Waiting Period for a US Spousal Visa to Process

By Michael Niren May 11, 2012 2 min. read

As a United States permanent resident, you can petition your spouse to immigrate to the United States. While your spouse can be eligible for a green card through you, the process will often take time before your immediate family member can actually obtain a U.S. permanent resident visa. A green card holder is the name commonly used interchangeably for Lawful Permanent Residents.

Except for Immigrant visas issued to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets a limit on the issuance of immigrant visas to individuals falling under preference category and prescribes a limit on the percentage of visas allotted to countries each fiscal year.

Because the number of immigrant visas issued to preference category are limited and the demand for this type of visa is usually higher than what is apportioned to countries like Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines, you may be put on a wait list.

Except in Dominican Republic and in the above-mentioned countries where there are numerous applicants, the spouse of a permanent resident on the US wait list can expect an average waiting period of four (4) years.

When an Applicant is in the United States 

There are two major steps that an applicant in the US for a permanent resident visa should do.

  1. If your spouse is in the United States, you can start the process by filing a Petition for Alien Relative.  Your spouse must wait until the priority date in the immigrant visa category becomes current. The priority date is the date when you filed, with an appropriate corresponding fee, the petition with sufficient content.
  2. Once the priority date becomes current, the applicant spouse shall file an Application to Register Permanent Residence  for the adjustment of his or her status.

When an Applicant is Outside the United States 

It is through consular processing that your spouse can become a permanent resident after your Petition for Alien Relative is approved. This is the process through which an immigrant outside the U.S. is issued a visa based on an approved Petition for Alien Relative.  Consular processing is also available to eligible relatives living abroad when the option to adjust status inside the U.S. is not possible.

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