Yesterday I went to visit the newborn baby boy of very dear friends of mine who also happen to be my immigration clients. The baby is perfect baby love, all warm, cuddly and with an amazing head of hair. His parents immigrated to the U.S. and are now both US Citizens. I like to think I played a small part in the creation of this beautiful family. You see, my friend was a Bachelor for many years living in the U.S. before he met and married his wife, and we helped him with the immigration part of this love story so she could join him here in the States. They now have three children.
Stories like this one are the reason I’m an immigration lawyer. The work, although at times very stressful, is also extremely rewarding. You just can’t beat the feel-good factor after jumping through USCIS and other governmental agency hoops and getting a great outcome for people and their families.
So how did we do it? This post will discuss the steps you can take if you’re petitioning for your spouse abroad.
Step 1: Prepare and file the Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130. The fee for this form is currently $420, and which USCIS office you mail the form off to depends on where you live. Check out the I-130 form instructions to see where you should mail your form. Those instructions can be found at uscis.gov.
Once your petition is accepted for filing, USCIS will send you a receipt and you must then wait for USCIS to approve the petition. This can take anywhere from six to eight months.
Step 2: National Visa Center (NVC) processing – Once USCIS approves your I-130 Petition, you will receive an approval notice (this looks just like the receipt you received when you first mailed your petition to USCIS, but it is called the Approval Notice). Once approved, your case is then transferred to the National Visa Center for further processing.
Once transferred, within approximately 30-45 days, you will get notification from the NVC to pay your fee bills and a form to determine whether or not you want someone else to be your ‘agent’ or representative. If you hire an immigration lawyer, then your lawyer can complete this form and all correspondence will then go to your immigration lawyer.
The fee bill amount currently is $492 for a case like this one. This fee includes the Affidavit of Support processing fee as well as the visa processing fee.
At this stage, the NVC will send you information of what documents are required. At a minimum, the documents that need to be sent to the NVC include:
- Complete Form I-864, The Affidavit of Support
- Your three years’ personal tax returns, W2s and most recent paystub
- Certified copy of your spouse’s birth certificate
- Certified copy of your marriage certificate
- Two 2×2 photos of your spouse
- Certified copy of your spouse’s divorce decree if she has ever been married before
- Form DS-230
- Police Clearance Records
Once all of these documents are sent to the NVC and all requirements are met, NVC will forward your case to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the jurisdiction where your spouse resides.
Step 3: Interview – Your spouse will have to appear for an interview. The purpose of the interview is for the Immigration Officer to determine that the marriage is a bona fide one. This interview also is to make sure your spouse is admissible to the U.S. You should always make copies of all documents you send to USCIS and the NVC. And a set of these copies should go to your spouse abroad to take with him or her to the interview in the event that the Officer does not have a full set of complete documents (documents lost have been known to happen, trust me on that one, so make copies!).
Step 4: Success means a visa stamp in your spouse’s passport! Depending on the country, it can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks before your spouse is mailed his or her passport with an immigrant visa stamp in it.
I’ve always said that U.S. immigration is about families – existing families reuniting after long periods apart or couples coming together for the first time to start a family like my friends. I wish you the best of luck! And maybe if you have extra luck, you’ll petition for your spouse and have three kids too.
Tell me about your family’s immigration. When did your family immigrate to the U.S., from where or how? We love hearing stories about immigration.