouse will receive a conditional basis for their permanent resident status. This conditional basis can be removed by applying jointly for an I-751 form (Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence). This application must be filed within 90 days before the expiration date on the conditional resident card. Failure to file within this 90-day period will result in a termination of your spouse's resident status, subjecting them to possible removal from the United States.
You can always check the status of your case by visiting the USCIS.gov website.
Entry into the USA while immigrant petition is pending
Your spouse may be eligible to enter the U.S. while their Visa petition is under review. Once you have filed an I-130 form, your spouse is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. This will enable your spouse to live and work in the U.S. while the visa petition is pending. To apply for a nonimmigrant visa, you must file an I-129F form.
In case the visa petition you have filed for your spouse is denied, it is possible to appeal the decision. Once you have received the denial letter, the letter will provide instruction on how and when to appeal.
Additional benefits for preference category immigrant
Preference classification beneficiaries may be eligible for certain benefits. If you have children who did not receive permanent residence at the same time that you did, you may not need to file a separate I-130 form for your children. They may also be exempt from waiting for an available visa number. All that may be required is that you, the parent, notify the U.S. consulate of your permanent residence status so that your children may apply for an immigrant visa.
Your children may receive following-to-join benefits if the relationship has existed since you received permanent residence AND you received and immigrant visa or adjusted status in a preference category.
To receive following-to-join benefits:
- Complete an I-824 form (Application for Action on an Approved Application)
- Submit a copy of the original application that you used to apply for immigrant status
- Submit a copy of I-797 Notice of Action form for the original application
- Submit a copy your Green Card form (I-551)
You can also file to adjust status to permanent residence with your child on your I-485 form. This is only available if you have not yet filed to adjust status. There is no additional documentation needed when filing with your child.
Both the petitioning as well as the applicant spouse should keep in mind that regardless of the category or type of visa petition, there is much more to this process than filling out forms. It is recommended to hire a competent immigration attorney to guide you through this complicated process. Presence of a competent attorney on the case is the best approach one could take to insure as smooth and stress as well as complication-free process as could be humanly possible to achieve under the circumstances.