by Andrew Chung, 02/05/2013
During a consultation the first questions people ask are:
- “What forms do I need to fill out and file?”
- “How long will it take?”
- “How much will it cost?”
Admittedly, finding out the answers to these questions can be difficult. Every case is different and I would not advise anyone to attempt to navigate the immigration process on their own. Doing so could result in delay, or worse a denial. It is better to file once with a competent attorney and being successful versus filing on your own, receiving a denial, and having to apply again. That being said below is a short and sweet overview of the process, timeline, and costs associated with a United States Citizen applying for lawful permanent residency for their spouse.
WHAT FORMS DO I NEED TO FILL OUT AND FILE?
The myth that one can become a United States Citizen just by marrying one is just that. A myth. Every immigrant must go through some process to obtain the right and privilege of living in the United States.
Unfortunately that process is not always as easy as it initially seems. Every case is different and may require different forms or different supporting documents. While many of these forms are common to the process, the information required and the supporting documents to these forms may need to tailored by your immigration attorney to give your application a chance at approval. For this reason alone, I would always recommend at least seeking an initial consultation with a competent attorney before you proceed.
Without further adieu, here are the standard forms required for a petition by a United States Citizen for their Immediate Relative Spouse:
Form I-130 and Instructions:
Form I-130 is the petition you file to notify the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service that you wish to have your spouse come to the United States.
Form I-485 and Instructions:
Form I-485 is the form your spouse files to adjust their status to one of a number of categories and is the form that can result in a Green Card.
Form I-131 and Instructions:
Form I-131 is known as a travel document. This is generally only used for foreign spouses who are currently present in the United States. This document allows for travel outside the United States. However even if you have obtained an approved I-131 you should consult your immigration attorney before attempting to travel outside the United States.
Form I-765 and Instructions:
Form I-765 is a request for employment authorization. If approved, this form allows your foreign born spouse to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). After obtaining an EAD, your spouse will be authorized to work.
Form I-864 and Instructions:
Form I-864 is an attestation that you will be able to financially support your spouse and will not require the assistance of the Government to do so.
Once again, every case is different and you may be required to submit other forms or additional documentation. It is strongly recommended that you hire a competent immigration attorney to assist you in deciding how, what and when to file.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
Unfortunately there is no definite way to tell how long it will take to receive a decision on your application. However, USCIS provides us with some dates and times that allow us to approximate the processing times. The processing times can be found here at the Department of Travel website.
In comparison to spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents, Spouses of United States Citizens generally have a much shorter wait time. This is because immediate relatives of United States Citizens have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa to become available for them to immigrate. Nevertheless, the process may still take more than a year to complete.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Currently filing fees for the I-130 and I-485 are $420 and $1070, respectively (as of 02/13). Applicants should be warned, that USCIS is notorious for changing fees. So please be sure that the filing fees are up-to-date.
Attorney’s fees are a whole other beast. Attorney’s fees can range anywhere from just under $1000 to well over $2000. Experience and qualifications of the attorney, the time required for the petition, and the complexity of the case are just a few of the factors that play a role in establishing Attorney’s fees.
Trying to bring over your foreign spouse can be a scary and confusing process. Hiring a competent attorney is a good way to ensure that you are on the right track and also a way to make things simpler. Even though Attorney’s fees can seem expensive making the decision to hire a competent immigration attorney can save you money, time, and a whole lot of heartbreak.
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to call or email me.