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It’s common for green card holders in the U.S. to seek a green card for their spouse as well, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows this under the family second preference category (2A). Unfortunately, your spouse can’t join you in the U.S. as soon as you submit a petition for a Category 2A visa; you first have to go through a lengthy application process.
This article discusses the green card holder spouse visa processing time and details the application process, including what to do in various specific scenarios.
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Yes, green card holders can petition for their spouse to join them in the U.S. on a visa. Spouses of lawful permanent residents are eligible for a family second preference category (2A) visa. However, there is a long wait list for category 2A green cards, and you can get a visa for your spouse much quicker if you are a U.S. citizen.
There are only about 114,200 family second preference category green cards issued each year, and this category includes unmarried children of green card holders as well. There are far more petitions submitted than visas granted, so there is a long waitlist for these visas. When you submit a petition for your spouse you will be given a “priority date.” Your spouse must wait until this date to obtain a visa to enter the U.S.
For your spouse to be eligible for a family second preference visa, first you must provide the USCIS with proof that your marriage is legally valid and legitimate. You also must demonstrate that your spouse is not “inadmissible” to the U.S. There are numerous grounds for inadmissibility; the most common are related to past crimes committed by you or your spouse, or if your household cannot earn enough income to be self-sufficient.
Your spouse is not permitted to enter the country until their priority date and they have received their visa. If your spouse is in the U.S. illegally and the USCIS becomes aware of this, then your spouse will be considered inadmissible for a family second preference visa. 180 days of illegal presence will result in inadmissibility for 3 years; over one year of illegal presence results in ten-years of inadmissibility. This inadmissibility will be placed on your spouse when their visa is submitted.
The first form you, the green card holder, must submit is a USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Along with the petition, you must provide documentary evidence of the legitimacy of your marriage and your permanent resident status in the U.S. Once Form I-130 is approved by the USCIS and your priority date has arrived, the National Visa Center and the U.S. embassy of your home country will send additional forms and instructions to complete the process.
Finally, your spouse will have to complete an interview at the U.S. embassy. At this interview, all the documents you’ve submitted will be reviewed, and you will have to answer questions about your application. A decision will then be made, and, if approved, your spouse will become a legal U.S. resident upon entering the country.
If a green card holder naturalizes and becomes a U.S. citizen, then the spouse is classified as an “immediate relative.” This classification allows the petitioner, your spouse, to move forward with their petition right away, so there’s no priority date and no long waiting list.
So how long should you expect your application process to take? And what are the exact steps you must take to be successful? The answer can vary greatly, and each petitioner’s circumstances are different. The following section breaks down 7 of the most common scenarios for obtaining a spouse visa.
Your spouse can get a fiance visa within ten months, typically, but obtaining a green card can take more than two years. Fill out Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiance) and send it, along with other necessary documents, to the USCIS. Once the petition is approved, you complete an online visa application form and attend an interview at the consulate.
A Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative usually takes 6-11 months to process, and an additional 4-10 months to actually obtain the visa. You, the U.S. citizen, submit a Form I-130 to the USCIS, and once it gets approved you submit another online visa application with additional documents. If your application and documents are in order, your spouse will complete an interview at the U.S. embassy and get a visa.
The processing time for this scenario is similar to scenario #1, but possibly slightly shorter. If your local consulate has a USCIS office, then you can complete the entire application process right there from the consulate. However, relatively few consulates have a USCIS office.
If you are in this scenario, expect a wait time of over two years until your Form I-130 visa petition is approved, and then another 4-10 months until you actually obtain the immigrant visa. After submitting your Form I-130, your petition will be put on a waitlist (currently 2 years long) and you will have to wait until your priority date. Once your priority date is reached, you can submit an online application form with supporting documents. At this point, if your petition is approved, you will be put on another waitlist for the immigrant visa, and eventually, your spouse will get an interview at the local consulate.
Getting the Form I-130 petition approved will take 7-14 months, and then you will be put on a waitlist (currently 2 years long) to get the immigrant visa. Your spouse may have to return to your home country for this wait since you cannot file a petition for your spouse if they are living in the country illegally.
Processing time for an application like this is usually 7-14 months, if not longer. You must submit both a Form I-130 and Form I-1485, Petition to Adjust Status, to adjust the visa status of your spouse. Once the application is submitted, your spouse will be a legal U.S. resident. To get the green card, your spouse only has to complete a biometrics appointment and interview at the consulate.
Expect a 6-14 month wait time for your Form I-130 to be approved, and individual circumstances may extend this wait. You may have to get an immigration lawyer in this scenario since your spouse will likely be deemed inadmissible and denied a green card if they don’t leave the country before applying.
As you can see, it’s not always clear what timeline and processing time to expect when seeking a green card holder spouse visa. Generally speaking, most family second preference petitions take over two years to process. This is much longer than the green card renewal or TN visa process, due to the backlog of petitions. However, if you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse can skip the wait line and move their application forward immediately.
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