The spouse of a US citizen is considered an “immediate relative” for immigration purposes. This means that, once petitioned, there is a visa immediately available for the spouse to immigrate. The foreign spouse must, however, meet all the other qualifications to immigrate or must obtain waivers.
The process for petitioning a spouse depends on where the foreign spouse is, and whether the marriage has already occurred.
If you have not yet married, and the fiancé(e) is abroad. You can file a K-1 petition for a fiancé(e) visa with USCIS. Once the K-1 petition is approved, the Department of State is notified and the file is transferred to the US Embassy or Consulate nearest the fiancé(e)’s home. The fiancé(e) must then apply for the actual visa. You will then have to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s entry into the US. After marriage, the foreign spouse will need to file an application for adjustment of status in order to get the green card.
If you are already married and your spouse is abroad, you would need to file an I-130 petition with USCIS. After the I-130 is approved, the case will be transferred to the Department of State, which will request additional documents and fees. After it has collected all the necessary documents and fees, the Department of State will transfer the matter to the US Embassy or Consulate nearest your spouse. Your spouse will then need to apply for the immigrant visa. Upon entry to the US, your spouse will be processed for the green card.
If you are already married and your spouse in in the US, you would need to file an I-130, and your spouse will need to file an I-485. USCIS will conduct an interview, and once the case is approved, your spouse gets the green card.
Processing times vary. The USCIS website gives estimated processing times.
Due to the complexity of the law, and the serious effects a mistake can have, it is highly advisable that you have an attorney for the case. Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers are available to handle your case.