Timeline

Marriage Visa Timeline

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Your foreign spouse requires a marriage (immigrant) visa to enter the United States. You know that s/he is eligible to apply.

What is the Timeline to Apply for and Obtain a Marriage (Immigrant) Visa?

The issuance of an immigrant visa requires processing by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), National Visa Center (NVC) and United States embassy or consulate. The USCIS, NVC and United States embassy or consulate processing times can vary depending upon whether the petitioner is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and where the petitioner (in the United States) and the foreign spouse (foreign country) reside. In general, however, the typical timeline for immigrant visa processing is as follows:

  1. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Processing

    Once the marriage petition is filed, the USCIS issues a receipt notice to the petitioner (U.S. citizen or permanent resident) and attorney. Since each marriage petition differs in terms of complexity, the decision time can vary. Once approved, the USCIS issues an approval notice to the petitioner and attorney. The approved marriage petition is then forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for the second step in the process.

    Receipt Notice Issued: 2 Weeks from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition

    Approval Notice Issued: 4 Months from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition (if petitioner is a U.S. citizen)

    *20 Months from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition (if petitioner is a permanent resident)

    Total Time to Process: 4 Months from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition (if U.S. citizen)

    *20 Months from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition (if petitioner is a permanent resident)

  2. National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

    Once the approved marriage petition is received, the NVC performs a background check of your foreign spouse and minor child(ren), collects immigrant visa and affidavit of support fees and documents (sample documents are listed here), processes the immigrant visa application and provides instruction regarding the interview and the required medical examination. After processing is complete, the NVC schedules an interview and forwards the marriage petition, immigrant visa application and documents to the United States embassy or consulate nearest your foreign spouse’s residence.

    Interview Notice Issued: 2-3 Months from Date of Receipt of Marriage Petition

    Total Time to Process: 2-3 Months

    *If the petitioner is a permanent resident (as opposed to a U.S. citizen) then the marriage petition will remain at the NVC until an immigrant visa number becomes available. The wait time can be years.

  3. United States Embassy or Consulate Processing

    At the interview, the consular officer will verify that all required documentation (sample documents are listed here) has been provided. Second, and more importantly, the consular officer will question your foreign spouse in detail with respect to the specifics of your marriage in order to determine its legitimacy.

    Assuming that the consular officer is satisfied, the immigrant visa application is approved and an immigrant visa is placed in your foreign spouse’s passport. At that time, the United States embassy or consulate will also approve any minor children’s immigrant visa application and place an immigrant visa(s) in your spouse’s minor children’s passport(s). The visas will be valid for 6 months. The United States embassy or consulate will also provide each immigrant with a sealed envelope that contains the approved petition, applications and documentation. Before departing for the United States, each person that received an immigrant visa must pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee online.

    Interview Scheduled: 1-2 Months from Date of Receipt of NVC Case Package

    Visa Issued: 7-10 Days from Date of Interview

    Total Time to Process: 1-2 Months

  4. Entering the United States

    Upon issuance of the immigrant visas, your foreign spouse and any children must enter the United States within 6 months. Upon entry into the United States, your foreign spouse and children will give the sealed envelope to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. The CBP officer will stamp each immigrant’s passport. This signifies entry as an immigrant.

    Period of Validity of Immigrant Visa: 6 Months

  5. Permanent Resident (‘Green Card’) Status

    After entry as an immigrant, each person will receive a lawful permanent resident card. If you and your spouse have been married less than 2 years at the time of issuance of the immigrant visa, the permanent resident card will be valid for 2 years. This is referred to as a ‘conditional resident’ card. Please note that 90 days prior to the expiration of the permanent resident card, your spouse will be required to file a petition to remove the conditions on residence allowing for the issuance of a ‘new’ permanent resident card (valid for 10 years). If you and your spouse have been married 2 years or more at the time of issuance of the immigrant visa, the permanent resident card will be valid for 10 years.

    Permanent Residence Card Issued: 2 Weeks from Date of Entry

    Period of Validity of Permanent Residence Card: 2 Years (if married less than 2 years)

    Period of Validity of Permanent Residence Card: 10 Years (if married 2 years or more)