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Questions and Answers for Family Sponsored 
Immigration for U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse

Q: What is the family-sponsored immigration? and who can be a sponsor? 

A: Family-sponsored immigration is to become a U.S. permanent resident through certain family relations. Normally, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident would file an immigration petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS). The U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident is called the sponsor. The alien relative for whom the immigration petition is filed is called the beneficiary.

A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can be the sponsor of a family-sponsored immigration petition. However, the sponsor has to meet certain requirements and legal obligations. The sponsor has to submit a legally binding affidavit of support for the beneficiary to USCIS, in which the sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen, or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters. 

Q: Who can be a beneficiary? 

A: The "immediate relatives" of a U.S. citizen (parents, spouses, widows and children being unmarried and under 21 years of age) can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions. They can apply for U.S. permanent resident status without any waiting time. 

The rest of the beneficiaries are divided into several groups called preferences. Each preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. The immigrant visa dates on the Visa Bulletin of the U.S. Department of State are updated monthly, usually around the 14th of each month. The four preferences are as follows:

  • 1st Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;

  • 2nd Preference: Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents;

  • 3rd Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;

  • 4th Preference: Siblings (brothers and sisters) of U.S. citizens.

Q: What are the annual immigrant visa numbers for family-sponsored preference and employment-based preference?

A: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000. Also, INA prescribes that the per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620. The dependent area limit is set at 2%, or 7,320.

Q: What is the difference between an immediate relative petition and a preference petition? 

A: An immediate relative petition can be filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent, or child. A preference petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a son or daughter, or by a legal permanent resident on behalf of a spouse, son or daughter, or by an employer on behalf of an employee.

Q: How do I know if I qualify as a beneficiary or not? 

A: Beneficiaries are strictly defined, and one has to meet the definition of its category. Those who do not meet the definitions cannot immigrate to the United States through family-based immigration. The beneficiaries include spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents;

An "immediate relative" of a U.S. citizen is the spouse, parent, widow, or child of the U.S. citizen. Specifically, a "child" is the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, who is unmarried and under the age of 21. An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child's 16th birthday. A stepchild qualifies as long as the marriage had occurred before the stepchild's 18th birthday. A "parent" must meet the same test as for the "child". A father-in-law or mother-in-law of a U.S. citizen are not "parents" of the U.S. citizen for immigration purposes.

Q: What are the basic requirements for a U.S. permanent resident's spouse to get Green Card?

A: To be eligible for a Green Card as a spouse or child of a U.S. permanent resident, the foreign spouse and the U.S. permanent resident must be legally married as evidenced by a valid marriage certificate. In addition, the lawful permanent resident must be residing in the United States at the time of the application. Children of the lawful permanent resident must prove relationships through birth certificates, adoption papers and marriage certificates. The alien applicants must also meet certain health and character requirements.

The spouse or child of U.S. permanent resident immigration category provides foreign spouses and children of permanent residents the opportunity to reunite with family living in the United States, and become permanent residents. U.S. permanent residents have the right to live and work in the United States permanently, leave and return to the United States with few limitations, attend public schools and colleges, and become a U.S. citizen when eligible to do so.

Q: As a Green Card holder, can I apply for U.S. Green Card for my wife who is in her home country?

Q: Whether or not a permanent resident's spouse can be sponsored depends upon the timing of the marriage. This is a very important matter for anyone considering marrying someone from one's home country. It is vital that the marriage occur before the Green Card application (Form I-485) is approved. 

If the primary applicant marries before the approval of the Form I-485, the alien spouse will be entitled to derivative immigration benefits. She or he is entitled to the same preference category as the primary beneficiary and the same priority date. This is true even if the marriage occurs well after the establishment of the priority date. 

But if the primary applicant marries after the approval of the Form I-485, the primary applicant must file Form I-130 for the alien spouse, and the alien spouse may need to wait years to get the immigrant visa. 

Q: I recently married a U.S. permanent resident. How could I get U.S. immigrant visa to become U.S. permanent resident also?

A: A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If you want to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that you have a relative who is a citizen of the United States, or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, you must go through a multi-step process.

First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, for you. This petition is filed by your spouse as a sponsor, and must be accompanied by proof of your relationship.

The U.S. Department of State must then determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, the foreign national, even if you are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number is available, it means you can apply to have an immigrant visa number for you. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.

If you are already in the United States, you may apply to change your status to a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available to you, by filing for Adjustment of Status. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, you must then go to the U.S. Consulate servicing the area in which you reside to complete your processing. This is the other way to secure an immigrant visa number. Your spouse must prove that he/she can support you at 125% above the mandated poverty line.

Q: I am in U.S. with H-1B visa, and I will submit my I-485 application soon. If I travel to my home country to get married now, could my wife also file I-485 to get her Green Card thereafter? 

A: With H-1B visa, you would travel to your home country, get married, and return with the spouse, who would hold H-4 status. Both of you would then file I-485s simultaneously. 

One the other hand, if your spouse is in the U.S. already, she or he would be able to file for adjustment of status of Form I-485. The most common, and perhaps ideal, scenario is for the marriage to occur while the primary spouse is maintaining nonimmigrant status that permits dual intent, such as the H-1B.

Q: I have submitted my I-485 application to USCIS. If I travel to my home country to get married now, could my wife also file I-485 to get her Green Card after she is in U.S.? 

A: If you filed the I-485 previously, your wife would simply file the I-485 shortly after arrival in the U.S. The ability of the derivative spouse to file an I-485 is dependant upon the priority dates being current. There are times when the priority dates "retrogress," or move backwards. If this is the case, the I-485 cannot be filed until the priority date again becomes current. 

Q: I am a Green Card holder and will marry soon in my home country. How could I apply for Green Card for my wife after the marriage?

A: Since the marriage will occur after your Green Card approval, there is then a substantial wait before immigration benefits can be conferred to your wife. In this event, the new spouse is a family-based (FB) preference relative, falling within category F2A. 

You must file an I-130 petition to USCIS for your spouse, and wait for the priority date to become current to apply for the immigrant visa or adjustment of status. The waiting time for priority date availability in F2A has historically been from 3 to 5 years. Therefore, there is an enormous difference between marriage before the I-485 is approved and marriage after its approval.

Q: My I-485 application is pending. Can I go to my home country to get married? Is there any potential problem to bring new wife to U.S.?

A: With respect to marriage timing, one situation with alarming frequency is that in which an individual goes abroad to marry while the Green Card case is pending. The primary applicant is married and returns to the U.S. shortly thereafter to resume job and get things ready for the new spouse. The new spouse remains behind to wrap up personal matters before coming to the U.S. The primary spouse goes through the mail that accumulated during his or her absence and finds an I-485 approval notice that pre-dates the wedding. At that point, there is a serious problem. Therefore, people should plan ahead to avoid this situation. 

Of course, marriage arrangements and timing are no simple matter, but things must be done well in advance of the date when a decision on the I-485 application is imminent. Given the slow pace of I-485 adjudications, this should be a manageable priority. However, one should not just rely on slow adjudications on the I-485 application. A particular USCIS Service Center could always speed up the processing of these cases if they make I-485 a priority.

Q: As a U.S. permanent resident, how to apply for a Green Card for my family member? 

A: To obtain a Green Card for your family members (spouse and children), you must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, provide proof of your status to demonstrate that you are a permanent resident, and submit evidence of the qualifying relationship such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc, including proof of any legal name change for you or your family member (the beneficiary).

Q: I have filed Form I-130 for my spouse, what will happen next?

A: An immigration visa petition (Form I-130) is used to demonstrate a qualifying relationship. An approved petition does not grant any benefit except to create a place in line for immigrant visa processing. If your souse is already in the United States legally, he or she may apply to adjust status to become a permanent resident after a visa number becomes available using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

If your spouse is outside the United States, your petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate U.S. Consulate when a visa becomes available, and your spouse will be notified about how to proceed. This process is referred to as “Consular Processing.”

Q: What is the waiting time for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the Foreign Service post receives the approved petition of Form I-130? 

A: Several factors influence how long the process may take. Immigrant visa numbers are made immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, so processing will begin upon receipt. However, preference visas are limited in number, and processing will not begin until the priority date on the petition is available. Long waits may occur for preference visas, because each year more people apply for them than can be satisfied under the annual limit. Certain categories, such as the family fourth preference - Brothers or Sisters, are heavily oversubscribed. 

Q: What is the "Conditional Residence" or "Conditional Green Card"?

A: If you have been married for less than two years when your foreign citizen spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, your spouse's permanent resident status is considered “conditional.” The immigrant visa is a conditional resident visa, or conditional Green Card.

You and your spouse must apply together to USCIS to remove the conditional status for your spouse, within the ninety days before the two-year anniversary of your spouse’s entry into the United States on his or her immigrant visa. The two-year anniversary date of entry is the date of expiration on the alien registration card (Green Card).

Q: My newly married husband is U.S. Permanent Resident, and I am in U.S. now in a J1 visa. Does it mean I can only get the "Conditional Green Card" based on our marriage?

A: If you receive a Green Card before your second wedding anniversary, the Green Card you receive will be a conditional Green Card, which will require a request for the conditions to be removed after two years from the receipt of your initial green card. In order to get your initial Green Card, you must appear for an interview.

Q: I was a U.S. permanent resident when I filed the Form I-130 for my wife. Now I am a U.S. citizen, how to upgrade a my petition?

A: If you filed an I-130 petition for your spouse when you were a permanent resident, and you are now a U.S. citizen, you must upgrade the petition from family second preference (F2A) to immediate relative. You can do this by sending proof of your U.S. citizenship to the National Visa Center (NVC). You should send a copy of your U.S. passport and a copy of your certificate of naturalization.

Q: I was a U.S. permanent resident when I filed the Form I-130 for my wife and children. Now I am a U.S. citizen, how to upgrade a my petition for my wife and children?

A: If you are now a U.S. citizen, you must file separate immigrant visa petitions for each of your children. If you upgrade a family second preference (F2A) petition for your spouse and you did not file separate petitions for your children when you were a permanent resident, you must do so now. 

A U.S. citizen's child does not receive derivative status in an immediate relative petition. This is different from the family second preference (F2A) petition where a child is included in his/her parent's F2A petition. 

Children born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen may qualify for U.S. citizenship. They should apply for U.S. passports. The U.S. Consular officer will determine whether your child is a U.S. citizen and can have a passport. If the U.S. Consular officer determines your child is not U.S. citizen, the child must apply for an immigrant visa if he/she wants to live in the U.S.

Q: What is the "following-to-join"? 

A: U.S. permanent resident who married before the date of obtaining the U.S. permanent residency can possibly confer “following-to-join” benefits to his or her family members (husband, wife, and child). Essentially, through this process, spouses and children will be able to receive U.S. Green Cards quickly. The following-to-join is for alien spouse and children to receive derivative benefits based on a primary permanent residency’s immigration application approval.

Q: What are the general requirements for "following-to-join"? 

A: Certain requirements must be met in order for a spouse or child to qualify under “following-to-join”. First, the legal permanent resident must have adjusted status or obtained Green Card through a preference category (family or employment based) or diversity lottery. Some examples include but are not limited to NIW, EB-1, EB-2, etc. In addition, an immigrant visa number must also be current in order for a family member to receive “following-to-join”. 

Second, the Green Card holder married or had children before becoming a permanent resident, and the relationship between the permanent resident and spouse/child is intact at the time of filing. Children of the permanent resident must be unmarried and under the age of 21. Furthermore, the child/step-child must be from an existing marriage before the permanent resident obtained permanent residency. 

Q: As a Green Card holder, how could I know if my wife can meet the "following-to-join" requirements?

A: If you were married to your wife before you became a permanent resident (Green Card holder), your wife may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that you would NOT have to submit a separate USCIS Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your wife, and your wife does not have to wait any extra time for an immigrant visa number to become available. 

Q: What situation would not qualify for the are the "following-to-join"? 

A: A spouse or child of a permanent resident cannot receive “following-to-join” benefits if the permanent resident got married and/or had children on the date of or after obtaining permanent residency. In this instance, the legal permanent resident would have to file a separate I-130 petition for his/her family members. 

Q. I got my Green Card one month ago, based on an employment-based Immigration of the 2nd preference. Two months before my I-485 was approved, I went back to my home country and married my girlfriend. How can I bring her into U.S.? 

A. Since you were married before you became a lawful permanent resident, and your spouse did not physically accompany you to the U.S., your wife is eligible for following-to-join benefits. This means that you do not have to submit a separate Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for your wife, and your wife will not have to wait any extra time for a visa number to become available. You may file a Form I-824 with the USCIS and let it notify a U.S. Consulate that you are a lawful permanent resident, so that your wife can apply for an immigrant visa. 

Q: Can I sponsor my other family members immigration to United States, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents?

A: More distant relatives, such as aunts / uncles, cousins, and grandparents cannot be sponsored for a Green Card. Even U.S. citizens cannot petition for these relatives. It may be possible to invite them for a temporary visit on a visitor's visa, depending upon whether they have sufficient ties to their respective home countries to show that they have no immigrant intent. 

Of course, they may also be sponsored if they are qualified and the sponsoring relative owns a business, or is able to find employment for the foreign national relative under the employment-based preference categories.

Q: My husband is U.S. permanent resident, Do I need to wait for immigrant visa number after the Form I-130 approval?

A: Once the Form I-130 petition is approved, you must wait for your an immigrant visa number. If you marry a U.S. citizen, you are considered an immediate relative and the wait is only as long as the administrative process. If, however, you marry a U.S. permanent resident, you will be placed in category F2A of the family visa category, and you may have to wait several years for the Priority Date to become "current", depending on the number of people from your home country also waiting for visas in that category.

Q: What is a "Priority Date" for a U.S. permanent resident's spouse?

A: The "Priority Date" is the date that you file the immigrant petition of Form I-130 on behalf of your spouse. If you have already filed an immigrant petition, you can find the "Priority Date" on the top, left-hand corner of the Form I-797 Receipt Notice or Approval Notice you received after your filed Form I-130 with USCIS.

In the case of an employer-sponsored petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor. The State Department Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that gives the changes in visa availability for priority dates. 

Q: How to check the current Priority Date for my spouse? 

A: The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that tells applicants when their Priority Date is current. You can check if the Priority Date is current by comparing the Priority Date that appears on the left-hand corner of the I-797 Approval Notice for the I-130 Immigrant Petition with the date that is published in the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin. 

You spouse can figure out what the current Priority Date is by looking at the row marked "F2A" and the column that indicates his or her country of nationality. If the Priority Date on the I-797 Approval Notice is the same as or earlier than the date that appears in the cell reserved for applicants from your spouse’s country in the "F2A" Family preference category, then a visa number is available and your spouse can proceed with the "Green Card" application.

Q: Is there any way to accelerate the Green Card application for my spouse?

A:  The U.S. permanent resident's can file for a spouse under the 2nd family preference category, and it will take years of time. Numbers of available visas in the preference categories are limited. You can check out the Visa Bulletin which comes out each month. This waiting cannot be speeded up. It it really a question of supply and demand. And as you can see from the Visa Bulletin waiting times, demand is a lot higher than the supply. It depends entirely on what country the person is from. 

Q: My I-485 application is pending, and my wife can not get a nonimmigrant visa to enter U.S. at this time. Could we use the "consular process" for her to get immigrant visa?

A: If your spouse cannot enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa for any reason, it is necessary to do consular process for an immigrant visa. This may occur after the primary beneficiary has obtained the approval of the I-485, or both spouses decide to go consular process to obtain permanent residence together. If your decides to continue the pending I-485 application in United States, there could be longer waiting period for your wife to go thorough the consular process.

Q: What documents are typically required for a family-sponsored immigration petition, as a U.S. permanent resident to apply for a husband or wife? 

A: Depending on the relationship between the sponsor and the beneficiary, these are the typical documents required: copy of your Green Card, birth certificate, marriage license, and/or divorce decree. In most cases, the sponsor needs to provide employment verification and W-2 forms for recent years. Other information required of the beneficiary includes the passport, visa, I-94, photos, and medical examination report. 

Q: Can a new immigrant work legally in the United States? 

A: Yes. If the beneficiary is already in the United States and has applied for permanent residency, he or she can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) at the same time. Within three to four months, before the beneficiary actually receives the Green Card, the beneficiary will be able to start to work legally in any profession with an EAD.

Q: What if the beneficiary is in U.S. and needs to travel overseas, while waiting for the Green Card? 

A: Due to the backlog within the USCIS, it may take long time for the beneficiary to receive the Green Card after the application for adjustment of status has been submitted. During this waiting period, the beneficiary can apply for an Advance Parole, which allows him or her to travel overseas and come back to the United States without affecting the Green Card application. The only prerequisite for an Advance Parole is that the beneficiary has maintained a legal status throughout his or her stay in the United States.

Q: What is Administrative Processing for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and how long does it take? 

A: Administrative Processing usually refers to a legally mandated security check. The U.S. Department of State must do it for all applicants or beneficiaries over the age of 16. It is a routine process that is done automatically, and if it was performed more than a year ago, it may need to be updated. The process normally takes four to six weeks.

Q: To support my wife's Green Card, do I need to file Form I-864 Affidavit of Support?

A: As the petitioning sponsor, you need to submit an affidavit of support (Form I-864) which guarantees the United States government that you and spouse can financially support yourselves and your family. You have to prove your household income is enough to support the entire family at 125% or more above the U.S. poverty level for your family’s size. The income requirement changes each year with the inflation.

Q: Is there an minimum age requirement as a U.S. sponsor to file an Form I-130 petition for a spouse?

A: There is no minimum age for a U.S. sponsor (petitioner) to file a Form I-130 petition for a spouse. However, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a residence (domicile) in the U.S. before you can sign the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864 or I-864EZ). This form is required for an immigrant visa for a spouse and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.

Q: What are the requirement of Form I-130 supporting documents and medical examination for wife of a U.S. permanent resident?

A: All Applicants must submit certain personal documents such as passports, birth certificates, police certificates, and other civil documents. The consular officer will inform visa applicants of the documents needed as their applications are processed.

Before the issuance of an immigrant visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination. The examination will be conducted by a doctor designated by the consular officer. The costs for such examinations must be borne by the applicant, in addition to the visa fees. The cost of each immigrant visa application processing fee (per person) will change from time to time. Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant regardless of age, and are not refundable. Local currency equivalents are acceptable. Fees should not be sent to the consular office unless requested specifically. 

All applicants need to submit an Affidavit of Support (USCIS Form I-864) if your adjustment of status application is based a relative visa petition (USCIS Form I-130) filed by your relative.

Q: My I-130 application for my wife has been approved, and her immigrant visa number is current. What is the immigrant visa interview process? and what kind documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?

A: Once the National Visa Center determines that the files are complete with all the required documents, they will schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the files, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the alien applicant will be interviewed for a visa. 

The applicant will receive appointment emails or letters, containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination. Applicants should bring their valid passports, as well as any other documentation not already provided to NVC, to their visa interviews. During the interview process, digital fingerprint scans will be taken. Generally, applicants will receive their original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.

Q: What happens if an immigration beneficiary misses the interview appointment? 

A: If the beneficiary misses the interview appointment, the Immigrant Visa Unit will reschedule the interview appointment, generally one or two months from the date when the new appointment is requested. The beneficiary will be notified by mail for the new date.

Q: What are the medical examination and vaccination requirements before the the immigrant visa interview?

A: U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. 

Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. Applicants are provided instructions by NVC regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians.

Q: What is the difference between an immigrant and a nonimmigrant visa? 

A: An immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons wishing to live permanently in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa is the visa issued to persons with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis, for example, tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.

Q: As a U.S. permanent resident, can I sponsor my married child for Green Card application?

A: Children of lawful permanent residents may be sponsored only if they are unmarried, and should not marry prior to the Green Card approval. However, if they marry after the I-130 form has been filed, the petition will be deemed invalid, and neither the person nor the new spouse would be able to become a Green Card holder based on the Form I-130 filing. 

Therefore, unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, who are the beneficiaries of I-130 petitions based on this relationship, should not marry if sponsorship by a lawful permanent resident parent is the only avenue available to them for obtaining U.S. permanent residence. 

Q: As a new U.S. permanent resident, can I apply for Green Card for my son together with my wife? My son was born abroad prior to the grant of my permanent residence. 

A: Unmarried children who were born abroad prior to the grant of your U.S. permanent residence can apply for U.S. immigration, same as spouses who married before the Green Card approval. They may adjust status to permanent residence by undergoing the consular processing. 

Children of the U.S. permanent resident who are born in the United States are U.S. citizens. They may be entitled to dual citizenship of the U.S. and the parent's home country, depending upon that country's laws.

Q: My daughter was born abroad after my I-485 status adjustment application approval. Can we use my priority date to apply for her Green Card?

A: The permanent resident's children born abroad after the principal's adjustment date are also entitled to the same priority date and procedure to obtain permanent resident status, if born in a marriage that occurred prior to the adjustment of status. This can be important when the derivative spouse is expecting a baby, but the baby is born after the Green Card case is approved.

Q: Both my wife and I are Green Card holders. If my baby is born in our home country, is the baby born abroad still the U.S. permanent resident?

A: Once both husband and wife are permanent residents, they may face the decision whether to have their children born in the U.S. or in the home country. Some people chose to have their children in the home country to be close to their families. Children born abroad to permanent resident mothers are permanent residents, if certain conditions are met. 

The requirements are that such a child must be brought to the U.S. on the mother's first return trip, which must occur before the child is two years of age. The child in this situation does not need a visa. The necessary paperwork is processed at the port of entry, based on the mother's permanent resident status and the child's birth certificate. 

Q: How do I file an appeal if my application is denied?

A: If your application is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may file a Notice of Appeal along with the required fee at an USCIS Service Center within 33 days of receiving the denial. Once the fee is collected and the form is processed at the Service Center, the appeal will be referred to the Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU) in Washington, D.C. Sending the appeal and fee directly to the AAU will delay the process. 

Q: When is the right time to apply for U.S. Citizenship?

A: U.S. permanent residents may apply for Citizenship if they have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years. A spouse who has been a permanent resident for 3 years may apply for citizenship, if the spouse is currently married to a U.S. citizen, and has been married to the same U.S. citizen for the past 3 years.

Q: What is the Reentry Permit? 

A: Reentry Permit is suitable for lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the United States for more than one year, and for lawful permanent residents who want to travel outside the United States, but cannot get a passport from their country of nationality.

Q. How do I obtain a police certificate? 

A: Each country has its own requirements for obtaining police certificates or clearances. Specific information is available from the U.S. consulate processing your case. 

Q: As a wife of a U.S. permanent resident, how long is an immigrant visa valid? What if I must delay my arrival in the U.S.? 

A: The consulate may issue an immigrant visa with a maximum validity of six months. If you must delay travel to the U.S. beyond six months, you should contact the U.S. consulate and arrange to have the interview scheduled closer to your possible departure. 

If an immigrant visa has already been issued and circumstances force you to remain abroad longer, you should contact the U.S. consulate and request an extension of your immigrant visa's validity. If the validity of your immigrant visa expires, a new one may be issued upon payment of the application and issuance fees.

Q: Does my spouse need to get Work Permits to work in U.S.?

A: U.S. employers must check to make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, are allowed to work in the United States. If you are not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may need to apply for a work permit, formally called an "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD), to prove you can work in the United States. 

Your spouse does not need to apply for a work permit once he or she has been admitted as an immigrant with their Green Card (immigrant visa), or have already been approved for adjustment to permanent resident status. As a legal permanent resident, your spouse should receive a Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a 'Green Card') that will prove that your spouse has a right to live and work in the United States permanently. 

If your spouse is now outside the United States, he or she will receive a passport stamp upon arrival in the United States. This stamp will prove that he or she is allowed to work until a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is created.

If your spouse is in the U.S. and has applied to adjust to permanent resident status (by filing USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), he or she is eligible to apply for a work permit while the case is pending. Your spouse should use USCIS Form I-765 to apply for a work permit.

Q. I got my Green Card as a wife of a U.S. permanent resident. How long can I remain outside the U.S. without losing my immigrant status? 

A. If you are a lawful permanent resident and will be outside of the U.S. for more than a year, you will need to make special preparations for your re-entry before you leave the U.S. If you have applied to adjust to permanent resident status, you should be careful of any trip outside the U.S.

Q: I am a permanent resident based on marriage immigration. May I apply for immigration for my married son? 

A: No, you cannot. As a lawful permanent resident, you are not eligible to petition to bring your married son to live and work permanently in the United States. 

Q: As a permanent resident, I have been waiting for a long time for my wife to get an immigrant visa. Now, there is a family emergency and I need my wife to immigrate soon to the U.S. Can the National Visa Center help me? 

A: Unfortunately, if your wife's case is not current, there is nothing that the National Visa Center can do to expedite visa processing. Immigrant visa processing is governed strictly by law, which controls visa categories, priority dates and the availability of visa numbers. Immigrant visa numbers are made available only in the order of priority dates. There is no provision within the law that would allow the National Visa Center to waive these requirements in any individual case. 

Q: If I marry an illegal alien, can we file immigration petition? Does he have to leave the U.S.? Can he get work authorization? 

A: That depends on what type of illegal alien you married. Generally, someone who overstays his visa or violates his status may adjust status in the United States, if he marries a U.S. Citizen. 

However, a person who originally entered the U.S. without being inspected by an immigration officer is ineligible to adjust status, or obtain a work authorization in the US, with a few exceptions. 

Q: My divorce has taken a while to come through, and I am now out of status as I wait to re-marry here in the U.S. What should I do? 

A: If you marry a U.S. citizen, you can apply for Adjustment of Status. However, if you marry a permanent Resident, the mere filing of a visa petition on your behalf does not give you permission to remain in the United States. However, if you remain in the United States unlawfully for more than 180 days, you may not be able to return to the United States for 3 years. 

If you remain in the United States unlawfully for more than 1 year, you may not be able to return to the United States for 10 years. There are waivers of the 3 and 10 year bars, if you can prove extreme hardship to your spouse. However, USCIS interprets the words "extreme hardship" very narrowly. 

Q: What is the difference between marrying a U.S. Citizen abroad or in the U.S.? How long will we be apart to get Green Card? 

A: If you marry a U.S. citizen in the United States, you may face a long waiting time to get Green Card, but you will be able to stay together while you wait. If you chose to immigrate from outside the United States after your marriage abroad to a U.S. Citizen, the waiting time is much shorter, ranging anywhere from a few months to a year. But you will be separated except for when your U.S. spouse can visit you abroad.

Q: How can I get the 2-year residency requirements waived, for a J-1 visa holder getting married to a U.S. permanent resident? 

A: The mere act of marriage to a U.S. permanent resident does not waive the 2-year residency requirements that some J-1 visa holders are subject to. Better ways to obtain J-1 waivers include "No Objection", and "Interested Government Agency" sponsorship.

Q: Can I invite a spouse on a fiancé visa. if I am a Green Card holder? 

A: In order to petition someone for a fiancé visa, you must be a U.S. citizen rather than a permanent resident, and the other person must be your fiancé, rather than your spouse. The fiancé for whom you are petitioning should also be outside the United States.

Q: If a person comes as a tourist and marries a U.S. Citizen, and can not prove that he did not have the intent to marry when he entered, can he be denied Adjustment of Status?

A: Timing is everything in this scenario. If a person enters the U.S. and immediately marries a U.S. citizen, it is going to be very difficult to prove that he did not misrepresent themselves, if he entered as a tourist or a student. 

However, if the marriage took place more than 90 days after the person entered the United States, there should be no problem. In fact, there is a precedent decision which says that if the only negative factor is that the foreign-born spouse had a pre-conceived intent to marry a U.S. citizen at the time of entry, the USCIS should still approve the application for Adjustment of Status. 

Q: How long does it take to get naturalized following the marriage interview? 

A: Most permanent residents have to wait 5 years after becoming permanent residents to qualify for U.S. citizenship. However, the law gives a break to spouses of U.S. citizens: If you have been married for at least 3 years, and your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years, you are eligible for citizenship 3 years after you become a permanent resident. Actually, you are allowed to apply for naturalization 3 months before the end of your 3 year residence. Form N-400 must be filed in the United States.

Q: When I filed a petition for my wife, I was a legal permanent resident (green card holder). I recently became a U.S. citizen. How can I upgrade the petition? 

A: Make a copy of your Naturalization Certificate. Send the copy - NOT the original - to the National Visa Center  with a letter containing the beneficiary name and case number of the petition you want to upgrade. The National Visa Center will send the beneficiary any additional forms and information that may be required. 

Q: What should I do if my baby is born abroad? and what documentation is required of a child born outside the U.S. of legal permanent residents? 

A: A baby born abroad to U.S. citizen parent should be reported as soon as possible to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. A child born abroad of legal permanent resident parents may enter the U.S. without a visa provided the child is accompanied by a parent upon that parent's initial return to the U.S. within two years of the child's birth, with documentation showing the parent-child relationship. 

Q: What is necessary for me to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen? 

A. The U.S. citizen must file a fiancee petition, Form I-129F, with the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS will forward the approved petition to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The post will then contact you with information and eventually schedule an interview for a fiancee visa. You have 90 days from entry into the U.S. in which to marry the U.S. citizen, and you must leave within this time, if you do not apply to become a permanent resident. 

Q: Will my fiancee visa automatically change to a Green Card? 

A. No. After the marriage takes place, your U.S. citizen spouse must contact USCIS to change your status to legal permanent resident. This information is given to you when you enter the U.S. 

Q: How to check the status of a Green Card application for my spouse?

A: You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. You may also want to review U.S. Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times. For assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate. For assistance within the U.S., contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office, or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283 

Q: I want to file a Green Card application for my wife. How could your package of "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse" help me?

A: To help you filing U.S. Green Card petition for your brother or sister, we provide the high quality and case-proven "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse", based on our extensive and practical immigration experience.

In this "Complete Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse", we provide you the methods of how to prepare the petition, how to collect evidence, how to show your relationship, how to prove your qualification, and how to write the petition cover letter. We also provide step-by-step procedures for the petition, various petition strategies, sample cover letter, samples of filled forms, complete petition check list, petition required forms, detailed explanations of many petition related important issues, and more. With this package, you get all the information you need and the step-by-step knowledge and procedures of how to file an immigrant petition and obtain U.S. Green Card quickly for your spouse.

Q: When I filed Form I-130 for my spouses and minor children several years ago, I was U.S. permanent residents. About 6 months ago, I naturalized to U.S. citizenship and relocated to another state. But for near one year, I never got any message from USCIS, for my pending I-130 case. Do you know what is wrong? and what should I do?

A: For family-based immigration, the Family 2A category is for spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents. The immigration visa number's waiting time could be long for this category - sometimes waiting for several years. Thus it is difficult for USCIS or DOS to communicate with petitioning relatives who have since relocated. Also, for some cases, USCIS may issue Request For Evidence (RFE) notice for cases that have not been approved. 

When so much time has elapsed since the Form I-130 petition was initially filed, USCIS' mails may go to addresses that are long-since out of date. Many Form I-130 petitioners frequently are unaware of the need to update USCIS records when they change addresses. This is often the case for some petitioner who have forgot to file Form AR-11 to notify the USCIS for address change.

This is particularly so for U.S. citizens who are no longer subject to Form AR-11change-of-address requirements, since many I-130 petitioners filed as permanent residents, but naturalized to U.S. citizenship after filing. Therefore, USCIS always wishes to remind petitioners of the need to update the USCIS records regarding address changes. 

Q: Both my wife and I are U.S. Permanent Resident. My baby son was recently born in my home country, not in U.S. Now, my wife wants to bring my son to U.S. Could you please let me know how can we bring our son into United States? and does he need a visa to get into U.S.?

A: A baby becomes a U.S. citizen automatically if he or she was born in the U.S. A child born abroad of permanent resident parents may enter the U.S. without a visa, provided the child is accompanied by a parent upon that parent’s initial return to the U.S. within two years of the child’s birth, with documentation showing the parent-child relationship.

If the permanent resident parents leave the child abroad with family members and return to the U.S. without the child, the child must have an immigrant visa to enter U.S. 

Q: I will apply for U.S. Green Card soon for my newly marriaged wife who is now in her home country. How to prove a "bona fide" marriage or relationship for the immigration purpose?

A: To obtain a U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) based on marriage, the petitioner has to prove that the marriage is real or "bona fide". This means a marriage in which the two people intend, from the start, to establish a life together as husband and wife.

Although marriage can mean different things to different people, a marriage entered into for the sole purpose of getting the immigrant a U.S. Green Card is clearly not bona fide. It’s called a “sham” or “fraudulent” marriage.

Uncovering sham marriages is a top priority of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which believes that a high number of the marriage-based green card applications it receives are fraudulent. USCIS is well aware that some U.S. citizens accept money to marry a foreign-born person, and some even create illegal, organized services that arrange marriages between U.S. citizens and green card seeking foreign nationals.

The result is that, when it comes to deciding whether a marriage is "bona fide", USCIS will take a hard look, and expect the applicant to provide plenty of solid proof that their marriage is real. Below are some ways that you can prepare to supply the needed proof, including steps you can take far in advance.

    * make your spouse a beneficiary on your retirement account or other accounts that require or allow a payout to a beneficiary upon the holder’s death;

    *  make sure that both spouses are covered under your health insurance policy, if the other spouse doesn't have his or her own insurance;

    *  if you live together, add your spouse to your house deed, mortgage, or apartment lease;

    *  if you live together, add your spouse’s name to your garbage, utility, cable, and other bills;

    * take out a joint credit card;

    *  open a joint bank account;

    *  file joint tax returns;

    *  join a gym or club together.

Q: My Form I-130 Application for my relative's immigration has been approved by USCIS recently. Now she received notice from U.S. National Visa Center (NVC) to file Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. Please help us know more information about how to fill the electronic immigrant visa application form DS-260? 

A: The Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (also called "Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application") replaces the paper-based DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (parts I and II); while the Form DS-261 Choice of Address and Agent will replace the DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent.

The Department of State (DOS) has implemented use of the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, and the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. These two forms are used for immigrant visa applicants processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The online forms are submitted to DOS through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) website at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/. In order to access the online forms, the applicant must input his or her NVC case number and invoice I.D. number.

All of the information entered online is accessible by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the consular posts, the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC or bring a copy to the visa interview.

    *  Most fields on the DS-260 must be completed before the application can be submitted to DOS. The system will not allow you to continue without providing the required information unless the field is specifically marked "Optional."

    * If a mandatory field is left blank, an error message will appear and the applicant must complete the required field before proceeding with the form. A partially completed application can be saved by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each page.

    * It is recommended that data be saved often to ensure information is not lost. A saved application can be accessed by returning to the website and selecting View/Edit from the Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa.

    * The applicant can continue completing the form by clicking on the "Edit" button on the right side of the application's listed status. Once all of the fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the "Sign and Submit Application" button.

    * Should the applicant need to make any changes to the form after submission, he or she will have to contact the NVC to request access to the form. If a case has already been sent by NVC to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate interview, any changes to the form will have to be made at the post.

Q: My wife has a conditional Green Card (or conditional permanent resident status) in United States. How to  remove the conditions and receive a permanent U.S. Green Card?

A: If you are a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, if you have been married less than two years when your alien spouse is granted U.S. permanent resident status, the alien spouse will receive U.S. permanent resident status on a conditional basis.

To remove the conditions on you spouse's residence status in United States, you and your spouse should apply together using USCIS Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. You must apply to remove conditional status within the 90-day period before the expiration date on the conditional resident card. If you fail to file during this time, your spouse’s resident status will be terminated and he or she may be subject to removal from the United States.

If your alien spuse has a child in previous marriage and if you are petitioning for a step-child and have not been married to the child’s genetic parent genetic or legal gestational mother for 2 years at the time the child receives permanent residence, the child will be granted conditional permanent resident status also.

Therefore Form I-751 can also be used to remove the conditional basis of permanent residence for the child. If your spouse and child became conditional permanent resident at the same time or within 6 months, the child can be included in your spouse’s petition. If the child became a permanent resident more than 6 months after your spouse, the child will need to file a separate Form I-751.

Q: I received my Green Card about 2 months ago, based on an employment-based Immigration of the 2nd preference (EB2). Four months before my I-485 was approved, I went back to my home country and married my girlfriend. How can I bring her into the U.S.?

A Green Card holder who married or had children before the date of obtaining permanent residency (Green Card ) can get “following-to-join” benefits for his or her family members. Through this process, the spouse and children will be able to receive U.S. Green Cards quickly.

The “following-to-join” is not family based immigration, but it is similar to spouse and/or child receiving derivative immigration benefits based on a primary Green Card holder's immigration petition.

The legal permanent resident must first have adjusted status or obtained an immigrant visa through a preference category, and the permanent resident should married before becoming a U.S. permanent resident, and the relationship between the permanent resident and spouse/child is intact at the time of filing. Children of permanent resident must be unmarried and under the age of 21.

The following-to-join is convenient because it allows primary beneficiaries to avoid filing a separate Form I-130 for their spouse or child, greatly expediting the green card approval process.

Q: I got my Green Card based on my marriage to a U.S. Citizen. How long does it take to get U.S. Citizenship after the Green Card?

A: Most U.S. Permanent Residents have to wait 5 years after receiving Green Card to qualify for U.S. Citizenship. However, the immigration law gives a break to spouses of U.S. Citizens.

If you are a U.S. permanent or conditional resident, you cannot apply for U.S. citizenship until you have lived in U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. That means exactly five years to the day. You can check your U.S. permanent resident card for the exact date on which you became a permanent resident.

If you start out as a conditional resident rather than a permanent resident, because you got your residence through your marriage to a U.S. citizen, your two years as a conditional resident count as permanent residence.

If you have been married for at least 3 years, and your spouse has been a U.S. Citizen for at least 3 years, you are eligible for citizenship 3 years after you become U.S. Permanent Resident. Actually, you are allowed to apply for naturalization 3 months before the end of your 3 year residence.

The U.S. citizenship application must be submitted by mail, using USCIS Form N-400. USCIS will take a long time to process the N-400, to arrange for you to be fingerprinted, and to call you in for the interview at which it actually reviews your application, tests you on your knowledge of English and U.S. government, and makes a decision on whether to approve or deny you. USCIS may take at least 90 days to call you in for your interview.

Q: I have married with my U.S. citizen husband for more than 2 years inside the U.S. Now USCIS local office will interview us for my permanent Green Card application for the "real marriage". What find of documents I should prepare for the interview.

A: An alien spouse must prove that your marriage is real, not a sham just to get a Green Card. Collect and photocopy as many of the following items as possible. Do not send originals to USCIS. You should prepare the wedding invitations, church certificates, or other reliable documents that show the required relationship including:

    * Joint bank accounts;
    * Joint credit card statements;
    * Joint club memberships;
    * Joint federal and state tax returns;
    * Copies of actual credit cards, health insurance cards, or other "joint" cards that you have together, showing same account number;
    * Photographs of you and your spouse taken before and during your marriage, wedding photographs preferably those that include parents and other relatives from both families.

Q: To file Form I-130 for relative outside U.S., what kind of fees can be expected?

A: Immigration application related fees are charged for different services, such as fees for Department of State government services, fees for Visa Services, and fees for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, this fee is charged by USCIS;
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260;
  • Medical examination and required vaccinations - costs vary.
  • Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and travel expenses to go to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
Also, Form I-864 is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. There is no fee when filed with USCIS or abroad with the Department of State (DOS). DOS does charge a fee when this form is filed in the U.S. 

Q: For USCIS Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, what are the differences between sponsor, joint sponsor, and substitute sponsor?

A: An affidavit of support is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative coming to live in U.S.  The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work - usually 10 years.

A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor, or the joint sponsor and his or her household, must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner.

Some other eligibility requirements apply to the substitute sponsor as well. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of at least 18 years of age who has a domicile in the U.S. And the sponsor must be a relative of yours. In order to be a substitute sponsor, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: Spouse; Parent; Mother-in-law; Father-in-law; Sibling; Child (if at least 18 years of age); Son; Daughter; Son-in-law; Daughter-in-law; Sister-in-law; Brother-in-law; Grandparent; Grandchild; Legal guardian of the beneficiary.

Serving as a substitute sponsor is a primarily financial relationship, and it involves filling out an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864. The Affidavit must indicate that the new sponsor is able to support the immigrants and his/her own household, at a level that is at or above 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, by filing Form I-864, the substitute sponsor promises the U.S. government to pay back any need-based public assistance that the named immigrants receive for approximately the first ten years of their having a green card.


More Articles for Green Card Application of U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse
Obtaining Green Card through Marriage to a U.S. Permanent Resident
Requirements and Process for an Spouse to Become a U.S. Permanent Resident
Immigrant Visa Number, Priority Date, Medical Examination, and Visa Interview
Requirements for Following-To-Join and Upgrade the Second Preference Application
Help Desk's Answers for Questions of Green Card for Permanent Resident's Spouse
Do-It-Yourself Package of Green Card Application for Permanent Resident's Spouse
Green Card Application for U.S. Permanent Resident's Spouse
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