Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen

1.      Define Spouse as understood by the United States Government.

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.


2.      Are same-sex spouses also allowed?

Yes, same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, along with their minor children, are also eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses.


3.      How does one acquire an immigrant visa for one’s spouse?

The American citizen must file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices that serve the area where the sponsor is living. The sponsor must then file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), for their foreign-citizen spouse and step children.

Once USCIS approves the petitions, they will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.


4.      What happens if the NVC receives the approved I-129F petition before it receives the I-130 petition?

The NVC will process the I-129F petition and it will send the petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the marriage took place. If the marriage took place in the U.S., the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issues visas in the foreign-citizen spouse’s country of nationality.


5.      What if the marriage had taken place in a country that has no U.S. Embassy or the Embassy or Consulate does not issue visas?

If the marriage had taken place in a country that has no U.S. Embassy or the Embassy or Consulate does not issue visas, the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that normally processes visas for citizens of that country.


6.      Is there a minimum age requirement to be a U.S. sponsor?

No. There is no minimum age requirement for a U.S. sponsor to file a petition for a spouse. However, the sponsor must be at least 18 years of age and have a residence in the United States before he can sign the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864 or I-864EZ). This form is required for an immigrant visa for a spouse and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.


7.      Is the U.S. sponsor required to be a resident of U.S.?

Yes, as the U.S. sponsor, he must maintain his principal residence in the United States. Living in the United States is required for a U.S. sponsor to file the Affidavit of Support, with few exceptions.


8.      What are the required documents?

The following documents are required:

  1. Passport
  2. Affidavit of Support
  3. Completed Form DS-160, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
  4. Two 2x2 photographs
  5. Birth Certificate
  6. Marriage certificate
  7. Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse
  8. Medical examination
  9. Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support may be requested)
  10. Evidence of relationship with of the U.S. spouse to the foreign-citizen spouse
  11. Payment of fees


9.      What happens after the submission of the documents?

Once the NVC determines that the file is complete with all the required documents, they would schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, petitioner, attorney and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant’s visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.


10.  What should an applicant bring to their interview?

Applicants should bring their valid passports, as well as any documentation not already provided to NVC, to their visa interviews. During the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken. Generally, applicants will received their original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.


11.  Are medical examinations required for the visa applicants?

Yes. In preparation for their interview, the applicant must schedule and complete their medical examination and any required vaccinations before the visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. The applicant will be provided instruction by the NVC regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians.


12.  Are there any requirements as regards vaccinations?

U.S. immigration law requires visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas.


13.  What are the vaccination requirements currently for Immigrant visa applicants?

U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of an immigrant visa. The following are the required vaccinations needed:

  1. Hepatitis A
  2. Hepatitis B
  3. Influenza
  4. Influenza type b
  5. Measles
  6. Meningococcal
  7. Mumps
  8. Pneumococcal
  9. Pertussis
  10. Polio
  11. Rotavirus
  12. Rubella
  13. Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids
  14. Varicella

The immigrant visa applicant should have their vaccination records available for the panel physician’s review at the time of the immigrant medical examination. Visa applicants must consult with their regular health care provider to obtain a copy of their immunization record if one is available.


14.  What happens if the visa applicant has no vaccination record?

If the visa applicant does not have a vaccination record, the panel physician will work with the visa applicant to determine which vaccinations they would need to meet the requirement. Certain waivers of the vaccination requirement are available upon the recommendation of the panel physician.

15.  What is Conditional Residence?

If the U.S. citizen sponsor has been married for less than two years to his foreign-citizen spouse, the permanent resident status of the foreign citizen spouse would be considered “conditional”, when they enter the United States on an immigrant visa.


16.  How does one remove the conditional status of the residency of the foreign citizen spouse?

The U.S. sponsor spouse and the foreign citizen spouse must together apply to USCIS for the removal of the conditional status within ninety days before the two-year anniversary of the foreign citizen spouse’s entry into the United States on their immigrant visa. The two-year anniversary date of entry is the date of expiration on the alien registration card (green card).


17.  How long would it take?

The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because the applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Sometimes the U.S. sponsor, or petitioner, cannot meet Affidavit of Support requirements. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer.


18.  What happens if the applicant did not reveal some material fact?

Attempting to obtain a visa by willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in them becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.


19.  What happens when the application for visa is granted?

When the applicant is issued their immigrant visa, the consular officer will give them their passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents that the applicant had provided. It is very important that the applicant do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open the packet when the applicant enters the United States.


20.  Until when can an applicant enter the United States?

The applicant can only enter the United States before the expiration date printed on their visa.