If you are a green card holder, there are several things to consider when immigrating a foreign spouse.
Your petition to immigrate your spouse will normally be intentionally delayed because you are not yet a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizens can immigrate immediate relative spouses (or fiances) “right away”. Right away is not as quick as you might think. It can often take 6 to 12 months or so depending on how the case is processed. This is simply the normal processing time, without any intentional delays.
However, since you are not yet a U.S. citizen, you cannot immigrate your spouse right away. Instead, there is an intentional added delay, referred to as retrogression. This means that the U.S. government is intentionally delaying your case more than the normal processing time precisely because you are not a U.S. citizen. Retrogression exists to help prevent foreigners from coming to the U.S., applying to immigrate other relatives, who themselves obtain green cards and then apply to immigrate still others endlessly. Retrogression is a way to limit “chain migration” by intentionally slowing the process.
Retrogression changes month by month. The big news in August and September 2013 was that retrogression went to zero, meaning no retrogression. In this case, the wait time to process a foreign spouse (or a minor child) of a green card holder was exactly the same as for U.S. citizens who are immigrating immediate relatives. However, the window has now closed and retrogression is returning slowly.
Retrogression is expressed by what is called a “priority date”. These are dates posted on a table published by the government in a monthly visa bulletin. When you file your immigrant visa petition, you have to watch the Department of State visa bulletin to see when your priority date becomes current. If you filed your immigrant petition prior to a specific date noted on the visa bulletin, then your priority date is current and you may proceed to next steps.
That priority date is noted under category F2A of the most recent visa bulletin. For the most recent visa bulletin posting, go to this link and check the table.
Was your petition filed before the date posted?
If so, you may proceed to next steps. Otherwise, you must wait.
One way to help speed things up is for you — the green card holder — to apply for U.S. citizenship at your nearest opportunity. If you cannot apply for U.S. citizenship anytime soon, then joining the U.S. military can be a viable option. If you join the U.S. military, you can become a U.S. citizen quickly and then immigrate your foreign fiance, spouse, and minor children “right away.”
1. Spouse of Green Card Holder Is Outside the U.S.
This is the most straightforward scenario. The best thing to do in most cases is file the immigrant petition and start the process to immigrate your foreign spouse who lives abroad. There is no need to wait until you are a U.S. citizen since your petition can be upgraded if you obtain U.S. citizenship while your spouse visa is in process. In fact, I often will file spouse visa petitions concurrently with U.S. citizenship applications and coordinate the two filings to help bring the foreigner into the U.S. in the shortest time possible, often less than one year. How this is done depends on your particular circumstances, so you should please contact me before proceeding.
Exception: If the foreigner has access to the U.S. on some other visa, such as a visitor visa, then you need to think twice before filing an immigrant petition because in most cases an immigrant petition in process can cause a immigration border agent (CBP) to block entry to the U.S. and cancel the visa. What is required is an immigration plan before proceeding with immigrant processing.
2. Spouse of Green Card Holder Is in the U.S.
The foreign spouse can only apply for a green card if the foreigner is “in status” on some sort of visa status. If the foreigner has fallen out of status, then the foreigner is not permitted to adjust status to become a U.S. permanent resident green card holder based on marriage to another green card holder. So long as your foreign spouse can remain in the U.S. in some sort of lawful immigration status, then it can be possible to apply to change that status to permanent resident green card holder while remaining in the U.S. In some cases, we have the petitioner (the U.S. green card holder who is petitioning for a foreign spouse) apply for U.S. citizenship and also start the petition process for the foreigner. Once the green card holder obtains U.S. citizenship, we then have the foreign spouse apply in the U.S. for his or her own green card and complete the process, even if that foreigner has fallen out of visa status.
Call for Assistance — If you are a green card holder and you want to immigrate a foreign spouse or minor child under the age of 21 years, your best choice is to contact me and describe your situation. I will be glad to discuss with you. We can work out an immigration plan together and I can quote a fee for services.