LEGAL BRIEF by Atty Susan V. Perez, firstname.lastname@example.org | SAN DIEGO, 10/30/09 — I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries whether legal permanent residents or greencard holders can sponsor their spouses to live or stay in the United States. Most of these inquiries involve a foreign national who is in the U.S. on a tourist visa and had met a legal permanent resident who offered him or her marriage. They want to know if the foreign national can stay in the U.S if they get married. While a legal permanent resident can sponsor or petition his or her foreign national spouse, this does not give the foreign national spouse the status of an immediate relative. Therefore, the foreign spouse cannot stay in the U.S. while waiting for the legal permanent resident spouse to become a U.S. citizen.
Only U.S. citizens have means of bringing their foreign husbands or wives to the US to live. The U.S. citizen can “sponsor” his or her spouse’s immigrant visa for entry to the United States. First, an immigrant petition has to be filed with USCIS. After USCIS, the National Visa Center and the US Embassy complete all the necessary administrative processing the foreign spouse will be granted an immigrant visa. The foreign spouse will receive an IR1 or a CR1 visa. An IR-1 (IR stands for “Immediate Relative”) visa allows your spouse to immigrate to the U.S. A CR1 Visa (CR stands for “Conditional Residency”) will be to the foreign national if the marriage is less than 2 years old. It is conditional for two years.
A K-3 visa is relatively new and the fastest way of getting your spouse to live in the U.S. It is a non-immigrant and is granted normally within a few months. You should use the K3 visa to start the process outside of the US, then travel to the US to complete the immigration process. In this case, the application must be made in the country where the marriage took place. If your marriage took place in the US, your spouse must apply for a K3 visa through the US Embassy in the country of his/her residence. After the visa has been issued, the spouse can travel to the US.
To obtain a visa for a foreign spouse, the following requirements must be met: 1) the marriage must be legal; 2) the U.S. citizen must be a resident of the U.S., and 3) the U.S. citizen must be at least 18 years old. If the U.S. citizen is currently living outside the U.S., he or she must submit the immigrant petition to either the local office of USCIS or directly to the US Embassy where the foreign spouse resides. If the spouses are already in the U.S., the immigrant petition and adjustment of status can be submitted simultaneously with USCIS. Spouses of U.S. citizens, and the spouse’s children, can come to the United States on nonimmigrant visas and wait in the United States to complete the process.
(Reprinted with permission from the author, Atty. Susan V. Perez, ESQ, an Immigration Lawyer in San Diego , CA. Please contact her at 619-8198648 or 619-8086673 if you are in the U.S. or at 632-6879851; 632-6872565; 632-7063005 to 08 for Philippine residents)