Priority: Spouses, Fiances, and Adopted Children
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Spouses, fiancé(e)s, and adopted children of U.S. citizens receive priority in the family-based immigration system, and these family members can be admitted into the U.S. upon government approval of their immigration visa petitions. Learn more below.
Following is a description of the process to be followed by a spouse of a U.S. citizen seeking to gain permanent resident status in the U.S.:
- The immigration service must approve a visa petition filed on behalf of the spouse.
- If the spouse is outside the U.S. when the visa petition is approved, the spouse will go to his or her nearest U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa prior to travel to the U.S.
- If the spouse is inside the U.S. when the visa petition is approved, the spouse may apply to adjust his or her status (i.e. temporary visitor) to that of a lawful permanent resident.
The spouse's permanent resident status will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old when that status was granted. To remove the conditions on permanent resident status, it must be established that the marriage was not entered into in order to evade U.S. immigration laws. If Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, is not filed within the 90-day period before the spouse's second anniversary as a conditional resident, the conditional permanent residence status will be terminated and the government will initiate deportation (removal) proceedings.
A U.S. citizen who is planning to marry a foreign national in the U.S. must file a petition on behalf of his or her fiancé(e) (see Form I-129F) before he or she comes to the U.S. to get married. Both parties must be unmarried and must also have met within the last two years before filing for the fiancé(e) visa (although this requirement may be waived based on long-standing custom or extreme hardship). The marriage must take place within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the U.S., or the fiancé(e) will be subject to removal from the country. Federal immigration laws do not recognize same-sex partnerships for visa purposes.
A married U.S. citizen and spouse may file a petition to adopt a foreign-born child. An unmarried U.S. citizen may also file an orphan petition provided that he or she is at least 25 years of age. To speed up the adoption process, Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, may be filed before a specific child has been identified for adoption. After a child is identified and is shown to meet the Immigration and Nationality Act definition of "orphan," Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, must be filed on behalf of the child.
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