If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and you are thinking, I need to bring your spouse to the U.S.A., there’s a process to do this. Dealing with marriage and immigration issues can take time, and when you want to relocate to the USA together, it can feel like a long process. Doing things right is the best way to make this happen as quickly as possible.
What Is the Overall Process to Bring My Spouse to the USA?
If your spouse is outside the U.S.A. and you want to him/her to be able to come to the U.S. to live with you, the process involves a few steps:
- File a marriage-based petition for your spouse using Form I-130 and supporting documentation
- Case Processing at the National Visa Center
- Immigrant Visa interview at the local Embassy or Consulate
Can I File the Marriage-Based Petition to Bring My Spouse to the U.S.A. at the Embassy near Me?
If you live outside the U.S. and want to file your marriage-based petition to bring your spouse to the U.S.A., you can file it with USCIS in the United States, or if there is a USCIS international office in the country in which you reside, you may file your petition there.
If you reside outside the U.S. and there is no USCIS international office in the country where you reside, it is possible to directly file the I-130 petition at the Embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your area, but you can only file at the Embassy or consulate if you have exceptional circumstances and the USCIS Field Office Director with jurisdiction over your location decides that the Embassy or consulate may accept your petition and make a decision on your marriage-based petition.
Some Common Issues with I-130 Marriage-Based Petitions to Bring Your Spouse to the U.S.A.
Proving that you have a real marriage and did not just marry for immigration benefits if you live in the U.S. and your spouse lives in another country: If you reside in the United States and your spouse is in another country, it may be challenging to get evidence of your relationship.
Proving that you are legally allowed to marry: Your I-130 petition can only be approved if both you and your spouse are legally able to marry. For purposes of U.S. immigration law, you are legally allowed to marry only if your marriage would be recognized in the United States. This means that you must be unmarried when you marry your spouse. If you were previously married, you must prove that the prior marriage(s) have ended, either due to divorce, annulment or other legal process, or because your prior spouse is deceased. If you do not include documentary evidence of this, USCIS may request it or ultimately deny your petition for your spouse.
Trouble getting notices from USCIS: Part of the process involves filing the I-130 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which still sends notices by regular mail. If you’re outside the U.S., that can mean a long wait or possibly missing an important document.
Delays caused by submitting incomplete information or documentation: Submitting incomplete information or omitting required documents can result in denial of your I-130 petition or delays in your case while at the National Visa Center or after your immigration visa interview.
If Your I-130 Marriage-Based Petition Is Approved, but Your Immigrant Visa Application Is Denied
It’s possible that an I-130 marriage-based petition could be approved but the application for the immigrant visa is denied. This may be because the Embassy determines that you have not shown that you have a real marriage and not one solely for immigration purposes. This can occur even though your I-130 marriage-based petition has previously been approved by USCIS.
Your immigrant visa application could be denied because there are questions as a result of your medical examination about the use of illicit drugs, alcoholism, or other issues that may affect your eligibility to become a permanent resident.
The Immigrant Visa Unit of the Embassy may refuse to issue an immigrant visa to you due to your criminal history or negative immigration history. Some examples of this type of visa refusal include:
- You have a criminal record that makes you ineligible to become a resident
- You have a criminal record that requires you to file for special permission (a “waiver”) to become a permanent resident
- You made a misrepresentation in order to get a visa, to enter the U.S., or to get an immigration benefit. In this situation, you may qualify to file for a waiver for this issue
- Within the last five years, you failed to attend an immigration court hearing and were ordered deported
- Within the last 5-10 years, you were deported from the United States
- You were in the United States without authorization for 1 year or more, and then departed, but less than 10 years have passed. In this situation, you may be able to file a waiver.
In cases where you are eligible to file a waiver to cure the issue preventing you from getting your immigrant visa, your immigrant visa application will be denied and you should be provided a notice of the reasons for the denial that indicates if you are able to file a waiver. If you are not sure of the reasons your immigrant visa was denied, an attorney can help you to contact the Embassy Immigrant Visa unit to confirm the reasons for the denial.
If the immigrant visa application is denied, even if you are eligible to file a waiver, this may lead to delays of months or even years, so it’s important to be prepared for the interview and determine if there are any issues in your case which could lead to denial.
I Need to Bring My Spouse to the USA as Soon as Possible
The process to bring your spouse to the USA can easily take over a year if you are a U.S. citizen. It can take over two years if you are a permanent resident. When you want your spouse to be with you, any amount of time apart feels like it’s too long. If you do not qualify to directly file your I-130 petition at an Embassy near you because of exceptional circumstances, you and your spouse can still work to avoid delays by understanding the issues in your case, submitting all of the required documentation and information, and making sure you’re prepared for the immigrant visa interview so your spouse knows what he/she will have to explain at your interview and a waiver or other additional steps might be required. An experienced immigration attorney can help you figure out if you are eligible to file a marriage-based petition to bring your spouse to the USA and determine the issues of your case.
If you need help bringing your spouse to the USA, consult with a specialized immigration attorney .