ImmigrationPetitioning for a Spouse: A How to Guide

September 12, 2019

For individuals with spouses in other countries, the process of petitioning for a spouse can take months or even years to complete, depending on if the petitioner is a U.S citizen or a permanent resident. It can still be done, but each path is different and presents its own set of unique challenges.

The following are the types of relatives that can be petitioned for a green card. These categories fall as top priority for family-based immigration in the U.S.

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S citizen
  • Parent of a U.S citizen who is at least 21 years old.

Petitioning as a U.S. Citizen:

For marriage-based petitions, it is faster if the spouse petitioning is a U.S citizen. After the application is accepted and the green card is issued, if the marriage is less than 2 years old at the time of the application, the residency will be considered “conditional” and will expire in two years. The green card can later be renewed as long as you remain married and live together; giving immigration authorities another chance to determine if the marriage is legitimate. If your marriage is older than 2 years, this condition will not apply and immigration authorities will deem your relationship as bona fide, or real. Afterwards, your spouse can apply for citizenship after 3 years.

Petitioning as a U.S. Citizen:

Even if you’re not a citizen, the short answer is yes, you can still petition for a spouse as a green card holder. However, the process of petitioning for your spouse will be longer and more tedious. Rather than petitioning for your spouse for permanent residency, you would petition for an immigrant visa under the Family Preference Second category.

Some things to know about immigrant visas include:

  • There are a limited number of visas issued every year under this category.
  • Your spouse will file a I-130 visa petition, and from there, be put on a waiting list.

Waiting times can be about 5 years or longer, depending on which country your spouse originates from. Given the different path that can be taken to petition for a spouse, having citizenship will bring your spouse into the U.S in a much shorter time than an immigrant visa would. If you are currently a legal permanent resident and qualify for citizenship, consider naturalizing, not only as a way to bring your spouse faster, but as a permanent immigration status that grants you more benefits than a green card can.

If you would like to learn more about applying for citizenship or petitioning for your spouse, call our office to schedule an appointment with Ms. Nina Jafari. We will work with you to help you decide what the best path is to address your immigration needs.

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