How to Petition a Spouse

In order to successfully petition for an immigrant visa for a spouse, the relationship must be established and the alien spouse must be admissible to the United States under the immigration law.


Overview of Immigration Process

There is a three-step process for a foreign spouse to become a legal immigrant, unless the spouse is already:

  • The USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) filed on behalf of the foreign spouse.
  • An immigrant visa must be available based on the date the immigrant visa application was filed.
  • If the foreign spouse is outside the U.S. when the visa petition is approved and when an immigrant visa number (if required) becomes available, the spouse will be notified by the Department of State’s National Visa Center complete the processing for an immigrant visa. If the spouse is legally inside the U.S. when the visa petition is approved and when an immigrant visa number (if required) becomes available, he or she may apply for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center.

Combined Processing for Spouses Already in the U.S.

Since spouse of a U.S. Citizen is considered an immediate relative and is immediately eligible for an immigrant visa, the USCIS allows for Combined Processing in this category. This means that if the spouse is legally in the U.S. (through a lawful admission or parole) at the time of filing the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, he/she may also file for adjustment of status at the same time. Combined Processing is only available to beneficiaries/applicants who are in the U.S.

Information for Lawful Permanent Residents

If a LPR of the U.S. was married to his/her spouse before becoming a permanent resident, the spouse may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that a separate Form I-130 is not required for the spouse and there is no additional wait for an immigrant visa to become available.

Conditional Residence

If a U.S. Citizen and alien spouse were married less than two years at the time the spouse is granted lawful permanent resident status, the spouse will receive permanent resident status on a conditional basis. That means, the permanent resident status will be granted for a period of two years. An application to remove the conditions (Form I-751) must be filed 90 days before the 2-year anniversary of date being granted conditional legal permanent resident status. For more information, please see section entitled Removing Conditions on Residency.

Can Spouses Come to the U.S. to Live While the Visa Petition Is Pending?

Once a U.S. Citizen has filed Form I-130, his/her spouse is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-3 Visa. This will entitle him or her to come to the U.S. to live and work while the visa petition is pending. For more information see section on K-3 Visa.

If a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) filed Form I-130 for his/her spouse and/or minor children prior to December 22, 2000, the spouse and/or children may be eligible for the V visa classification if more than three years have passed since the I-130 was filed.