If you’re a U.S. citizen, the process of obtaining permanent resident status (commonly known as getting a green card) for a spouse who’s a foreign national varies depending on whether they’re currently living here on a temporary visa or still living outside the U.S.
When the spouse is already in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), for a spouse who’s already in the U.S., you’ll need to complete two forms:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
Those forms should both be submitted to the USCIS for review and processing.
When the spouse is living outside the U.S.
If your spouse is still living outside the U.S., you’ll need to complete the first of those forms (I-130) and have that approved by the USCIS. Once approved, it will then need to go to the appropriate embassy or consulate for their review.
When submitting the I-130 form, there’s an extensive list of documentation required. This includes documentation of your marriage and any previous divorces as well as a number of identifying documents from your spouse.
Can the foreign spouse move to the U.S. while the application is pending?
A common question is whether a spouse who’s still living abroad can reside in the U.S. while their green card application is pending. If you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse can apply for a K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa that lets them live and work in the U.S. while their application is being reviewed and processed.
It should be noted that if you are a green card holder yourself rather than a U.S. citizen, you can still apply for your spouse to get a green card as well. The process, however, is somewhat different.
As with any process that involves the U.S. Government (let alone another country’s government as well), you’re going to need to be patient. However, by doing everything correctly, you can improve your chances of the whole thing going more quickly and smoothly. You can also reduce the chances that the application will be denied. Having legal guidance is a good first step.