Immigration & Green Card for the Spouse (husband or wife) of a US Citizen
The husband or wife of a United States citizen is considered an immediate relative for the purposes of immigrating to the USA. There is no annual limit to the number of these particular marriage visas that are issued in the US or abroad. The green card through marriage process is one of the most popular ways for foreign nationals to immigrate to the US. Certain children of the immigrant spouse may also be entitled to a green card if petitioned by the US citizen.
Marriage-Based Visa Requirements
In order to qualify the a marriage-based visa (green card), the couple must be legally married, the marriage must be bona fide in that the couple intends to establish a family life together, and any prior marriages must have ended in either death, divorce or annulment. The petitioning spouse must also be able to financially support the marriage green card beneficiary.
Green Card Immigration Process
Those who satisfy the marriage visa requirements can begin the green card through marriage process by filing form I-130 either in the US or at a consulate abroad (for certain US citizens who are not currently living in America). If filing in the United States, the form I-130 will be mailed to the USCIS location handling marriage green card applications for the state where the citizen spouse resides. After the I-130 petition is approved by USCIS, the National Visa Center (NVC) will complete the process by instructing the spouses to fill out the necessary forms and pay the required fees. If the immigrant husband or wife will apply for the green card abroad, the NVC will send the file to the appropriate US consulate or embassy. The foreign spouse will need to complete a medical exam, consular interview, and receive criminal record clearance prior to a marriage visa being issued. If the marriage is less than two years old, the spouse will be issued a two-year conditional green card (CR1) that will need to be converted to an IR-1 through the removal of conditions process.
If the immigrant husband or wife is living in the US, he or she may be allowed to complete the green card proces without having to travel abroad. This process is called Adjustment of Status (AOS) and can be requested by filing form I-485 with the appropriate USCIS office. An immigration lawyer can help determine if you qualify for the adjustment of status process.
K3 Visa for the Spouse of a United States Citizen
The formal marriage visa process can be time consuming. Often, a husband and wife must live apart during the process if the immigrant is located outside the US. It is sometimes faster to bring the spouse to the America on a K-3 marriage visa. The K3 visa allows the foreign spouse to enter the United States on a temporary basis in order to complete the immigration/green card process through Adjustment of Status (AOS). Instead of waiting for a green card abroad, the immigrant spouse is allowed to remain in the US and may even be able to work or get travel privileges. As of the writing of this article, however, the K3 is disfavored by USCIS and is often converted into a standard marriage visa case.
Immigration and Green Card for the Spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
While the husband or wife of a US Citizen can apply for a green card immediately, the husband or wife of a green card holder (LPR) must wait a period of time after filing form I-130 before a green card becomes available. As there is a annual limit to the number of marriage visas available to spouses of LPRs, the current wait time is approximately two years. If the green card holder becomes a US citizen before a marriage visa is available for the husband or wife, the spouse will be eligible to convert the case adjust as the immediate relative of a United States citizen.