Immigration for spouses of U.S. citizens

A U.S. citizen may petition for an immigrant visa for his or her spouse. This process takes longer than obtaining a K-1 visa, but the spouse will come to the United States as an immigrant. If the spouse arrives in the United States on an immigrant visa (or changes his or her status in the United States) less than two years after the marriage, Citizenship and Immigration Services will grant conditional resident status for two years. This means that within the last 90 days before the two-year period expires, you must file a request to have the conditional status removed. If the spouse divorced during those two years, the conditional status will still be removed if the marriage was conducted legally and without fraud. If the spouse comes to the United States on an immigrant visa (or changes his or her status in the United States) more than two years after the date of the marriage, permanent residency will be granted immediately. In either case, the spouse may obtain citizenship three years after he or she acquires conditional or unconditional permanent residency status if the marriage has not been dissolved.

What is the immigration process for a spouse?

The process is fairly straightforward. The U.S. citizen must file a Form I-130 petition with the appropriate documentation at the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) office. If the spouse is already in the United States, he or she should apply for a change of status together with the petition. After the petition is approved, the spouse must either appear for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy abroad or continue the adjustment of status in the United States. Permanent resident status is obtained (1) upon arrival in the United States on an immigrant visa, or (2) upon receipt of an approval of the I-485 petition. If the spouse is granted conditional permanent resident status, he/she must file Form I-751 to have the conditional status removed within the last 90 days before the expiration of the two-year period of conditional status.

What happens during the visa or adjustment of status interview?

The immigration officer checks the marriage for legitimacy. If there is any suspicion that the marriage is fictitious, he may arrange separate interviews for the parties (if a U.S. citizen is present) with more intimate questions about their relationship (such as which side of the bed the husband sleeps on, what toothpaste he uses), and about the families of each party, then compares the parties’ answers for discrepancies. In addition, the spouse’s statement is checked for criminal, medical, security issues, and anything related to past immigration visas. The officer also checks the financial support application and accompanying financial documentation.

What problems arise during the immigration process as a spouse?

A variety of problems and challenges can arise with the spouse immigration process, here are some of them:

  • The financial situation of a U.S. citizen, especially with minimal income. Immigration officers often make the same mistake: asking for an additional sponsor, without noticing that the U.S. citizen has a pretty good fortune to replace the income;
  • Fictitious Marriage. This issue becomes acute when there is a large age difference, when the U.S. citizen does not speak the spouse’s native language and he/she has a poor command of English, and also when the spouses were together for a very short period of time;
  • Obtaining consent from the former spouse for the child to immigrate;
  • The spouse’s past visa problems;
  • Just because the spouse received an immigrant visa does not guarantee that her or his parents will get non-immigrant visas to come and visit in the future.
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