Spouse Green Card

This page details how to get your spouse a green card in the USA. If you are a citizen or green card holder, the information on this page will provide you with a basic roadmap of what areas you should focus on. It will provide you with information you need to take to an immigration attorney. Getting a spouse-based green card is one of the fastest ways to lawful permanent residence. This page details:

  • Wife and Husband Green Card Basics
  • Fiancé Visa K-1
  • Spouse of Citizens – Immediate Relatives
  • Spouses of Green Card Holders – 2A Second Preference
  • Marriage-Based Entry Through Other Visas
  • Hiring an Immigration Lawyer

Husband and Wife Spouse Green Card Basics

The U.S. immigration system doesn’t want to split up families. The United States government encourages marriage and wants to keep husbands and wives together with spouse green cards. As a result, the Immigration Nationality Act has set up several ways for the citizens and green card holders to bring their spouses to the USA as well.

Generally, it is easier to bring a spouse to the States if you are a citizen. There are not as many caps and restrictions. You can sponsor your fiancé on a temporary visa, and then they can be admitted as an immediate relative and acquire a spouse green card.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and you want to get a spouse green card for your wife or husband, you must do it under the 2A preference system. See below for more details. Or, if you are married at the time you acquire some other type of visa (employment based visa, asylum, NAFTA Professional TN visa, etc.) then you may be able to bring your spouse with you.

There are several ways to approach this process so we highly recommend that you hire a professional to make sure its done right. Getting a spouse green card is difficult and it helps to have a law firm on your side.

Spouse Green Card | Orange County Immigration Lawyer

Fiancé Visa K-1

If you are US Citizen and you get engaged to a foreign national, you may get your Fiancé admitted to the USA on a temporary basis while you’re waiting to get married. We’ve prepared an entire page on the Fiancé K1 Visa and we encourage you to review it.

Spouses of Citizens – Immigration as Immediate Relatives

If you are a citizen and you get married to a foreign national, the easiest way to bring your new husband or wife into the US is to sponsor them as an “immediate relative.” In order to do that they must qualify as an immediate relative spouse under the INA. There are not any numerical limits to the immediate relative spouse category so the waiting times are short.

What is an immediate relative spouse? A spouse is a legally joined husband or wife. To determine whether a marriage is valid for immigration purposes, the USCIS applies the law of the place where the marriage took place. Miezgiel v. Holder. So, if you’re a US citizen and you get married to a foreign spouse in Spain, you must be legally married under the laws of Spain before your spouse can qualify as an immediate relative spouse under the INA.

Obviously, the parties must establish that the marriage is legal, the parties are still married, the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of getting the foreign-spouse a green card, and no fee was paid to get residency (except attorney’s fees). You will have to demonstrate the validity of the marriage by producing evidence showing joint ownership of property, comingling of finances, affidavits of third parties, birth certificates of children, etc.[1]

After a citizen gets married to a non-citizen, the marriage results in the alien-spouse becoming a conditional resident under INA § 216. On a joint petition, the conditional resident should apply for a spouse green card after two years of marriage. This petition must be filed within 90 days of the two-year anniversary of becoming a conditional resident.

If the alien-spouse enters the U.S. after the marriage is more than two years old, he or she would become a lawful permanent resident, not a conditional resident. Thus, a joint petition to remove conditions is likely not necessary.

We strongly encourage you to hire an immigration lawyer if you wish to bring an alien-spouse into the United States. You do not want to inadvertently miss the conditional resident deadline or file incorrect information on the form. This can delay or ruin your chances of success.

Spouses of Green Card Holders – 2A Second Preference

If you are not a US citizen, the process of getting your spouse a green card is more difficult. The only method is via the “preference system.” Specifically, green card holders can sponsor spouses under the second preference 2A category.

To initiate this process, your green card spouse sponsor should have an immigration attorney file an immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) with the USCIS. If that petition is approved, you will get a priority date. A spouse-based green card will not be issued until the applicant’s priority date is reached. This depends on how many other people have applied for it from your country.

As we detailed on our main family-based green card page:

Generally, the preference system is much slower than immediate relatives. Whenever the number of approved applicants exceeds the available visas in that preference category, there will be an immigration hold or wait. There are numerical caps as to how many people can get each type of visa. If there is a backlog in your situation (most countries have backlogs), the visas will be issued in the order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date. Many people wait several years before they get a green card.

Marriage Based Entry via Other Visas

If you are currently trying to acquire a spouse green card via an employment-based visa, if your work visa is approved, you may be able to bring your spouse and minor children with you. Again, the USCIS doesn’t want to split up families. This applies to the EB5 investor based visa, EB3 skilled worker visa, EB1 persons of extraordinary ability visa, and EB2 exceptional ability visa. This also applies to temporary, non-immigrant, visas like the NAFTA Professional TN visa.

These are just a few. There are many other ways to bring your family to the USA, and we highly recommend that you speak with an experienced immigration lawyer to get a full picture of your options.

Hiring an Immigration Lawyer for Spouse Visa

Reading this page is not a substitute for speaking with an experienced immigration attorney. We highly recommend that you call and receive a consultation with legal counsel immediately. We also recommend that you review the USCIS website on spouse based immigration. The USCIS puts out detailed information that helps provide more context behind the process of immigrating a spouse.

[1] 8 CFR 216.4(a)(5)