Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens
The advantage of qualifying as an immediate
relative for family-based immigration is
that there is no annual numerical limitation,
and, therefore, the immigrant visa is immediately
available and there is no waiting time for
the application. Immediate relatives of
U.S. citizens (“USC”) include
the following aliens:
1. Spouses of a USC;
2. Unmarried children under 21 years of
3. Parents of a USC (the USC must be at
4. Widow(er) of a USC if married for at
least 2 years, petitions within two years
of USC spouse’s death, not married,
and was not legally separated from USC spouse
at the time of his or her death;
5. Battered Spouse or Child. The spouse
or chilled who is subject to extreme cruelty
or battered may file the petition independently
of USC/LPR spouse or parent.
Application Procedures for Immediate
Adjustment of Status
For permanent residence applications based
on marriage to a U.S. citizen, where both
individuals are in the United States, the
foreign spouse may apply for permanent residence
within the United States through a process
called Adjustment of Status. To begin this
process, the U.S. citizen spouse must submit
an immigrant visa petition on Form I-130
to the local U.S. Citizenship & Immigration
Services (USCIS) office having jurisdiction
over the foreign spouse's place of residence.
At the same time, the foreign spouse submits
an application for adjustment of status
on Form I-485, together with a number of
other USCIS forms and evidence required
by the immigration law. The foreign spouse
may also apply for an Employment Authorization
Card (EAD) and Advance Parole to allow him
or her to work and travel while the application
is pending. The burden is on the parties
to establish the bona fides of the marriage,
and the couple must prove that that the
marriage was not entered into for the sole
purpose of obtaining a green card. USCIS
schedules an in-person interview for the
couple, generally within 6 to 12 months,
depending on the location of the filing.
A decision whether to grant lawful permanent
resident status (“LPR”) i.e.
“green card” will usually be
made at the interview. The couple may have
attorney representation at the interview.
There are numerous requirements that must
be satisfied before the LPR can be granted.
They may include, but not limited to, the
1. Proof of USC spouse’s citizenship;
2. Proof of foreign spouse’s legal
entry to the U.S.;
3. Proof of bona fide marriage;
4. Proof of financial ability to support
the foreign spouse once he/she becomes LPR;
5. The foreign spouse did not commit certain
crimes that prohibit him/her from becoming
6. The foreign spouse is not in immigration
proceedings, including deportation, exclusion
or removal proceedings.
Where the couple has married abroad, the
foreign spouse usually must remain abroad
until obtaining approval of an immigrant
visa by a U.S. embassy or consulate in the
foreign spouse’ home country.
To initiate the immigrant visa application,
the U.S. citizen spouse must submit an I-130
visa petition to either the appropriate
USCIS office in the United States (if the
U.S. citizen spouse resides in the U.S.)
or directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate
in the country where the foreign citizen
spouse lives (if the U.S. citizen spouse
also resides there). Depending on the filing
jurisdiction for the visa petition, it could
take several months to obtain the approval.
Once the visa petition has been approved,
the foreign spouse will receive several
mailings from the U.S. State Department's
National Visa Center (NVC) and the U.S.
embassy or consulate abroad. These mailings
will inform the spouse of the items required
at the immigrant visa interview abroad and
will include various application forms.
The foreign spouse will need to submit application
forms together with the evidence and documents
required by the application packet to U.S.
embassy or consulate through NVC. Depending
on the country of the foreign spouse’s
nationality, it usually takes six months
for the immigrant visa interview to be scheduled.
If a family-based permanent residence application
is based on a marriage and the marriage
is less than two years old when the foreign
spouse becomes a permanent resident, the
permanent residence will be conditional
and the green card will expire after two
years. Both spouses must submit a joint
petition on Form I-751 to remove the condition
within the 90-day period immediately preceding
the expiration of the conditional residence.
If the marriage has terminated by reason
of divorce, death of the U.S. citizen spouse,
or spousal abuse, the foreign spouse may
apply for a waiver of the joint petition
requirement, and file the petition of removal