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Obtaining an immigrant visa for a spouse

According to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, these visas are available for same-sex spouses as well as opposite sex spouses now that same-sex marriage is legally recognized throughout the country. In addition, some common law marriages may be recognized.

How IR and CR status differ

For people who have been married less than two years, the non-citizen spouse will receive CR status. This is a Conditional Resident status and is valid for two years after the date of entry into the United States. Roughly three months before this two-year mark, an application must be made to remove the conditional status.

The IR status is known as an Immediate Relative status and is granted to people who have been married to the U.S. citizen for more than two years. This is also granted to minor children of the sponsoring U.S. citizen when their visa is approved.

What steps are involved in the process?

There are four main steps involved in receiving an immigrant visa. The first one is the initial petition using a Form I-130, known as a Petition for an Alien Relative. Once the petition is approved, it is sent to the National Visa Center for processing. The next step is to pay the requested fees. People who are not represented by an attorney must also file a Form 261, a Choice of Address and Agent.

Then, applicants must provide a variety of documentation along with an Affidavit of Support. This Form I-864 is intended to prove that the petitioning spouse can financially support the alien spouse or children. One additional form, the Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application must also be submitted at this point.

Other required documentation includes:

• Birth and marriage certificates

• Divorce decrees

• Adoption documentation

• Court, prison or military records

For all documents not in English, translations must also be provided. The fourth step in the process is a visa interview.

Finally, the alien relative will be scheduled for an interview at their assigned consulate. In preparation for the interview, a medical examination, including proof of vaccinations will be required. The officer will review the information provided and, if approved, issue the visa shortly thereafter. At this point, one final fee package is also required for the documents associated with the permanent resident card.