Moving to the U.S. and starting a new life is a big step - and what better way to make it than together with the person you love? If you are married to a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident, you may be able to apply for a spouse visa - which automatically leads to a Green Card.
However, being married to a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder isn’t the only requirement in order to successfully obtain a spouse visa.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: in order to apply for a U.S. spouse visa, your marriage needs to be legally recognized in the U.S. Most of the times, if the marriage is legal in your country of origin, it will be recognized by the U.S. authorities as well - in case of any doubt, be sure to consult with a qualified professional.
If you have been married for less than two years, you will go through the CR-1 visa process, leading to a conditional Green Card valid for 2.5 years, which can then be extended. If you have been married for 2 years or more at the time of applying, you will go through the IR-1 process and receive a full, unconditional Green Card valid for 10 years.
Any criminal history, and particularly any ties to terrorism or human trafficking (even indirect) can be considered grounds for the U.S. authorities to object against your application. Once you apply for a spouse visa, the USCIS will run a background check for such conditions, but also at any past marriages to ensure the legitimacy of your application.
The officer in charge of reviewing your case has, as his primary task, to assert that your relationship is true, and not simply an arrangement to obtain the right to immigrate to the U.S.
In most cases, you will need to present pictures of your wedding, of holidays together or times when you met before you got married; plane tickets, reservations for accommodations and receipts may all contribute to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine. Anything that will demonstrate activities together will contribute to making it easier for the immigration officer handling your case to approve your application.
If you have traveled, or are traveling to the U.S. before you have decided to apply for a spouse visa, you must make sure you abide by all the conditions that apply under the visa you have been granted - especially when it comes to respecting the maximum duration of stay. If you have overstayed a visa in the past, or if you have been deported, you may be barred from applying for a spouse visa.
Finally, you need to make sure that your spouse is either a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident with a valid Green Card, and that they fulfill the necessary conditions in terms of income and background validation, in order to sponsor your visa application.
If you and your spouse are planning to start a new life together in the U.S., be sure you understand all the requirements and potential pitfalls. A misunderstanding which leads to a denied visa can make things a lot more difficult in the future - and the best way to avoid that is making sure you’ve got an experienced professional by your side from the start.