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Citizen-Foreign National Marriages

American Citizen-Foreign National Marriages

How Does My Spouse (Husband/Wife) Get an Immigrant Visa?

The first step is to file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 for your spouse (husband or wife) to immigrate to the United States. You file the petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) immigration Field Office in the United States that serves the area where you live. For instructions on how to file a petition see Petitioning Procedures: Bringing a Spouse (Husband of Wife) to Live in the United States.

Sometimes a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition at an U.S. embassy or consulate (post). To find out whether you can file a petition at a specific post abroad, you must ask that post. For information on how to contact the post, please select U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (

What is a “Spouse”?

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration. Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration, but only if the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs recognizes common-law marriages and grants them all the same rights and obligations as a traditional marriage. In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.

Minimum Age Requirement for the Petitioner

There is no minimum age to file a petition for a spouse for immigration. However, you must be 18 years of age and have a domicile in the U.S. before you can sign the Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, and this form is required for an immigrant visa for spouses and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.

U.S. Domicile Is Required

You must have a domicile (residence) in the United States before we can issue an immigrant visa to your spouse. This is because a U.S. domicile is required to file an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, and this form is required for all Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR-1) immigration cases.

What Does the National Visa Center Do?

After the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)approves the petition, it sends the petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC does the following:

  • Assigns a case number
  • Sends Form DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent ( to the applicant (your spouse). The applicant selects an agent. The agent can be anyone, including the applicant. The NVC will mail all future letters (except for the Affidavit of Support, Form I-864) about processing the immigrant visa case to the agent. Make sure the postal address is correct and is kept up-to-date. Sends the bill for the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support processing to the petitioner Sends the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support to the petitioner after the petitioner pays the I-864 processing fee Sends the bill for immigrant visa (IV) processing fee to the agent after the applicant sends form DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent, to the NVC Sends an instruction package to the agent after the agent pays the immigrant visa application processing fee, form DS-230 Reviews information for technical correctness and completeness. Sends the petition to the embassy or consulate where the applicant will apply for a visa when the case file is complete.

Note: It is important to follow instructions from the NVC carefully. Send the NVC only those things that it asks for.

How Do I Pay the Fees for the National Visa Center (NVC) Services?

The NVC sends bills for certain fees at the appropriate time in the immigrant visa process. It sends bills for these services to the following people:

  • Bill for processing the I-864, Affidavit of Support to the petitioner
  • Bill for immigrant visa processing to the agent
  • The NVC sends a correctly addressed, return envelope with the bills.

Remember these important things:

  • It is important that you use the return envelope provided to you, when paying the fees
  • Don't forget to put the correct postage on the envelope
  • Don't pay the bill until the NVC tells you to do so
  • Don't send payments to the NVC at Portsmouth, New Hampshire

For further information see National Visa Center.

Upgrading a Petition

If You Were an LPR and Now are an American Citizen

Suppose you filed a petition for your spouse when you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Now you are an U.S. citizen. You must upgrade the petition from family second preference (F2) to immediate relative (IR). You can do this by sending proof of your citizenship to the National Visa Center (NVC). To prove that you are a U.S. citizen, you can send:

  • A copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport; or
  • A copy of your certificate of naturalization
  • Applying for a Visa

An appointment package is sent to the agent or the applicant. (See note below.) The appointment package gives the applicant an interview date and tells you the specific requirements of the visa. It includes instructions on where to go to have the required medical examination. In general, the following is required:

  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States.
  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse
  • Marriage certificate
  • Police certificate from all places lived since age 16
  • Medical examination
  • Evidence of financial support. A completed Form I-864 Affidavit of Support from petitioner/sponsor is required.
  • Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, Form DS-230, both Part I and Part II
  • Two immigrant visa photos
  • Proof of the marriage and the husband/wife relationship
  • Payment of immigrant processing fees, as explained below

An applicant may bring marriage photographs and other proof that the marriage is genuine. Documents in foreign languages should be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information.

Take clear, legible photocopies of civil documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, to the immigrant visa interview. Original documents can then be returned to you.

Note: The National Visa Center sends appointment packages to the agent for applicants in certain countries when the petitions are filed in the United States. The embassy or consulate sends appointment packages to applicants in all other countries. It also sends appointment packages to all applicants whose petitions are already at the embassy or consulate.

Fees - How Much Does It Cost?

Fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, form I-130
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, for DS-230
  • Reviewing an I-864, Affidavit of Support (for petitions filed in the United States)
  • Medical examination (costs vary from place to place)
  • Fingerprinting fees, if applicable

Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.) and travel expenses to go to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees.

Vaccination Requirements

In general, applicants for immigrant visas are required to have all of the following vaccinations:

  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Polio
  • Tetanus and diptheria toxoids
  • Pertussis
  • Influenza type B
  • Hepatitis B
  • Varicella
  • Pneumococcal

Bring your vaccination records to the immigrant visa medical examination, if you have them. The panel physician decides which vaccinations you will need, appropriate to your age, medical condition and medical history.

Does a Child Have Derivative Status?

No. A child does not have derivative status in an immediate relative (IR) petition. This is different from the family second preference (F2) petition. A child is included in his/her parent’s F2 petition. A child is not included in his/her parent's IR petition.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you must file separate immigrant visa petitions for each of your children. If you upgrade a family second preference (F2) petition for your spouse and you did not file separate petitions for your children when you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you must do so now.

Remember that children born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen may qualify for U.S. citizenship. They should apply for U.S. passports. The consular officer will decide whether your child is a U.S. citizen and can have an passport. If the consular officer decides your child is not U.S. citizen, the child must apply for an immigrant visa if he/she wants to live in the U.S.

Termination of All Previous Marriages

U.S. law does not allow polygamy. If you were married before, you and your spouse must both show that you ended (terminated) all previous marriages before your current marriage. The death and divorce documents that show termination of marriages must be legal and verifiable in the country that issued them. Divorces must be final. In cases of legal marriage to two or more spouses at the same time, or marriages overlapping for a period of time, you can file only for your first spouse.

What Is Conditional Residence?

If you have been married for less than two years when your spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, the permanent resident status is considered “conditional.” The immigrant visa is a CR (conditional resident) visa, not an IR (immediate relative) visa.

You and your spouse must apply together to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to remove the “condition” within the ninety days before the two year anniversary of your spouse’s entry into the United States on an immigrant visa. The two-year anniversary date of entry is the date of expiration on the alien registration card (green card). See How Do I Remove the Conditions on Permanent Residence Based on Marriage?

How Long Does It Take?

The length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances, and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because the applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Sometimes the petitioner cannot meet Affidavit of Support requirements. In addition, the consular section may need to get a security clearance for the applicant. Security clearances take time.

What Can Be Done If the Petition Gets Lost?

We don’t want this to happen, but occasionally it does. Files can get misfiled; shipments of visa files have been lost. Usually a misfiled petition can be located, but in an emergency an embassy or consulate can issue a visa from the computer record and an original Notice of Action approval (Form I-797) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Give the consular section time to locate the file, and it probably will. But all is not lost if the petition is really gone. Be sure to keep all correspondence you receive from the USCIS.

What If the Applicant Is Ineligible for a Visa?

Certain conditions and activities may make you, the applicant, ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities are:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Overstaying a previous visa
  • Practicing polygamy
  • Advocating the overthrow of the government
  • Submitting fraudulent documents

The consular officer will inform you if you are ineligible for a visa, whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver procedure is. See Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas for more information.

How Do I Find the Regulations about Immigrant Visas?

To read the relevant Department of State regulations on immigrant visas in 9 FAM 40.1 Note 1 and 9 FAM 42, select Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM).

General Visa Questions

Notice: Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this web site. Very often you will find the information you need. Often, the answers to questions are easily found on the internet, and this impacts our ability to help other persons in need of assistance. Due to the volume of inquiries, Visa Services cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate , and you can choose the Embassy or Consulate internet site you need to contact.

If you find that you need to submit an inquiry, to serve you better, please indicate the subject of your inquiry on the subject line (e.g., student visa, visitor visa, worker visa, spouse visa, affidavit of support, etc.) General visa questions may be directed via e-mail to the State Department by clicking here.