Are you married to a U.S. citizen and residing overseas? In this guideline, you will find a checklist of all necessary immigration forms, application procedures, and processing times for spouses filing for a green card.
A green card is important for an alien spouse of a U.S. citizen because it grants the holder legal permanent residency in the United States. This means that the holder is allowed to live and work in the country permanently and can apply for citizenship after a certain period of time. Additionally, the green card holder is also allowed to enter and exit the United States as they wish and can sponsor their close relatives to come and live in the U.S. as well.
When one spouse is a U.S. resident, and the partner spouse is a foreign citizen pursuing a green card and residing abroad, the total processing time to be issued a marital green card is 12-16 months:
· Building a marriage relationship: 7-10 months
· NVC application to seek green card: 3-5 months
· interview for a visa and approval for a green card: 1-2 months
In this guideline, we will assist you in knowing the processing time for a marital green card issued to overseas spouses of U.S. residents.
We have created a comprehensive guideline that deals with the total processing time you can anticipate when applying for a marriage-related green card. You can view it here.
You can also view the full schedule for each USCIS application center here.
Step 1: Submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
The initial step in the marriage green card application is the submission of Form I-130, a Petition for Alien Relative.
If you are a spouse pursuing a marriage-based green card and reside outside the U.S. and your spouse is a U.S. national, then you will apply by means of a USCIS process called “consular processing.”
Consular processing is the process by which an individual applies for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the United States. This process is typically used by individuals who are outside of the U.S. or who are not eligible to adjust their status to a green card holder within the United States. Consular processing is used for a variety of visa categories, including family-based visas, employment-based visas, and diversity visas.
The petitioner’s spouse (a U.S. citizen) is required to file Form I-130 to create a valid marital relationship between the spouses.
Form I-130 consists of these two forms and must be delivered to USCIS along with their supporting documentation:
· Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: fulfilled with sponsor/applicant.
· Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary: fulfilled from the petitioner (foreign spouse).
Step 2. USCIS Acceptance Notice (I-797C)
As soon as you have fully filled out your Form I-130 and I-130A and collected the appropriate supporting documentation, you will get it mailed to the appropriate USCIS office.
A USCIS Acceptance Notice, also known as a Form I-797 receipt notice, is a document issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to confirm that they have received and accepted a specific immigration application or petition. This Notice serves as proof that the application or petition has been filed and is being processed by USCIS.
You may also submit your Forms I-130 and I-130A online.
Generally, within about 2-3 weeks, you will get an official “Notice of Receipt” from USCIS.
This receipt notice identifies that USCIS has successfully accepted your application.
It also consists of a series of case numbers (“receipt number”) that you can use to keep track of your “case status” on the USCIS website.
A USCIS receipt number is a unique 13-character identifier that is assigned to an immigration application or petition when it is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This number is used to track the status of the application or petition throughout the processing time.
The receipt number is usually in the format of three letters followed by ten digits, for example, EAC-21-123-456-789. The first three letters of the receipt number indicate the service center that is processing the application or petition. The next two digits indicate the fiscal year in which the application or petition was received, and the remaining digits are a unique identifier for the specific application or petition.
If USCIS requires additional information or documentation to process your application, it will issue a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) to you, usually within 2-3 months of getting your application.
Upon successful collection of your Form I-130, USCIS will issue a determination on your case and give you a notice of approval within 7-10 months.
· Notice of acceptance (I-797C) is mailed approximately two weeks after the application arrives at USCIS.
· USCIS issues an approval notice within the next 12-16 months.
Step 3. Handling at the National Visa Center
After Form I-130 is authorized, USCIS refers the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). The National Visa Center (NVC) is a U.S. government agency that is responsible for pre-processing certain types of immigration applications before they are sent to U.S. consulates or embassies for final processing and issuance of a visa. The NVC is part of the U.S. Department of State and is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The NVC primarily handles family-based immigration applications, including petitions for spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens. Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the immigrant petition, it will be forwarded to the NVC for pre-processing. The NVC will then send out instructions and forms to the applicant, including the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and other required documents.
The NVC is there to ensure that all essential forms and documents have been correctly submitted and that the spouse is ready to be interviewed at the U.S. embassy/consulate.
After receipt of your case from USCIS, NVC allocates a distinct case number and invoice I.D. number to you, which then acts on your behalf from that point forward.
NVC begins processing your case and, after approximately 3-5 months, turns your case over to the U.S. embassy or consulate of the applicant’s spouse’s country of residence.
Approximately 3-5 months after your case is processed, NVC will deliver it to the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home state.
Step 4. Immigrant Visa Application
As soon as you have successfully gotten the confirmation letter and email from NVC, you have to:
· Payment of affidavit of support charges ($120)
· Payment of immigrant charges ($325)
· Submit Form DS-261 online, select address and agent online(Can Skip)
· Online submission of an affidavit of support
· Submit all necessary supporting documents
Approximately three weeks later, the NVC processes your Form DS-261 and issues you a “Notice of Receipt.”
The next step is to finish the DS-260 application. DS-260 is an online application form that is used by the U.S. Department of State as part of the immigration visa process for certain categories of immigrants. The form is officially called the “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application” and is typically used for family-based immigration and diversity visa (DV) programs.
The DS-260 form must be completed and submitted by the applicant and all accompanying family members who are seeking an immigrant visa. The form collects information about the applicant’s personal background, family, and contact information, as well as other details such as the applicant’s employment history, education, and any prior immigration violations.
After you finish the DS-260 form online, ensure that you print the confirmation page, as you will require it for your visa interview at the U.S. embassy/consulate.
After you file your Form DS-260, the NVC will issue a notice confirming delivery of your Form DS-260, usually on the same day.
· NVC issues you a Notice of Acceptance within three weeks of submitting Form DS-261.
· NVC will issue you a notification of the receipt of your Form DS-260 on the same day you file the form.
Step 5: Affidavit of Support, Submission of Form I-864
After getting your DS-260, the applicant and sponsor will have to complete the below three items and submit them in a package to NVC.
These consist of the following:
· Supporting documents for DS-260 (to be accomplished by the applicant)
· Filling out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (to be accomplished by sponsor)
· Supporting documents for I-864 (to be accomplished by sponsor)
Form I-864, also known as the Affidavit of Support, is a legal document that is required to be submitted as part of the immigration process for certain categories of immigrants. The form is used to demonstrate that the sponsor of the immigrant (usually a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident) has the means to support the immigrant financially and that the immigrant will not become a public charge (dependent on government assistance) in the United States.
The sponsor is typically required to provide evidence of their income and assets, such as tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements. In some cases, a co-sponsor may be required to also submit a Form I-864 if the sponsor’s income is not sufficient to meet the required income threshold.
In the same way, if NVC identifies any documents missing from the package you supplied, it will issue you with a list of missing documents, usually within 1-2 months.
There will be a determination within 3-5 months once NVC is in receipt of a complete application.
· The NVC will issue a determination on your case within 3-5 months of receiving all of your forms.
Step 6: Pre-Interview preparation
Once NVC has finished processing your application, it will issue you an approval notice and forward your paperwork to the local U.S. embassy/consulate closest to your home state.
Approximately 1-2 months later, you will get an interview appointment letter with all the specifics of the appointment: date, time, and location.
However, there are certain prerequisites that must be met by the applicant’s spouse prior to attending the green card interview. Some of them are:
· Applicants must make an agreement with an accredited State Department physician in the applicant’s home country to undergo a medical examination and interview.
· Your interview reservation letter will cover information on how to seek out an approved physician.
· The interview reservation letter you get will supply information on how to seek out an approved physician.
· After the medical examination, the physician will give you the test results and vaccination records, which you will have to show to the interview.
· Prior to the Interview, the spouse in pursuit of a green card must register online and supply his or her address.
· This is the place to which the passport can be delivered after the approved visa stamp has been put on the passport.
· To receive comprehensive embassy/consulate requirements specific to your country, please use the NVC pre-interview checklist.
Step 7: Green Card Interview
Approximately one month after getting the interview letter, the applicant participates in the interview.
The precise time, date, and location of the interview will be referred to in the appointment notice.
The green card interview at an embassy is a meeting between the applicant, who is a foreign national, and a consular officer from the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country. The purpose of the interview is for the consular officer to determine the applicant’s eligibility for a green card (lawful permanent residency) based on their relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident sponsor.
During the interview, the consular officer will review the applicant’s application and supporting documents and will ask questions to verify the information provided. The officer will also assess the bona fides of the relationship between the applicant and the sponsor. They may ask questions about how they met, how long they have been in a relationship, and other details about their life together.
The consular officer may also ask about the applicant’s background, including their work and education history, any criminal or immigration violations, and their plans for living in the United States. The officer will also conduct a security check and a medical examination. After the interview, the consular officer will make a decision on the applicant’s eligibility for a green card and will inform the applicant of the decision in a timely manner.
The sponsor’s spouse does not participate in this interview.
If the consular officer grants your immigrant visa application, you will be granted an immigrant visa, which will admit you to the U.S. for a period of six months.
· The interview schedule is about one month after getting the interview notice letter.
Step 8: Green Card arrive
If the interview is successful and the consular officer confirms that your marriage is bona fide, they may approve your immigrant visa on the same day.
A couple of weeks later, the spouse will get a visa stamp in their passport permitting travel to the U.S.
After participating in an interview, the spouse is issued an immigrant visa, and they have six months to come into the U.S.
Only when they arrive in the U.S. will the USCIS issue a green card by mail.
Please be aware that the visa is only effective for six months, and you must only be admitted to the U.S. during this time window.
Next, you will be required to pay an immigration charge of $220, which can be paid online here.
· Usually, it takes about 2 months after the applicant’s spouse lands in the U.S. to get the green card in the mail. In some cases, it can take longer.
Step 9: Conditional Green Card
The kind of green card you get will be based on how many years you and your spouse have been wed on the day you get your permanent residency.
If you have been married for fewer than two years
If you and your non-resident foreign spouse have been wed for fewer than two years at the time the green card is issued, the permanent resident card granted to your immigrant spouse will be effective for two years.
This temporary green card is known as a “conditional resident green card.”
To acquire an “unconditional” 10-year green card, you and your spouse must submit Form I-751 together.
This process is known as “removing the residency condition.
Upon successful elimination of residency conditions, you will be issued a permanent resident card, which is effective for ten years.
Form I-751 has to be submitted 90 days before the expiration date of the permanent resident card (which is valid for two years).
In examining your I-751 application, USCIS will have an additional chance to identify whether the marriage is genuine.
If you have been wed for greater than two years
In the event that you and your non-resident foreign spouse have been wed for two years or more on the date you are granted permanent residency, you will be given a green card that is effective for ten years.
If you are granted a 10-year green card, you do not have to eliminate the requirements for your permanent residency.