When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national in St. Louis, MO, that citizen is able to sponsor their spouse for a Green Card. There is an unlimited number of these kinds of Green Cards available. That is, Congress has not put any kind of cap or limit on the number of Green Cards that can be awarded to the spouses of U.S. citizens.
However, that is not the case for the spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders). If a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) marries someone from overseas, and that person is in the United States, they may want to get a Green Card. To learn more about this process, speak with a St. Louis, MO green card lawyer at Hacking Immigration Law, LLC.
The process of applying for a green card as a Lawful Permanent Resident is different than when a U.S. citizen applies. When a U.S. citizen applies, they can file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and the I-45 Petition for Adjustment of Status for the foreign national all at the same time. And the foreign national can wait in the United States while that case is pending. It just takes about nine or ten months, and at the end of the process, the spouse of the U.S. citizen has a Green Card.
But not so with a Lawful Permanent Resident spouse. When a Lawful Permanent Resident sponsors a foreign national, their spouse, to get a Green Card, it is a two-step process. First, you have to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. That can take about six or seven months to get approved. Then you have to wait for your Green Card priority date to become current.
Now, what is a priority date? When you file that initial I-130, your case is receipted and is assigned a priority date. A priority date is basically your place in line. It is the date you are going to have to pay attention to in order to find out when your visa becomes available. In other words, because Congress has capped (limited) the number of Green Cards that are available for the spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, there is a backlog.
Right now, the backlog is running a little over two years. So, if you file the I-130 on April 1, 2018, you would have received a receipt notice, and it would say the priority date. Then every month, you have to check something called the Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin is a document that is issued by the State Department once a month, that tells you what cases that they are working on. So, every month, they are working closer and closer to your priority date.
Right now, there would be people whose priority dates were from two years and a month ago. Their visas would now be coming current, and now they can apply with their approved I-130 for an Adjustment of Status. At that point, they file the I-485 Application to Adjust Status, the I-131 Application for a Travel Document, and the I-765 Work Authorization. This is when you are going to have the actual interview to adjust whatever status you have to that of Lawful Permanent Resident.
If you are in the United States, the fact that your Lawful Permanent Resident spouse has filed an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for you does not in and of itself give you any kind of status. So, if you want to remain in the United States with your spouse while you wait for your priority date to become current, you have to maintain your status independently. If you do not have another basis to stay in the United States, you are going to have to leave because you do not want to accrue unlawful presence.
You do not want to have a lot of time in the United States out of status because being married to a Green Card holder does not protect you as it does when you are married to a U.S citizen. You really need to think it through. I would not recommend that a Lawful Permanent Resident file for their spouse without the help of a qualified St. Louis, MO immigration lawyer. There are simply too many moving parts.
Another problem is that if you are on an F-1 student visa, or another non-immigrant visa such as an F-1 or J-1, and your spouse files an I-130 for you, that demonstrates immigrant intent. That can show that you have an intention to stay in the United States, which is inconsistent with the non-immigrant visa you are on. You are really going to want to think it through before you begin the adjustment process.
Having a spouse who is a lawful permanent resident sponsor you for a Green Card can present many challenges. Generally, these challenges are greater than they are for a U.S. citizen sponsoring a spouse. For that reason, it is important to work with an experienced professional who can help guide you through the process. A St. Louis, MO Green Card attorney can help you understand the best path towards citizenship considering your unique circumstances and work with you to avoid the many pitfalls in the process. To learn more, call today.