The situation we’re talking about here are situations where a lawful permanent resident has sponsored their spouse for a green card. That spouse may be in the United States. That spouse might be overseas.
Now, we know based on immigration law, that U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouse, and there’s no backlog, no delay, no limit on the number of green cards available for their spouses.
So all that means is you have to wait for the process to run its course, for the green card application for the spouse to be processed.
And then the spouse of the U.S. citizen can come to the United States.
That’s usually not the situation when the sponsor is not a U.S. citizen, but rather a green card holder themselves.
In those situations, Congress has put a cap on the number of visas that are available each year.
And so that has sometimes created a backlog.
Basically you file the paperwork, and the applications gets processed, but you have to wait for your place in line.
You have to wait for what’s called your priority date to become current.
And so what happens is the green card holder will sponsor their spouse by filing an I-130 petition for an alien relative.
And if that spouse is overseas, then eventually that case will get processed and scheduled for an interview about a year or two later.
If the spouse is in the United States, again, you can only file the I-130, you can’t file for adjustment if your priority date is not current.
So the way that that process works is an I-130 petition for alien relative is filed by the green card holder for their spouse.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that the foreign spouse is going to have to be in status throughout the process.
If the spouse falls out of status or lets their visa expire, or they violate the terms of their visa, then they’re not going to be able to adjust status themselves until their green card sponsor spouse becomes a U.S. citizen.
This sounds a little bit confusing, but let’s just make an example.
So let’s say you have a guy named Abdul.
Abdul has a green card, and he wants to sponsor his wife, Farida, for a green card.
And Farida is in the United States on an F1 visa.
Abdul files the I-130 petition.
It gets receded and it starts getting processed.
Now, the USCIS knows that the visa is not going to become current for about two years.
So these cases generally take a little bit longer, but it doesn’t really matter once you have that priority date, because that’s your line ticket.
And so if Abdul files that green card application or files the I-130 petition, and it gets receipted, then Farida is going to have her priority date.
And if Abdul becomes a U.S. citizen, while Farida’s case is still pending, then what you do is you can notify USCIS that Abdul has become a U.S. citizen.
You’d send in a copy of his certificate of naturalization, and you’d alert USCIS to the fact that he has become a citizen.
And then his priority date becomes irrelevant.
Farida is then the spouse of a U.S. citizen, and the case should process along normal processing times.
Now, it is a little bit tricky to get USCIS to pay attention, because when they open up the case, they mark it down as the spouse of a green card holder and getting them to wake up and pay attention and notice that Abdul is now a U.S. citizen changes things a little bit.
Now, what happens if the citizenship happens after the I-130 is been approved?
Now that’s an even bigger bit of a problem.
In that situation, the I-130, if it’s been approved, it will probably have been sent to the National Visa Center.
USCIS treats it as if the foreign national spouse, the person waiting for the green card, based on marriage to a green card holder is overseas.
And so they don’t necessarily know that the spouse is in the United States and they don’t process it that way.
So that’s a little bit trickier.
You have to notify the National Visa Center and USCIS that Abdul has become a U.S. citizen.
And then you have to get them to process for adjustment here in the United States.
Now, the one thing is we’ve done about five of these last year, and USCIS has been pretty good about then recategorizing them as the spouses of a U.S. citizen and getting the cases on track.
It’s just a matter of logistics.
You file the I-485 at that point, once Abdul is become a U.S. citizen.
You notify the National Visa Center that Farida is in the United States, and that she’s going to adjust her status.
And then things actually happen pretty quickly after that.
Probably not a maneuver that you can do on your own.
You’re probably going to need some legal help.
So if you have questions about this, give U.S. a call at 314-961-8200.
You can email U.S. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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