Obtaining a green card can be done in a number of ways, but in this case, we’re going to look at the process of obtaining a green card through an immigrant visa abroad. This method of applying for a green card overseas is important to know in terms of your timing with travel to the United States and picking up residency there.
Once you’re married to a U.S. citizen for example, if you’re living in Australia there may be reasons you need to move back to the United States with your spouse. This process is how you can do that overseas, and be able to get an immigrant visa, allowing you to enter the U.S. as an immigrant and become a permanent resident on entry.
This would be appropriate for someone who is looking to go to the United States with their U.S. citizen spouse. In this situation it requires a lot of premeditated planning, being a longer visa application you can be waiting over 12 months for your immigrant visa. We recommend seeking out an attorney to guide you in this process from the beginning as planning each step is crucial.
The immigrant visa has three components, or steps, that make up the application process. The first step is the I-130 petition, which is the petition from your U.S. citizen spouse to the USCIS asking them to be able to bring you to the United States, as a permanent resident based on your marriage to the U.S. citizen. This process is relatively streamlined, with a short list of documents needed, including your marriage certificate, testimonials about your relationship, joint documents, etc. to verify your relationship.
We send off the I-130 petition to the USCIS from your foreign residence, indicating where you would like to do your immigrant visa appointment. This stage can last five months or longer, giving you time to prepare for stage two.
The stage two process begins with the National Visa Centre. Once notified by the USCIS that the I-130 petition has been approved, your petition is now sent to the National Visa Centre for processing documentation. This stage can take several months to complete. In this stage, you must provide financial documents, which is best to be prepared for. Have an in-depth conversation in advance about tax returns as a U.S. citizen living abroad, many clients are often caught off guard by not knowing to file their U.S. taxes. A U.S. citizen should be filing their tax return every year, and that is critical for this application as the USCIS require evidence of the last three years’ taxes being filed.
If that is not the case, you’ll need to be prepared with your attorney to get that rectified. As well at this stage, you need to show documents that you’ve had your domicile, as well as other financial documents to support stage two. The I-864 form will also be completed at this stage, as well as police checks, and the National Visa Centre will alert you when you’ve been document qualified.
Once your document is qualified, the file is sent to the consulate or embassy that you have elected to attend for your immigrant visa interview. At the moment, the wait for this interview is typically no more than six months, and at this stage, all there is to do is wait.
The final stage of this process is the interview itself, once this has been scheduled you will be requested to complete a medical for the interview. Essentially this interview is to go through already submitted documents, checking there’s no criminal record, and fingerprinting you. There shouldn’t be any surprises at this stage of the process, simply ensuring they have everything to issue you an immigrant visa.
It’s important to speak to your attorney at the beginning of this application to ensure there won’t be any roadblocks along the way, and that everything is completed in due time. This includes filing police checks at the appropriate time, as well as your medical. Roadblocks to consider include vaccination status and criminal record, both subjects we encourage discussing with your attorney prior to undergoing this process.
Post-interview, if you are successful, you will be issued an immigrant visa that you may use for the next six months to enter the United States. Once you enter you will be considered a permanent resident. Your green card will follow you in the mail to whichever address you provided on your application roughly a month after entering. From there, you can start work right away and be issued with your social security number. The validated visa can be used as a temporary green card for certain applications until your physical one arrives.
If you are married for less than two years on your immigrant visa, you will then be considered a CR-1 conditional resident. This is important to remember, if this is the case you will need to then apply after two years of having that conditional residency to have the restrictions lifted via an I-751 process. It is important to note at the time of your application how long you’ve been married to go through the conditional residency process. If you’ve been married longer than two years, you’re considered an IR-1, and you’ll not have to do that process. Alongside your residency, you’ll be granted a 10-year green card.
Feel free to contact us here at Worldwide Migration Partners with any further questions, we’re more than happy to help answer questions and help you decide what is the best plan of action for your lifestyle.