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How Do I Bring My Spouse (Husband or Wife) to Live in the United States?

This information is for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who wish to bring a spouse to live permanently in the U.S.

Definition of a Spouse
Overview of Immigration Process
What Does the Law Say?
Information for Citizens
Information for Lawful Permanent Residents
Conditional Residence
How Do I File the Petition?
How Can I Check the Status of My Visa Petition?
Can My Spouse Come to the U.S. to Live While the Visa Petition Is Pending?
Can Anyone Help Me?
Frequently Asked Questions
Information For Your Alien Relative

Note: Information concerning the new K (advance admission for the spouse and children of a U.S. citizen) and new V (advance admission for the spouse and the minor children of a lawful permanent resident) nonimmigrant visa categories can be found on the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act page.

Definition of a Spouse
Before you file any documents, it is helpful to understand that "spouse" means lawful husband or wife. In order to successfully petition for an immigrant visa for your spouse, your relationship with your spouse must be established and your spouse must be admissible to the United States under the immigration law.

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Overview of Immigration Process
A legal immigrant (or "lawful permanent resident") is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. There is a three-step process for your spouse to become a legal immigrant:

  1. The USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition that you file for your spouse.
  2. The State Department visa bulletin must show that a spouse immigrant visa is available to your spouse, based on the date you filed the immigrant visa application.
  3. If your spouse is outside the United States when your visa petition is approved and when an immigrant visa number (if required) becomes available, your spouse will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa. If your spouse is legally inside the U.S. when your visa petition is approved and when an immigrant visa number (if required) becomes available, he or she may use the Form I-485 to apply to adjust his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

For more eligibility information, see Who May Apply to Become A Lawful Permanent Resident While in the United States?

Read more about LPR eligibility information.

For an excellent overview of immigration, please see the chapter and tables on immigrants in the Immigration Statistical Yearbook. For more information on immigrant visa numbers, see How Do I Get an Immigrant Visa Number?

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What Does the Law Say?
The Immigration and Nationality Act is the law that governs the admission of all immigrants to the United States. For the part of the law concerning immigrant visas for spouses, please see INA 201, INA 203, and INA 204. The specific eligibility requirements and procedures for applying for immigrant visas and permanent residence are included in the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] at 8 CFR 204.1, 8 CFR 204.2, and 8 CFR 245.

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Information for Citizens
If you are a U.S. citizen, your spouse is considered an immediate relative and is immediately eligible for an immigrant visa if your petition is approved. Generally, if your spouse is in the U.S. (through a lawful admission or parole) at the time you file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, your spouse may file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status at the same time. For more information, your spouse should refer to How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident While In the United States? If he or she is outside the U.S., your spouse will need to go to the nearest U.S. consulate to apply for an immigrant visa.

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Information for Lawful Permanent Residents
If you are a lawful permanent resident and your petition for your spouse is approved, your spouse will be notified by the Department of State when a visa number becomes available. If your spouse is outside of the United States at the time of notification, he or she must then go to the local U.S. consulate to complete visa processing. If your spouse is inside the U.S. through a lawful admission or parole and is maintaining that status at the time of notification, he or she may file the Form I-485 when the visa number becomes available. If that is not the case but the petition was filed on or before 04/30/01, he or she may be eligible to benefit under section 245(i).

If you do not have the visa number issued by the Department of State, you must wait for a number to become current. Your spouse may need to depart the United States to avoid accruing unlawful presence. For more information, your spouse should refer to How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident While In the United States?

If you were married to your spouse before you became a permanent resident, your spouse may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that you would not have to submit a separate Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for your spouse, and your spouse would not have to wait any extra time for an immigrant visa to become available. See Petitioning Procedures for more information on following-to-join benefits.

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Conditional Residence
If you have been married less than two years when your spouse is granted lawful permanent resident status, your spouse will receive permanent resident status on a conditional basis. You and your spouse must apply together to remove the conditions on residence. Please note - you must apply to remove conditional status within 90 days before the 2-year anniversary of the award date of your spouse's conditional legal permanent resident status. If you fail to file during this time, your spouse will be considered out of status as of the 2-year anniversary, and may be subject to removal from the U.S. For more information, please see How Do I Remove the Conditions on Permanent Residence Based on Marriage?

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How Do I File the Petition?
To find out how you can petition to have your spouse live in the U.S. permanently, please see Petitioning Procedures, which will help you identify what you and your spouse need to do. This link also provides information for your spouse on filing the I-485 at the same time you file the I-130 petition.

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How Can I Check the Status of My Visa Petition?
To check the status of your visa petition, you will need to contact the USCIS office that received it. Full instructions can be found at Finding the Status of Your Case.

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Can My Spouse Come to the U.S. to Live While the Visa Petition Is Pending?
If you are a U.S. Citizen, once you file Form I-130, your spouse is eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant K-3 Visa. This will entitle him or her to come to the U.S. to live and work while the visa petition is pending. The Form to file for this benefit is Form I-129F. It is not necessary for your spouse to obtain a K-3 visa in order to come to the U.S. to live and work. Your spouse may wait abroad for immigrant visa processing. However, seeking a K-3 visa can be a method for him or her to come to the U.S. more quickly.

If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and you have filed Form I-130 for your spouse and/or minor children on or before 12/21/00, your spouse and/or children may be eligible for the V visa classification if more than three years have passed since the I-130 was filed. For more information about V visa eligibility, see the 9/07/01 INS News Release, "INS Implements 'V' Nonimmigrant Provision of the LIFE Act".

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Can Anyone Help Me?
If advice is needed, you may contact the USCIS District Office near your home for a list of community-based, non-profit organizations that may be able to help you in applying for an immigration benefit. In addition, please see our web page that provides information on obtaining free legal advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Do you want further information? Click here for access to our Frequently Asked Questions on immigration.

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Information for Your Alien Relative
For more information on adjusting to permanent resident status, your spouse should refer to How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident While In the United States?

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