Having a spouse who lives abroad can inspire marriage strain. After all, those who live separately could begin to grow apart over time due to a lack of shared experiences. Spouses who are separated by international boundaries typically – and very understandably – want to reconnect and live together.
Those who are lawfully living in the United States typically have options to help a spouse who is a citizen of another nation enter the country. But, immigrants may not know which visa program might work to help them reconnect with their spouses. Below is an explanation of an opportunity that is usually the best way to facilitate a reunion with a spouse living abroad for someone who is already lawfully living in the United States.
Filing a petition for an “Alien Relative”
Those who are legally in the United States can help certain loved ones get permission to join them. For those with a spouse or fiancé who lives in another country, there is special immigration paperwork that can help them facilitate their loved one’s entry into the country.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically requires that people fill out Form I-130, a Petition for Alien Relative. Both United States citizens and those with green cards can potentially file a form I-130 to help their spouse lawfully enter the country. When successful, they can become a green card holder, which means they will be a permanent resident.
For those who are citizens, there are programs that can help a spouse live in the United States while a visa is pending. For green card holders, a temporary right to enter the country is often only available if the delay in petition processing lasts three years or longer.
What if the petition fails?
Sometimes, those that submit the necessary paperwork to the USCIS to bring their spouse to the country receive a denial. The good news is that denial notices from the USCIS typically include instructions for the appeals process.
Those who have professional legal support typically have an easier time navigating the often complex USCIS appeals process. In some cases, there may be alternate means of helping a spouse enter the country and obtain either a visa or a green card. Discussing family circumstances with an immigration lawyer can be a good starting point for reuniting with a spouse who is living abroad.