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Immigrant Visas (Green Card) for Spouses of Permanent Residents (F-2A)

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Apr 24, 2019)

If you are a U.S. permanent resident who has married a foreign-born (same-sex or opposite-sex) spouse, you may file a petition to sponsor your spouse's immigration to the United States.  Your spouse would be eligible to pursue the necessary steps to acquire permanent resident status and ultimately citizenship.

Topic image for Immigrant Visas (Green Card) for Spouses of Permanent Residents (F-2A)

Ordinarily, your spouse and your spouse's minor children (under 21 and unmarried), would receive conditional permanent residence. It would be critical to file a timely application to remove the condition on their permanent residence. Otherwise, they will lose their authorization to stay in the United States.  See Removing Condition on Residence Based on Marriage.  Eventually, they will become eligible to apply for naturalization (citizenship).

What is the application process to apply for immigration of my spouse?

To apply for an immigrant visa for your spouse, you must file a classification petition (Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative), together with all supporting documents and fees, with the USCIS in the United States.

To see when a marriage is recognized for immigration purposes and how you can prove your marriage is bona fide, see Recognition of Marriage and Its Bona Fide for Immigration Benefits.

To see the current USCIS fee for this petition, see USCIS Fee Schedule.

To see how long the USCIS would take to adjudicate your petition, see USCIS Processing Times.

If your spouse is in the United States, upon of approval of your classification petition, your spouse may file an application for adjustment of status.  If your petition and your spouse's application are approved, your spouse will receive a conditional permanent residence status. The actual conditional permanent resident card will arrive by mail a few weeks after your spouse receives the approval notice.

Note that not every foreing-born spouse in the United States would qualify for adjustment of status.  Adjustment of Status Eligibility Requirements.

If your spouse is overseas, the USCIS will send the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). When a visa number becomes available for your spouse, the NVC will collect the required documents and fees from you and will forward the file to a U.S. consulate for consular processing. Your spouse will have an interview at the designated U.S. consulate. Assuming all goes well, the U.S. consulate will issue an immigrant visa to your spouse. Once your spouse arrives here, he or she will be interviewed by the officers of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). If your spouse is admitted, the officer will note the appropriate visa category on your spouse's passport. In a few weeks, your spouse will receive either a regular or conditional permanent resident card (see below).

See Priority Date & Visa Availability.

What if my spouse is in removal proceeding?

When the non-citizen, beneficiary spouse is in removal proceeding, the family-based petitions filed on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident must show by clear and convincing evidence that the marriage is bona fide and include a request for an exemption, under 8 C.F.R. § 204.2(a)(1)(iii)(A), of the general prohibition on such petitions filed while the beneficiary is in removal proceeding.

Who may not qualify for green card?

Not everybody who is married to a U.S. citizen would qualify for an immigrant visa.  Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act lists the individuals who are “inadmissible” immigrants. These include people who have committed certain types of crimes, violated immigration laws, or are afflicted with certain mental or physical illnesses.  Some exceptions or waivers may be available, but you need to consult an attorney to explore the possibilities.

See Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

See Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

What is the difference between regular and conditional permanent resident status?

If you and spouse have been married for two years or more at the time of the interview at the U.S. consulate, your spouse will receive a regular (unconditional) permanent residence status (green card). Otherwise, your spouse will receive a conditional green card.  In that case, you and your spouse must file a petition to remove the condition on your spouse's residence within the 90-day period immediately before the expiration of your spouse's conditional residence, which will be shown on your spouse's conditional residence card.

If your spouse receives a conditional immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate but by the time your spouse arrives in the United States two years have passed since the date of your marriage, your spouse may request that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers note an unconditional immigrant status on his or her passport. That would result in your spouse receiving an unconditional (regular) green card. If the second anniversary of your marriage is near, your spouse may reschedule the consulate interview in order to receive an unconditional green card.

What level of financial support do I need to show in connection with my spouse's visa application?

When filing petitions for immigrant visas for your spouse and children, you need to file Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA) to show your financial ability to support your family. Form I-864 must show that your income is at least 125 % of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

If your spouse is in the United States and files an Application for Adjustment of Status, Form I-864 and its supporting materials should be filed with that application.  If your spouse is overseas, you do not need to file Form I-864 with your classification petition, which is filed with the USCIS. In that case, the National Visa Center will ask for the completed Form I-864, as a part of Consular Processing.

Can I petition for immigration of my stepchildren?

You may add the children (unmarried and under 21) of your spouse as derivative beneficiaries on the petition you file for your spouse.

You should also file separate petitions for your spouse's children as your stepchildren.  Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, your stepchildren must have been under the age of 18 at the time you established step-child/step-parent relationship by marrying their alien parent. INA §101(b)(1)(B). Your stepchildren must be unmarried and under 21 years of age, at the time of their interview and arrival in the United States. There is no restriction for filing alternative immigrant petition for the individuals you are sponsoring.

The children will receive varying degrees of protection under Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), under the circumstances discussed above or if you become a citizen while their immigrant petitions are pending.

Your stepchildren will receive regular (unconditional) or conditional permanent residence, depending on the duration of your marriage to their other parent.

Can my spouse and stepchildren work in the United States?

If your spouse and stepchildren are already here, they must have a separate and an independent basis for living and working here. Once an immigrant visa number becomes available to them, see Priority Date & Visa Availability, they may file Applications for Employments Authorization Document (EAD), using Form I-765, together with their Adjustment of Status Applications, in order to receive permission to accept employment.  See Working in the United States during the Immigration Application Process.

Your spouse and stepchildren, who arrive in the United States as permanent residents or conditional permanent residents, are free to stay and work in the United States without restriction.

Can my spouse and stepchildren travel outside of the United States?

If your spouse and stepchildren are already here when you file your petition, then when an immigrant visa number becomes available to them and they file an Application for Adjustment of Status, they should request advance parole before traveling overseas.  See Traveling Outside of the United States during the Immigration Application Process.

Your spouse and stepchildren, who arrive in the United States as permanent residents or conditional permanent residents, are free to travel outside of the country. They must, however, maintain their permanent residence in the United States, and their travel pattern must show that they intend to make the United States their home. Repeated travels out of the country or long travels to their home country with short stays here will call them to the attention of immigration authorities and may eventually result in loss of status. If a situation arises that requires them to stay out of the country for an extended period of time, they may seek advance parole, using Form I-131.

Related Topics:

Removing Condition on Residence Based on Marriage

Citizenship after Marriage to U.S. Citizen

Waiver for Battered/Abused Spouses, Children, & Parents


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