As a green card holder (permanent resident), you may petition for your spouse to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents.
Under Immigration and Nationality Act, a spouse of a green card holder is classified as a family member and is placed in the family preference list (F2A category). As soon as you start immigration process for your spouse, he/she will be assigned a “priority date” and placed on the waiting list for an immigrant visa. You will need to start tracking the progress of priority dates in F2A category by monitoring State Department’s Visa Bulletin to determine when immigrant visa number for your spouse becomes available. Typically, the average wait time for most of countries is 2 years.
Even after the wait is over, processing a green card application may take several months. That’s why it is important to have an experienced immigration attorney on your side who can assist you in this long-expected process as even a little mistake made at the stage of filing an immigration petition on behalf of your spouse can cost you several years of additional wait.
How To Bring My Spouse To The U.S.?
There are two scenarios for your spouse to get a green card:
1. The first scenario is that your spouse is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status. In this case, the green card holder may only file an immigration petition on behalf of his/her spouse and wait for the immigrant visa number to become current. During this waiting period, your spouse needs to independently maintain a valid nonimmigrant status in the U.S. (e.g. on students or business visa). If by the time the immigrant visa number became available he or she may apply to adjust non-immigrant status to permanent resident (Form I-485).
Don’t misuse the travel visa!
Avoid falling into fraudulent use of a tourist visa which will led to an greencard denial. Some couples try to avoid consular processing from their home country and come to the U.S. on a tourist visa months before their immigrant visa number becomes available with original intent to adjust their non-immigrant status in the U.S. This is not a good idea as it would constitute a fraudulent use of tourist visa and eventually lead to the green card being denied.
If at the time when immigrant visa number became available for your spouse they overstayed their visa or failed to maintain their non-immigrant status in the U.S., she/he might not be able to get a green card. Living in the U.S. without authorization can lead to accruing “unlawful presence” preventing them from adjusting their illegal status to permanent resident status. If your spouse has already accrued “unlawful presence in the U.S.” the process will become more difficult and you might need to apply for a waiver to ask for “forgiveness” or wait until green card holder becomes U.S. citizen to adjust your status.
2. The second scenario is that the spouse is outside the United States. In this case, the green card holder and spouse need to go through few steps to get a green card:
I. Filing the immigration petition by green card holder on behalf of his spouse (I-130).
To start the process of immigration for your spouse, you will need to file Form I-130 with accompanying documents.
II. Obtaining an Immigrant Visa Number. If the immigrant visa petition is approved, your spouse must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system. Because the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available each year is limited, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves the immigrant visa petition and the State Department provides an immigrant visa number. Because U.S. law limits the number of immigrant visas available by country, they may have to wait longer if they come from a country with high demand for U.S. immigrant visas.
III. Case Processing and Interview Preparation. Once the immigrant visa number becomes available, the petition will be forwarded to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the spouse’s home country for processing. Spouse will be instructed to file an application for an immigrant visa in the consulate or embassy in his/her country. After applying for an immigrant visa, spouse must appear for a visa interview. If the interview is successful, an immigrant visa will be issued to the spouse enabling him/her to enter the U.S.
IV. Entering the U.S. An immigrant visa is valid for a maximum period of six months from the date of issuance. Spouse must travel and apply for admission to the United States within that six months period. On the day that the spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, he or she becomes permanent resident.