I have a US Citizen Spouse – how can I apply for a green card?
Despite the current indefinite suspension of most visa services at US consulates and embassies abroad, parts of the US immigration system are continuing to operate. Currently, this includes US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which continues to work forward to process any petitions at USCIS service centres.
As USCIS generally adjudicates the initial petition for an immediate relative immigrant (spouse, parent, or minor unmarried child), these cases can still be filed at this time.
Generally, an immediate family immigrant case usually has four steps for an immigrant visa (IR-1/CR-1).
- A I-130 Petition for Alien Relative filed generally with USCIS by the US citizen spouse.
- Upon approval of the I-130 Petition, the case is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for initial processing of the immigration visa.
- The last step is the immigrant visa interview at a US consulate abroad, including a final review of required documents, public charge review, and bona fides of the relationship.
- After an immigrant visa is approved, the family member enters the US on the visa, becoming a lawful permanent resident upon entry.
Note that sometimes an immigrant visa for a spouse (IR-1/CR-1 visa) is discussed as a K-3 visa on the internet. A K-3 visa is a distinct separate visa for a spouse of a US citizen. It was created historically to shorten the physical separation between the foreign-citizen and US-citizen spouses by having the option to obtain a non-immigrant K-3 visa overseas and then enter the US to await approval of the immigrant visa petition. It was done in conjunction with the above I-130 petition, then upon approval of the I-130 generally followed by an Adjustment of Status.
For most couples, the K-3 visa is no longer a viable option to make things proceed more quickly. In the recent past, USCIS and NVC processing of I-130 petitions have generally made the K-3 visa process obsolete. For example, in the fiscal year 2019, only five K-3 visas were issued. Whereas for spouses in the fiscal year 2019, 83,554 IR-1/CR-1 visas were issued.
For current US citizen ex-pats living overseas, it is important to discuss if you may qualify for quicker processing of an I-130 Petition with a US consulate abroad under exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances could include a short notice job transfer or job offer for the US citizen, potential medical emergencies, or other humanitarian considerations. Recently, as of February 24, 2020, there have been significant changes to the adjudication of public charge. Public charge is an important hurdle in these cases where the totality of circumstances is reviewed to determine if the foreign national relative is likely to become dependent on the government in the future. This is a reason an immigrant visa can be refused for a foreign national spouse. This is now an even more important part of planning for the immigration of a foreign national spouse.
It is important to remember that entering the US by misrepresenting or hiding the purpose of travel to live permanently in US with a US citizen relative as a visitor has potentially serious immigration consequences. The use of the visa waiver program (ESTA) or on a B1/B2 visa entry to stay and adjust your status could lead to a denial of your case. However, note that a spouse of a US citizen may visit the US to spend time with a US citizen spouse or partner.
There you have it, a breakdown of your current options for a spouse of a US citizen residing abroad to immigrate to the US. We recognise that we’re currently living in stressful and unusual times. At the very least, Worldwide Migration Partners can ensure ease in the application process and remove this singular worry on your behalf. If you would like further information regarding your eligibility, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a US attorney, an Australian migration agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 20 years of experience in migration law, including practising at the world’s largest US immigration firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.