Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens – Spouses
Spouses of U.S. citizens – including same-sex spouses in many cases – are eligible for immigration benefits such as a green card, work authorization, and travel authorization.
There are two different procedures that U.S. citizen can complete in order to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card. For both of these procedures, the U.S. citizen files the Form I-130 Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and shows USCIS that the marriage is both bona fide and legal.
In one procedure, called concurrent filing, the foreign spouse can file the Form I-485 Application with USCIS at the same time that the Form I-130 Petition is filed. The benefit of filing the Form I-485 Application is that the spouse can also file for work and travel authorization. This procedure can only be utilized if the foreign is physically in the U.S. at the time the Form I-130 Petition is sent to USCIS. (In concurrent filing, the U.S. citizen must also file the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support with USCIS, which shows USCIS that the foreign relative will have adequate financial support once he/she comes to the United States).
In the second procedure, called consular processing, the foreign spouse goes to the U.S. embassy in his/her home country and applies for the immigrant visa there once USCIS approves the Form I-130 Petition. Once the embassy issues the immigrant visa, the spouse uses that visa to come to the U.S. and USCIS mails his/her the green card.
However, certain spouses will first receive only a conditional green card instead of a permanent green card. The foreign spouse will receive a conditional green card if he/she receive the green card when the marriage to the U.S. citizens is less than two years. By receiving a conditional green card, the foreign spouse could be subject to the termination of his/her green card if the spouse fails to file a Form I-751 Application with USCIS. The purpose of the Form I-751 is to ask USCIS to remove the conditions on the spouse’s green card and to issue the permanent green card instead. The petition must be received by USCIS during the 90-day period that immediately precedes the date on which the conditional green card expires.
Usually filing the Form I-751 is a relatively simple procedure. However, if the marriage has ended in an annulment or a divorce, the Form I-751 becomes a lot more complex and difficult to process.
Besides the conditional nature of this type of green card, the foreign spouse is eligible for all other immigration benefits that are accorded to lawful permanent residents. The spouse can travel without restriction in and out of the United States and is eligible to work for any employer in the country or even to start his/her own business.
At the Callan Law Firm, P.C., our experienced attorneys filed hundreds of family-based petitions for spouses and other foreign relatives every year. Contact our office today to speak to a knowledgeable member of our staff about how you may bring your loved ones to the United States.