4 Steps to Bring the Spouse of a U.S. Citizen and Obtain Lawful Permanent Residence

What are the 4 steps to bringing the spouse of a US citizen to the United States? Hi, Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis Missouri. If you’re watching this video that probably means that you’ve either gotten married or are about to get married to a spouse overseas, and we’re going to discuss the I-130 spouse visa process in this video.

You’ve got married, you’ve gone overseas, you have the marriage certificate, the marriage certificate has been recorded with the property authorities in your spouse’s home country. Now it’s time to bring them here. Hopefully when you went you brought a lot of materials back with you from your spouse and we’re going able to put those all together in our initial submission. The first stage of bringing a spouse in the United States is filing an I-130 Petition for an alien relative, which is the form that you use to notify the immigration service that you want to bring your spouse to the United States. All these cases start at USCIS, you file the paperwork with them and you submit a bunch of supporting documents.

What are the documents that you submit? Marriage certificate, proof of the relationship, the filing fee, the I-130 itself, a G-325 which is a background information sheet, a G-28 which is the form that says that we’re your attorney. You submit all that to the immigration service and it takes them about 3 or 4 months to approve your case. Stage 1 is at USCIS. Stage 2 is at a place called the National Visa Center.

After an I-130 is approved it is sent to the National Visa Center. What happens at this part of the process? At this part, you submit an online form called a DS-260, this is a lot of the same information that’s done on the I-130. They ask for a lot of the background information about the relationship, about the 2 spouses, about the US citizen, about the non citizen. There’s a lot of information that’s requested, family relationship, parents and trips that the person’s had in the United States, criminal history, all these kinds of things. They want to know a lot of detail about the overseas spouse.

You file that DS-260 online. This is after you’ve paid some additional fees, so I should have backed up a little bit. At the National Visa Center stage the first thing you do is you pay the fee. There’s an affidavit of support fee and an immigrant visa fee. These 2 fees have to be paid to start the process at the National Visa Center. You’re often waiting about a month to get the case from USCIS to the National Visa Center. Once you pay those fees you’ll get a document cover sheet, you want to make sure to keep that. You also get receipts back for the payments of the immigrant visa fee and the affidavit of support fee.

After you do that that’s when you file the DS-260, and then eventually you’re going to submit a checklist. The checklist is going to be all the supporting documentation. For some countries you do that through paper filing, you send a package to the immigration service and actually file that with them on paper form. In other countries if it’s a country that is electronically based you have to do everything through email, sometimes these emails are very long and lengthy if they send more than one email because there’s so many documents that you have to submit.

You again have to submit copies of the marriage certificate, copies of birth certificates, copies of identifying information, copies of passport biographic pages, all these kinds of things you’re going to have to submit to the National Visa Center. Once they have everything that they need they’re going to ask you also to submit an affidavit of support. This is a form that demonstrates that you’re going to be able to economically support the person when they come to the United States. If you have questions about affidavits of support, we have a lot of videos on that subject as well on our website.

Basically you’re going to have to demonstrate that you make above 125% of the poverty guidelines, and that when your spouse comes to the United States that they’re not going to become a ward of the state, or that the government’s going to have to pay for them for food stamps or medical care.

Once you get out of the National Visa Center, which also takes about 3 or 4 months, then you’re ready to get working with the embassy. Every embassy handles the next stage of things very differently, but eventually you’re going to get a notice in the mail or by email that it’s time for your spouse to go for their interview. Typically once the case is done at the National Visa Center it takes about 2 months for you to get that interview notice, sometimes a little bit longer. Once they get the interview notice they’re going to have to get a medical exam.

In the home country there are doctors that are going to be designated by the embassy that says this is the doctor that you need to see to get your medical exam taken care of. You have to do that before the interview. Eventually you’re going to go to the interview, hopefully at this point the embassy has everything that they need in order to approve the application. It’s always a good idea to bring a complete copy of everything, sometimes you’re going to have to bring originals, they might ask you about those so you want to make that the overseas spouse has the originals, that you do not submit them either to USCIS or the National Visa Center.

At that point the spouse goes in for their interview. These are relatively quick, they want to make sure that the marriage is legitimate and that the couple still intends to live together and that the person wants to come to the United States. If there’s any questions or red flags that have been raised by the person’s background, by the checklist or any other documents that were submitted, the embassy officials are going to ask them about that. In most situations the embassy people say, “Give us your passport,” and you can either come back and pick it up with your visa stamp to come to the United States, or they can send it by DHL or some other carrier service from the embassy to your house there in your home country.

Once you get that visa you have a couple months to come to the United States. You’ll probably also have a packet of background documents that you’re going to want to bring with you through customs. You’re going to show the customs officials your passport with the visa stamp and give them that envelop. The other thing that’s important to keep in mind, that in between that time period of when the embassy has approved the petition and the non citizen spouse coming to the United States, you want to make sure that you get online and pay the LS fee. There’s a fee to pay to get the actual Green Card.

The goal is that you leave the packet with the customs officials, you come through on your passport, and if you’ve paid that LS fee online you’ll get the Green Card in the mail hopefully a few weeks, sometimes a few months after you arrive in the United States. That is the entire process. USCIS, National Visa Center, embassy, and then pay the LS fee. Those are the 4 stages of any successful I-130 spouse visa petition.

We hope this video helped to explain things to you. If you have any questions feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can always email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com. We hope you liked this video. If you have any questions get a hold of us, otherwise be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you can be updated when we make new videos. Thanks a lot, have a great day.