As a permanent resident you can petition your spouse for a green card. This process takes longer when compared to the green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen route because an immigrant visa number is usually not immediately available to the spouses of permanent residents. What are the steps to secure your spouse a green card, then? Essentially, this is a two-step process.
FILING THE IMMIGRANT PETITION
The first step is filing an immigrant petition for your spouse, which establishes the family relationship between both of you and provides your spouse a place in line. Since this application is filed by you, the permanent resident, it does not mean your spouse is applying for permanent resident status yet.
The second step depends on whether your spouse is in the United States and will apply in the U.S. or whether they will apply at a Consulate from abroad. This second step would be when your spouse is requesting permanent residency.
What determines when your spouse can apply for a green card is your spouse’s priority date and the visa bulletin issued by the Department of State.
PRIORITY DATE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S VISA BULLETIN
The Department of State (DOS) issues, on a monthly basis, a set of dates that mark the cut-offs for green card applications they will accept for the various green card categories. This summary of the availability of immigrant visas is knows as the Visa Bulletin.
What determines your spouse’s place in line is their “Priority Date”, which is established based on the date of filing the immigrant petition, not the approval of the immigrant petition. If your spouse’s priority date is earlier than the date provided by the Visa Bulletin, or the Visa Bulletin reflects “C” for “current”, then your spouse’s priority date is current and they can apply for a green card.
FILING ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES
If your spouse’s priority date is current and they’re in the U.S. in a valid status and want to navigate the process within the U.S. they would submit an adjustment of status application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your spouse will also submit an Affidavit of Support with this application, which is signed by you, the person who petitioned them in the first place.
For more information on this very important component of the green card application, please see the following: Green Card Affidavit of Support. Your spouse may additionally file for work and travel authorization with their adjustment of status application, which provides them with work and travel authorization while their green card is pending.
You and your spouse must wait for relevant notices from USCIS, in particular the interview notice which provides details of the place and time of the interview you and your spouse will have to attend. For more information on this important part of the process, please see the following: Green Card Interview.
If your spouse is approved, the last steps are to wait for the approval notice and eventually your spouse’s green card!
IMMIGRANT VISA ROUTE
The immigrant visa route is the route your spouse will take if he/she is abroad or is in the U.S. but wants to navigate the process from abroad instead of via the adjustment of status route.
When your spouse’s priority date is current (or soon-to-be current) the National Visa Center (NVC) will contact you and provide you with instructions regarding next steps, which will include instructions on fees that need to be paid and documents that need to be submitted to the NVC. Once all relevant fees are paid and all documents requested are sent to the NVC, the NVC will liaise with the Consulate in your spouse’s home country that handles immigrant visas in furtherance of scheduling an immigrant visa interview.
At the interview, if approved, your spouse will receive an immigrant visa in their passport. Your spouse will also receive a sealed immigration packet, which needs to given to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon entry to the United States.
Once admitted into the United States your spouse will enter as a Permanent Resident and their green card should arrive at their address in the United States within several months!