Family immigration is one of the most popular means for foreign citizens to legally live in New York or another part of the United States. When an American marries a foreign national, both spouses often hope to live together as quickly as possible. However, spouses may face serious delays when dealing with the immigration system. A congressional hearing on immigration delays and processing times identified spousal sponsorships as a particular area of concern needing action. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS, publishes average processing times, but these may obscure the lengthy delays that can accompany the process.
The U.S. citizen spouse will file an I-130 petition to begin the spousal sponsorship process. While this type of application may take around five months to be approved, as noted on the USCIS website, that is only the beginning of the journey. After the I-130 approval, foreign spouses living in the U.S. will need to apply to adjust their status and receive a green card. This process can take months as can receiving a work permit. As a result, families may face higher costs and experience lower income throughout the family immigration process.
Foreign spouses living outside the U.S. may face an even lengthier process. They can only apply to enter the country after the I-130 has been approved. The paperwork and documentation involved is handled by the National Visa Center for four to six months before the application moves forward to a consulate. Further delays may be introduced here with mandatory interviews and security checks that can sometimes raise flags or involve serious investigations.
As a result, people may wind up waiting a year or more to complete their spousal immigration application. An attorney may provide advice and guidance to spouses looking to reunify in the United States, including preparing their applications and paperwork to help expedite the process.