You understand that the immigration process to the United States can be complicated. If you are a married, permanent resident of the U.S., you may be wondering, would becoming a citizen help my foreign spouse in the immigration process? The short answer is, probably, yes. Everyone's case is unique. In this article we explore different scenarios and details when weighing a decision on weather or not to become a citizen before helping your spouse with their immigration process, I-130 and, possibly, I-485 Immigration Forms.
How Are Petitions for Spousal Visas Processed for U.S. Citizens Versus Permanent Residents?
There is an unlimited number of visas available for the spouses of United States citizens. If you are a U.S. citizen and have a spouse that was born in another country, they would qualify as an immediate relative and would not have to wait for a visa to become available for them. Because there is not a waiting list, as long as your spouse meets all other requirements their application would be processed faster.
There is a yearly cap on the number of visas for the spouses of permanent residents. If you are a permanent resident applying for your foreign-born spouse your spouse will be placed in line until a visa number is available. Each year more people apply than there are visas available and unfortunately this can sometimes mean years until USCIS gets to the visa application for your spouse. You can read more about marriage and immigration here.
Is the Immigration Process Easier If My Spouse Is Here in the United States?
Possibly. If your spouse is here in the United States, has a lawful entry and you are a U.S. citizen then your spouse can apply for adjustment of status. This is done by filing the forms I-130 and I-485 concurrently.
If you are a permanent resident, the priority date of your petition must become “current” on the Department of State Visa Bulletin before moving on to the second step in the process. When you file the I-130 you will receive a receipt notice with a priority date. That date becomes your spouse’s place on the waiting list. The Department of State Visa Bulletin, which is published each month, tells you where your petition is in line based on the priority date. To find out which applicants are eligible to get green cards, you would need to look at the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin that can be found online.
What Are the Requirements to Become United States Citizen?
If you have been a permanent resident for at least five years or qualify for an exception that will allow you to apply earlier, you may be able to naturalize. You would still need to meet USCIS’s other eligibility requirements as well. You can learn more about the requirements for naturalization by clicking here, Naturalization and Citizenship.
Once you are a U.S. citizen, you gain certain rights and benefits that permanent residents do not have. One of the most significant benefits is the ability to bring your family members including parents, adult children even if they are married, as well as siblings to the United States to live permanently
Should I Wait Until I Become a United States Citizen to File an I-130 for My Spouse?
Generally, you don’t need to wait until you become a U.S. citizen to file an I-130 petition for your spouse.
That said, every case is different, and in your situation there may be reasons to wait to file your I-130 petition. These reasons may have to do with timing and/or processing of the case.
In many cases, even if you are not yet eligible for naturalization, you may benefit from filing your spouse’s petition as soon as possible in order to get your spouse a “place in line.” If you are able to become a U.S. citizen before your spouse’s priority date become current, you will be able to change the classification of the petition so your spouse can move out of the line for spouses of permanent residents and into the line for spouses of U.S. citizens, which generally moves much faster.
Can My Spouse’s Green Card Application Be Denied If I Become a United States Citizen?
Yes, your spouse can be denied a green card even if you are a citizen. Some reasons this may happen are:
- You and your spouse have not shown that you married because you intended to establish a life together, so your marriage-based petition is denied
- Your spouse was previously ordered deported from the United States, entered the U.S. without authorization, or overstayed their visa for over a year, left the U.S., and returned
- Your spouse has a conviction for a crime that makes him or her ineligible to become a resident
- Your spouse claimed to be a U.S. citizen to get entry into the United States or get some other benefit under Federal, State or local law.
Becoming a U.S. citizen does not guarantee that your spouse will get a green card, so it’s important to be sure that you and your spouse understand the requirements and work with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that your spouse qualifies for a green card and you present the best case you can.
Despite the information above, if you are a permanent resident and want to file a marriage-based petition for your spouse, you are not required to put off filing an I-130 visa petition until you become a U.S. citizen. Even if you are not yet eligible for naturalization, it may be in you and your spouse’s best interest for you to file your marriage-based petition as soon as possible.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston
If you or someone you know is thinking of submitting an application for permanent residency or naturalization, you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you through the process. Contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorney by clicking the orange button below: