Now that you have completed the naturalization process or if your are an natural born United States citizen, it’s time to bring your spouse to live with you in America. Because of your citizenship, your spouse qualifies as an immediate relative. Congress has placed a limitation on how many immigrants may be granted visas each year in certain preference categories, but as an immediate relative your spouse will have no waiting period at all. There are no limitations on the amount of immediate relatives who may enter the U.S. each year, so as soon as you complete the application process your spouse can join you in your new home. This website serves to simplify your application process by clarifying the confusing legal jargon found on USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) forms. Take a look around the site and begin your application as soon as possible—you’re one step closer to being reunited with your loved one in America.
Of course, even immediate relatives must file a lot of paperwork before obtaining their green card. Completing all of the forms and going through all of the USCIS processing often takes a year or so. The quicker you begin the application the better. First, you must make sure you meet a few conditions. Only file your visa petition if your spouse is ready to live in the U.S. If your spouse is currently working or otherwise detained overseas and is not yet able to move, wait until they can show the USCIS that they are prepared to immigrate or else they could lose their opportunity for a green card. Also, as your wife or husband’s sponsor, you must be able to show that your household income is enough to support your family at 125% or more above the United States poverty level for your household size. To determine the poverty level guidelines for your household size, check the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Make sure to consult an attorney if you, the petitioner, have any criminal record. Failure to do will only delay your application process, and very possibly end up with your petition rejected.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should only apply for a green card if you and your spouse have entered a bona fide, legal marriage. You will have to prove to the USCIS that you and your spouse have a legitimate marriage, entered into for love, and that it is recognized as valid by the laws of your home country. The ever-cautious USCIS has deemed that about half of all marriage-based green card petitions are fraudulent. Because of this assumption, the interview process for a marriage-based green card is notoriously rigorous, and you must provide sufficient evidence that your marriage is bona fide. Those found guilty of attempting to bypass immigration laws through a fraudulent marriage will be charged with a federal crime. This is a very serious offense, and the guilty party could be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to $250,000. Also, permanent residents run the risk of deportation. Before you apply for a green card based on a fraudulent marriage, think about these consequences. You could ruin your chance of ever obtaining a green card in the future. Of course, if your marriage is indeed legitimate, the USCIS will soon determine that your marriage is bona fide and your spouse will eventually be granted a green card.
Once you verify that you meet these conditions, it is time to begin the application process! Your first step is to submit a visa petition on behalf of your spouse. This is form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives), and you must submit it to your local USCIS office by mail (not in person!). This form establishes the relationship between you and your spouse. Along with this form, you will submit two copies of form G-325A, which is your biographical information, one each for you and your spouse. You must each fill out a separate form and sign it. Basically, this form includes information about your parents, former employment, and residences, and can be used to check your spouse’s background. You will also need two passport style-photos, in color, one of the husband and one of the wife. These photos need to be taken within thirty days of the filing, and should have your name written on the back in case of separation from your file. Then, you should include proof that you, the petitioner, are a United States citizen. This could be a photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate, etc. In this situation it is legal and appropriate to send photocopies. Do not include original documents or you might never see them again. Also send copies of documents that verify the validity of your marriage, such as your marriage certificate and any divorce decrees or other proof of the termination of any previous marriages. Finally, include the filing fee (currently $420) in the form of check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
After this visa petition is approved, you should begin part two of your application process. If your spouse is living overseas, he or she will go through consular processing through an overseas U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If your spouse is currently living in the United States (legally), they will then file form I-485 to adjust status and become a permanent resident. If your spouse is living in the U.S. illegally, consult an immigration attorney. This could cause serious problems and result in a three or ten year ban on reentry. Regardless of whether or not your spouse is applying for adjustment of status or applying for their green card at a consulate abroad, you will need to gather sufficient evidence to prove the legitimacy of your marriage at your green card interview. Some of these documents include but are not limited to birth certificates for any children born of the marriage, leases on residences that you shared, joint bank account statements or any bills/statements that include both of your names, federal income tax returns, etc. You could also include your wedding pictures or any photos of the two of you spending time together before or after your marriage. The goal is to show the USCIS that you entered your marriage for love, not for a greed card. In the end, your spouse will be granted their green card and need to immigrate to the U.S. within six months.
If your spouse is living overseas, you also have the option of filing for the K-3 or fiancé visa, which is further detailed elsewhere on this website. The K-3 visa allows the immigrant to enter the United States to finish applying for their green card. However, the K-3 visa is not always faster, and is certainly more expensive (over $1000). In most cases, it is probably more advisable to go ahead and file for a marriage-based petition.
If your marriage is less than two years old, your spouse will only be granted “conditional permanent residence.” You will need to remove the conditions on residence with form I-751 within ninety days before the second anniversary of your spouse’s conditional permanent residence. With this form you will need to include the $505 filing fee along with evidence of a bona fide marriage, similar to the evidence mentioned earlier. Don’t worry—the two years your spouse spent as a conditional resident will still count as permanent residence towards naturalization and other purposes. It simply provides the USCIS with another opportunity to verify the legitimacy of your marriage.
The good news is that as a full-fledged American citizen there is no wait for your spouse’s visa number. If you become a citizen after you have already begun the visa petition for your spouse as a lawful permanent resident, simply send a letter with a copy of your naturalization certificate to the USCIS office you corresponded with most recently. This will upgrade your spouse to immediate relative so you can expedite the application process. Though the entire process will still take about a year or so, it will be worth it in the end to be reunited with your husband or wife in the U.S.
Eugene Jones is a principal in www.ImmiGreatNow.com.com which provides web solutions for family Immigration. Eugene is also a principal in www.connect4business.com a lotus domino manufacturing solution and www.nauvou.com.com web based solutions for customer support.