What is a Spouse Visa?
Spouse visas, also known as marriage visas, permit the spouses of American citizens to enter and reside permanently in the United States. Spouses currently residing in the United States with their American sponsor can simply adjust their status to a legal permanent resident, known as the green card, without first obtaining a spouse visa.
There are two types of spouse visas: the CR-1 for spouses of American citizens, and the F-2A for spouses of a green card holder. While similar, the process of obtaining the F-2A visa requires a longer time period than obtaining the CR-1.
What Are the Qualifications for a Spouse Visa?
In order to be eligible for the spouse visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that certain conditions be met by both the American citizen and the spouse applicant, which are:
- The sponsor must be an American citizen or green card holder.
- Sponsor and spouse must be legally married before applying.
- Sponsor must demonstrate the ability to support the spouse financially, meeting at least the minimum federal poverty guidelines. If unable to do so, the sponsor may be able to enlist a co-sponsor or provide evidence of other assets.
- Spouse must meet the immigrant visa eligibility criteria and not have violated in United States immigration laws. Those who do not meet the criteria, or have committed a crime, may not be eligible to receive a spouse visa.
When applying for a spouse visa, the sponsor must include the following documents along with the application:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of prior marriage termination, if applicable
- Proof of sponsor’s American citizenship or permanent residency
- Proof of legal entry into the United States and current immigration status, if applicable
- Copy of current or expired United States immigration visas
- Financial records
- Military records
- Records of any immigration violations, court, police, and prison records, if applicable
- Certificate of police clearance
- Completed USCIS immigration medical examination document.
A certified immigration medical exam is required prior to application for a spouse visa. The exam consists of a review of your medical history and immunization records, disease and illness testing, drug and alcohol screening, and mental and physical evaluation by approved medical practitioners.
What Happens After I File My Spouse Visa Application?
The total processing time for the spouse of an American citizen to receive a visa can take up to one year, but typically is completed within 10 to 12 months. For spouses of green card holders, the processing time is approximately two years, from start to finish. Generally, the process and timeline are as follows:
- Once the application is filed, you will receive a receipt notice and case number from USCIS in approximately three weeks from the date the application was received.
- You will receive an approval or denial of your application from USCIS within five to eight months following the date on your receipt notice
- If approved, USCIS will transfer your application to the National Visa Center (NVC) to review the sponsor’s civil and financial documents, followed by approval and transfer to the U.S. embassy in the spouse’s home country, which may take up to three months.
- Once the embassy receives the file, the spouse is required to schedule an immigration medical exam and in-person interview.
During the spouse interview, the U.S. consular will review all submitted documents and evidence supporting the relationship. The interview will contain many personal questions regarding the relationship to prove the validity of the marriage. This part of the interview can be somewhat intensive as it is designed to reveal persons who marry in order to obtain a green card and not in a bona fide relationship.
Upon successful completion of the interview, the spouse will be issued a spouse visa to enter the United States. The spouse visa will serve as proof of permanent residency for the spouse to enter and reside in the United States and will receive their green card within two to three months after arrival.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help American Citizens Applying for Marriage Visas for Immigrant Spouses
If you are an American citizen or green card holding and want to apply for your spouse to join you living in the United States, the knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help you prepare and file your sponsorship petition. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.