How can my foreign spouse obtain an immigrant visa?

Question: I am a U.S. citizen. My wife is a foreign citizen who lives outside the U.S. I am planning to apply for a visa for her to immigrate to the U.S. and receive a green card. What is the process for my wife to obtain a green card?

Answer: Consular processing is the process by which the relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) obtains an immigrant visa to travel to the U.S. and receive a green card. 

Consular Processing Steps

To apply for a visa for a foreign family member to immigrate to the U.S. and obtain a green card, you must complete the following three steps: 

  • Step 1: Submit Form I-130 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): The first step you must take to obtain a visa for your foreign spouse is to submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to USCIS. This form requires you to provide basic background information about you and your foreign spouse. You must submit proof that you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You must also provide evidence demonstrating that you and your spouse have a bona fide marriage. A bona fide marriage means that you and your spouse did not get married solely for immigration purposes. The filing fee for Form I-130 is currently $535. It typically takes USCIS over one year to approve Form I-130. 
  • Step 2: Submit Form DS-260 and Form I-864 to the National Visa Center: After USCIS approves your Form I-130, it will transfer your application to the National Visa Center (NVC). During this step of consular processing, your foreign spouse must submit extensive information to NVC on Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application). In addition, you must submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and proof of your income. You also must submit your spouse’s birth certificate, evidence that your spouse does not have a criminal record, and proof that your spouse has never been married or has terminated all prior marriages. The filing fee for Form DS-260 is $325, and the filing fee for Form I-864 is $120. It usually takes the NVC several months to approve your application.
  • Step 3: Beneficiary’s Visa Interview: After the NVC approves your application, it will transfer the case to the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your spouse’s application. The consulate will then notify your spouse of a date and time to appear for an interview. Before the interview, your spouse must have a physical exam and must bring the results of this exam to the interview. The purpose of the interview is to verify the validity of your marriage. During the interview, your spouse will have to answer specific questions regarding how you met, a description of your wedding, and other details of your relationship. If the interview goes well, the consulate will issue your spouse an immigrant visa, and she will be permitted to travel to the U.S. Within one or two months of entering the U.S., she will receive a green card in the mail.

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