To promote family unity, immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen's spouse.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouses for a green card. Both the sponsor and the beneficiary has to establish their eligibility. The process varies depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouses as their "immediate relative". For immediate relatives visa numbers are available immediately, which means there is no need for them to wait for a visa number to be made available for them. 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 green card. If the beneficiary is in the U.S., then he/she will have to apply to adjust status to permanent resident. If the spouse is outside the U.S., he/she will have to file for an immigration visa with a U.S. Consulate having jurisdiction over their place of residence.
U.S. permanent residents too can sponsor their spouses for green cards, but the process is more tedious. A visa number is not immediately available. Once the I-130 has been approved, they 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 U.S. Department of State. When the date is current, a visa number is available and the beneficiary can apply to either adjust status or for an immigration visa.
U.S. citizens can also consider a different procedure - the K-1 visa - which is the fiancé(e) visa. This visa allows the fiancé(e) of the U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. for 90 days during which time they need to get married and then apply to adjust status. This is an option to be considered, not to be assumed that it is better or easier. It depends on a lot of factors, especially expenses involved. For example, it may be less expensive and easier to get married abroad than in the U.S.
Green card through marriage is a good option for both U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Children can also immigrate with the foreign spouse as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.
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