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The first steps of the immigrant visa for spouses

People still fall in love, get married, and dream of raising a family together. No amount of legislating, nor border walls are going to change that for thousands of people each year who choose to marry immigrants. But getting a green card through marriage can be quite complicated.

The biggest obstacle for someone already living here will be whether they spent any time in the U.S. illegally. If they entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed a visa, they may have to go to a consulate outside the U.S. to interview for a green card. If they stayed illegally for six months to one year, the law says that the immigrant must stay outside the U.S. for three years before possible approval. If they were in the U.S. illegally for longer than a year, they must legally stay out for 10 years.

There is a way to file a petition of legal residency for your spouse if you are a legal U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (you have a green card).

The First 3 Steps of the Spousal Immigration Process:

  1. File a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There is a fee of $420.
  2. The petition will be placed on a waiting list if the petitioner has a green card (the wait can often be two or more years). There is no waiting list if the petitioner is a U.S. citizen.
  3. If you are a U.S. citizen and have filed an I-130, the petitioner can apply for a non-immigrant K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa for a spouse. This allows the spouse to live legally in the U.S. while the I-130 is pending. Be aware that the time an undocumented spouse is in the country during the I-130 waiting process will count against their eligibility (see above).

The guidelines for citizenship and eligibility are very complex with a great deal of detail. An attorney with experience in immigration law can be a tremendous asset in navigating this process of preparing all the correct documentation and meeting all the deadlines. They can also help ensure your rights are protected along the way.

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