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US citizens and permanent residents can sponsor spouses through a petition for a Green Card by marriage. Both the sponsor and the beneficiary have to establish their eligibility. The process varies depending on whether the sponsor is a US citizen or a Green Card holder.
US citizens can sponsor spouses as "immediate relatives." For immediate relatives, visa numbers are available immediately, which means that there is no need to wait for a visa number to become available. As soon as the sponsor's petition (Form I-130) is approved, a visa number is made available and the beneficiary can apply for a US Green Card. If the beneficiary is in the US, that beneficiary will have to apply for to have his/her status adjusted to Permanent Resident. If the spouse is outside the US, he/she will have to file for an immigration visa with a US consulate having jurisdiction over their place of residence.
US permanent residents, too, can sponsor spouses seeking to get a Green Card, but the process can take longer because a visa number will not be available immediately. Once the I-130 has been approved, spouses of Green Card holders will have to wait for their priority date -- the date on which the sponsor filed the petition -- to become current. The status of the priority date can be checked using the Visa Bulletin published monthly by the US Department of State. When the date is current, a visa number is available, and the beneficiary can apply for a visa or to adjust his or her status.
US citizens can also consider a different procedure: the K-1 visa, or Fiancé(e) visa. This visa allows the fiancé(e) of a US citizen to enter the United States for 90 days during which time they need to get married and then apply for a status adjustment. This is an option to consider, but it should not be assumed to be a better or easier route. Many factors and expenses are involved. For example, it may be easier and less expensive get married abroad than in the US.
The option for a Green Card through marriage is available to US citizens and permanent residents. Children can also immigrate with the foreign spouse as long as they meet eligibility requirements.
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