Some people may think that tying the knot is the only thing needed to get a marriage-based visa in the US. Yet the procedure is much more complex, and many American green card holders and citizens need to arm themselves with patience.
The time to immigrate a spouse to the United States in 2023 depends on a number of factors, including application processing times. There are a number of variables that affect how long an application takes, including your place of residence as well as the current residence, immigration status, and background of your spouse who was born outside of the country.
Furthermore, bureaucracy as well as things like file mismanagement, which can occur in an administrative environment, can negatively impact processing times despite your best preparations. Therefore, let’s take a look at a few potential outcomes and evaluate the timelines involved.
What Happens When a US Citizen Gets Married to an Immigrant?
The procedure for a US citizen who is married to an immigrant varies from state to state. When a U.S. citizen marries an immigrant and the couple moves outside the country, the procedure goes as follows:
1. Form I-130: The American citizen spouse files Form I-130, known as Petition for Alien Relative. After it’s approved, the immigrant can submit their visa online.
2. The NVC: Once the immigrant visa is submitted, the immigrant sends all of their documentation to the National Visa Center (NVC). After a thorough review, the NVC will forward the immigrant’s file and supporting documents to the US consulate in their home country for consular processing.
3. Consular processing: After the immigrant spouse receives the interview slot in their home country, they are eligible to attend the consular processing. If everything goes well during the interview, the immigrant officer may grant the spouse a visa to enter the country. A permanent resident card will be issued to the immigrant after they arrive in the United States.
As mentioned earlier, the timeline of this process varies from state to state, but the average processing time for Form I-130 is between 16 and 27 months.
What Happens When a US Lawful Permanent Resident Gets Married to an Immigrant?
In a scenario where both a lawful permanent resident and the immigrant spouse live outside of the US, there are a lot of intricate factors to think about when deciding if the immigrant spouse can apply from within the US.
Also, if the immigrant leaves the US, bars may be put in place. Before making any decisions that could affect your citizenship status, you should consult law offices for marriage visas and seek professional help from an attorney.
This is how the process looks:
1. Form I-103: In cases where the immigrant spouse lives outside of the US, the green card holder must submit Form I-103 to USCIS on behalf of their spouse.
2. Form I-130: The immigrant spouse can submit a Form I-130 visa application online, and both processes can be done at the same time. This is called concurrent filing.
After that, the immigrant spouse can send the necessary paperwork to the state’s NVC. At this point, the immigrant needs to wait until the priority date in the immigrant visa category becomes current. In general, each year, only a certain number of these types of visas are made available.
3. Consular processing: The NVC can direct the foreign partner to meet with a consular officer at the consulate in the immigrant’s country after the priority date has passed and a visa has become available. If the interview goes well, the consular officer will likely grant the foreign partner a visa to stay in the country.
As with the examples above, Form I-130 could be approved in anywhere from 10.5 to 30 months. For obvious reasons, it is much harder to figure out how long you will be on the waiting list. Five to ten months should pass between the interview and getting the immigrant visa.
The fact that wait times are hard to predict is partly because of how many visas are available. Lastly, where the application is sent from could make a big difference in how long it takes to get a green card. Once you’ve decided what to do, your attorney will be able to give you more advice.
Adjustment of Status
The third instance in which a US citizen marries an immigrant who has lawfully entered the country involves a different procedure. It is called the Adjustment of Status and involves the following steps:
1. Form I-485: The status of the immigrant spouse can be adjusted by filing both Form I-130 and Form I-485. Even if the immigrant overstayed their visa, their stay in the US becomes legal as soon as they file that application.
2. USCIS: The immigrant can go to USCIS to have their fingerprints taken.
3. Immigration interview: The immigrant has to make an appointment with an immigration officer for a meeting. If the interview goes well, the green card will be approved, making it legal for the person to live there permanently.
The average processing time for an online immigrant visa application is 13.2 months.
When you send in Form I-485 to change your status, you can also ask for a work permit, which is also called an employment authorization document (EAD).
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, is the form you need to fill out. If you send in both forms at the same time, you won’t have to pay extra for Form I-765.
Before 2022, most people got their work permits 4–6 months after sending their applications to USCIS. At the moment, people have to wait anywhere from 11.5 to 18.5 months.
More Marriage-Based Visa Good-to-Knows
Green card processing following marriage can take anywhere from 10 to 38 months. Processing delays (like the ongoing pandemic backlog) and staffing or financial issues at a particular service center or field office are just a few of the factors that have an impact on wait times.
A green card application is not complete until all required documentation, including a medical exam, biometrics appointment, and interview, has been submitted.
Basic Requirements for a Marriage-Based Visa
To get a marriage green card, the person applying must be able to show that their marriage is real and that they meet all of the other requirements.
Among these standards are being married to a U.S. citizen or legal resident, being at least 18 years old, and not having a criminal record.
The Cost of a Marriage-Based Visa
The cost of the marriage green card application procedure varies based on a variety of criteria, including whether the application is filed inside or outside of the United States.
Currently, the application price for a marriage green card is $1760 for applicants residing in the United States and $1200 for those residing outside the United States.
Working and Traveling While a Green Card Application is Pending
If you are currently residing in the United States and your green card application for marriage is pending, you may be able to submit an application for work authorization. However, if you file for a marriage green card from outside the US, you will be unable to work until you have acquired your green card and entered the US.
You may be eligible to travel abroad from the United States with advance parole. However, if you file for a marriage green card from outside the US, you will not be eligible to travel until you have gotten your green card and entered the US.