What is the best way to bring my fiancé, husband or wife to the U.S.?
There are a few visa and green card options for partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Fiancé Visa (K-1)
The K-1 visa is available to partners of US citizens who want to get married in the U.S. Once they’ve entered the U.S., you have 90 days to get married. The positives of the K-1 visa is you only have to deal with U.S. immigration officials instead of coordinating with other foreign procedures as well.
Spouse Visa (K-3)
The K-3 visa is best for couples who are already married or couples who want to get married outside of the U.S.. It allows the wife or husband of a U.S. citizen to move to the U.S. and wait for their green card application to be accepted. On the K-3 visa, you may file for permanent residency status through adjustment of status or at a U.S. consulate abroad.
If you and your partner are already married, your partner can apply for a marriage green card outside of the U.S. though consular processing. This means your partner will wait for their decision outside of the U.S. but this process is generally quicker that adjustment of status.
Adjustment of Status
Once you’re married, if your foreign partner is already in the U.S. (on another visa, K-1 or K-3 visa) they can remain in the U.S. by applying for a family-based green card through adjustment of status.
What if I am not married? Can I bring my partner or ‘significant other’ to the U.S.?
Unfortunately U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents cannot sponsor partners they are not married to. Your partner can temporarily visit the U.S. through a tourist (B-2) visa or can apply for a green card through employment, investing or the green card lottery.
How do I become a permanent resident and how long will it take?
Every path to permanent residency is different and how to apply will differ depending on your case and how long the permanent residency process takes depends entirely on which path to permanent residency you take. Here is generally what you can expect from the permanent residency process:
- In most cases, becoming a permanent resident requires you to be sponsored, either by a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident or an employer. In those cases, they will need to submit an immigrant petition on your behalf.
- Once that is approved and there is availability for your category, you are able to apply for a green card. This can be through consular processing (or from outside of the U.S.) or through adjustment of status (or from inside the U.S. on a valid visa).
- Then, you’ll be required to attend a biometrics appointment to provide your fingerprints, photos and signature.
- Next, you’ll have to attend an interview.
- Lastly, you’ll receive a decision on your green card application.
You can consult with our Houston immigration lawyers for a free consultation to get the specifics for your case.
Who is eligible for a green card?
There are many paths to U.S permanent residency (or obtaining a “green card”). The most popular being family immigration, by a family member sponsoring you to come to the U.S., or through employment and investing. You can get a green card through:
- Your family connections
- Your employer
- Refugee status or under asylum
- Special immigrant status
- Victims of abuse, crime and human trafficking
- And more
How Can I Obtain Family Sponsorship?
The most common path to permanent residency is through immediate U.S. citizen relatives. They are the highest priority family visas and there are no limits on the number of immediate relatives that can receive a green card. These include:
- Spouses and recent widows and widowers
- Children under the age of 21
- Stepchildren (if the marriage happened before the child was 18)
- Adopted children (if the child was adopted before he or she was 16 years old)
Any other relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who are eligible for a green card fall under preference categories.
First Preference (F1) – Unmarried sons and daughters over 21 years old of U.S. citizens
Second Preference (F2A) – Spouses and children (under 21 and unmarried) of lawful permanent residents
Second Preference (F2B) – Unmarried sons and daughters over 21 years old of lawful permanent residents
Third Preference (F3) – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
Fourth Preference (F4) – Siblings of U.S. citizens (if the citizen is over 21 years old)
How Can I Obtain Employment Sponsorship?
The EB visa programs allow foreign workers and their immediate families to permanently live and work in the U.S. There are approximately 140,000 of these visas available every year. Generally, to apply for an EB visa, you must have a prospective employer who’s received a labor certification approval. The employment sponsorship visas include:
EB-1 Visa – This visa is reserved for those with extraordinary ability in art, science, athletics, business, or education; outstanding professors and researchers; and multinational managers and executives.
EB-2 Visa – This visa is reserved for professionals holding an advanced degree or persons with exceptional ability in business, art or science.
EB-3 Visa – This visa is reserved for skilled workers whose jobs require at least 2 years of training or experience, professionals whose jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and unskilled workers who are able to fill positions that require less than 2 years of experience or training.
EB-4 Visa – This visa is reserved for special immigrants and the employer isn’t required to receive labor certification. Those eligible include broadcasters, ministers of religion, certain employees or former employees of the U.S. government abroad and many other specific circumstances.
There are some exceptions where the applicant can self-petition and apply for the National Interest Waiver.
What is the EB-5 Investment Visa
EB-5 – This visa is the last employment visa preference category. It doesn’t require an employer to sponsor the applicant, but the applicant must invest, without borrowing, at least $1,800,000 or $900,000 in high unemployment or rural areas. They must also create at least 10 full time jobs for U.S. citizens, LPRs or authorized immigrants.
What is the EB-5 Investment Visa
There are also special circumstances that can provide a path to permanent residency for foreign nationals. Unsure which path is best for you? Schedule a free consultation with one of our Houston immigration attorneys, and we’ll review your options.
What is a preference category?
There are preference categories for both the family and employment-based permanent residency process. These categories line out how the U.S. government prioritizes each circumstance in how they allocate green cards. Each preference category has its own limitations on the number of immigrant visas that can be allocated each year. Please see question “Who is eligible for a green card?” for more details.
What is the “green card lottery”?
The “green card lottery” is a term used to describe the Diversity Visa Program. 55,000 visas are available each year to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. It is completely free to apply for the diversity program.
Can I include my spouse and dependent children when processing my green card?
Yes! You can include your spouse and children under 21 in your application.
When can I apply for U.S. citizenship?
If you’ve been a permanent resident for three years, you’ve been married to a U.S. citizen during that time and you haven’t been outside of the U.S. for 18 months or more, you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
If you’ve been a permanent resident for 5 years or more, have not been outside of the U.S. for 30 months or more for more than 1 year at a time, you’ve lived in the district or state in which you are applying for the last three months, you can read, write and speak basic English and you know the fundamentals of U.S. history and government, then you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
If you don’t fulfill one or more of these qualifications, you could still be eligible through exceptions. See if you’re eligible with the USCIS Eligibility Worksheet.