If you plan to marry someone from another country and want that person to come to the United States with you, it is important to understand the process for spouse immigration. 

The U.S. immigration laws stipulate that you may apply to have your spouse receive a visa if you meet certain eligibility requirements. You need to follow all necessary steps to increase your chances of having your petition for a spouse approved. 

The eligibility requirements 

If you are a U.S. citizen and want to bring a spouse from overseas back to the U.S. with you, you need to file forms I-130 and I-485; if you are currently living outside the U.S., you only need to file an I-130. You also need to have documentation to demonstrate that your status as a citizen, such as a valid U.S. passport, birth certificate or certificate of citizenship. 

You need the following documentation when applying: 

  • A civil marriage certificate copy 
  • Passport style photos of your spouse and you 
  • Evidence to support legally changing your names 
  • Documentation to certify termination of previous marriages, if needed 

Understanding the time frame

On average, it takes between 12 to 24 months for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve an I-130 petition; however, receiving an immigrant visa is the next step and may take a significant amount of time to process. If they approve your application, they send it to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center. The NVC then contacts you when a visa is available, and your spouse may apply for an immigrant visa. 

Maintaining status 

Assuming that you had a marriage of at least two years at the time of your spouse gaining permanent resident status, the spouse’s status will be probational. You must apply to have the status changed to permanent within 90 days before the expiration of the probationary period. 

Appealing a denied application 

After a denied application, you may appeal the decision. An appeal involves completing an application and paying the required fees to move forward with the process. The Board of Immigration makes the final decision on whether your appeal may reverse the initial denial.