U.S. citizens can petition for their foreign spouses to become permanent residents in the United States by submitting forms, documents and paying fees to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must prove that you are a U.S. citizen, that your marriage is legal and that you are financially capable of supporting your spouse.
Forms to Submit
Filling out forms is the first step to bringing your foreign wife or husband to the U.S. You can download the forms from the USCIS website.
Form I-130, also called a Petition for Alien Relative, seeks personal information about you and your spouse and how you acquired your U.S. citizenship. You also must complete Form G-325A, a biographical information form, separately for yourself and your spouse. If your spouse already resides legally in the U.S., submit Form I-485 along with the two other forms.
After filling out the forms, attach documents that prove your U.S. citizenship. A copy of your birth certificate or your naturalization or citizenship certificate are acceptable documents. If you don't have these, you can submit Form FS-240 (report of birth abroad of a U.S. citizen issued by a U.S. Embassy or consulate). A copy of an unexpired U.S. passport or an original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport are acceptable documents as well.
The government wants to make sure that a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner was not entered into to evade immigration laws. That's why you need to attach another set of documents to prove the legitimacy of your marriage. Submit a copy of your marriage certificate and a passport-style color photo of you and your spouse. Form I-130 contains instructions on photo requirements. If you and/or your spouse were married previously, attach documents showing that prior marriages were terminated.
You may submit additional evidence if you wish, such as documents showing joint ownership, birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse together or affidavits from third parties having personal knowledge of your marriage.
The check or money order for the $355 filing fee (as of April 2010) must be drawn in a U.S. financial institution. Make the check payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." In Guam, make it payable to "Treasurer, Guam." In the U.S. Virgin Islands, write the check to "Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands." If you live outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate.
Send all forms, documents and payment to the USCIS mailing address corresponding to your area of residence as detailed on Form I-130.
Josie Sison Livingstone is a real estate agent based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. She worked as a journalist for more than 15 years—as a reporter for ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest broadcast network, as an associate producer for Rogers TV, and as a writer for “The Daily Gleaner” and “Riverside Neighbors." Josie holds a Bachelor of Science in commerce from De La Salle University.