Overview of Sponsoring Your Spouse or Fiancee

Ame Coats: My name is Ame Coats.  I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Shah in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I’m here with our managing partner, Murali Bashyam.

Murali Bashyam: Hello everybody.

Ame Coats: And today we’re gonna be talking to you about a bill immigration topic, how to sponsor your spouse or fiancé.  Thank you for joining us.  The first thing that I wanted to talk about is actually the difference between what a U.S. citizen can do and what a permanent resident can do.  This presentation today is probably much more appropriate for a U.S. citizen.  If you’re permanent resident and you’re listening, and you’re gonna be a citizen soon, then yeah, it would be a good idea to follow along with us.

But as a permanent resident, one problem is that you can’t sponsor a fiancé.  That’s the first problem.  The second one is that you can – you’re allowed to file something, a petition on behalf of your spouse, but it takes a very long time for it to go through.  For most folks, it usually takes about four and a half years.  The reason is because the government put numerical limitations on the number of spouses of permanent residents who can also get a green card each year, and it really backs up.

Murali Bashyam: Now Ame, let’s say that I’m a permanent resident and I want to sponsor my spouse.  If I file the first step for them, does it give them any benefit at all right now?

Ame Coats: It doesn’t give them any right to stay in the United States.  It doesn’t give them any right to get a work permit, nothing like that.  However, if your spouse is overseas and you’re a permanent resident, you should definitely file something.  We don’t know what the future holds for us, and if for some crazy reason you were delayed in getting your citizenship, you would be really upset with yourself that you had not filed this I-130.

Murali Bashyam: And also by just getting the I-130, which is the first step of the residency process when you’re trying to sponsor a spouse, even if you’re a permanent resident, if you get that in, even though as Ame said it might take four or five years under current law, if this administration changes the law and it gets a little quicker, at least you’ve got it in the pipeline, which is a big benefit.

Ame Coats: That’s true.  And not only that, if you wait and start everything until you become a citizen, then you’ve got to also go through the process of just getting the petition prepared.  If you go ahead and do it now and get it filed, you’re going to get this I-130 part, the very first part of it knocked out.

Murali Bashyam: Absolutely.

Ame Coats: Okay.  So for U.S. citizens, U.S. citizens can sponsor fiancés.  They can also of course sponsor their spouses, and there’s not a numerical limitation.  But there is a limitation just because of the backlogs, and just because of the amount of time that it takes human beings to process these applications.  It’s gotten so much better over the years, but as we go through this, we’re gonna talk about processing time.  And if I were in your shoes from your perspective, it’s still going to take way too long.

So from my perspective as an attorney, it’s just gotten tremendously better.  The other thing about a United States citizen is that you get a few more breaks.  If your spouse has some immigration problem, you get a few more breaks as a U.S. citizen than just a permanent resident.  So for – I even hate to go into the example of right now, but for example, the government will forgive a U.S. spouse who’s out of status here in the U.S., but they will not forgive a permanent resident spouse who is here in the United States out of status.

Murali Bashyam: Now that is if the U.S. citizen spouse originally entered legally, right?

Ame Coats: Oh yeah.  And there’s other kinds of conditions, absolutely.  If you are considering sponsoring your spouse, and your spouse is here in the U.S. out of status, you should absolutely 100 percent seek attorney advice before you file anything.  The next thing that I wanted to talk about is just the difference between adjustment of status and consular processing, because from the appointments that I have on a regular basis, I see this as being very confusing for folks.

Adjustment of status is the process when the beneficiary, now I’m talking about your spouse, the foreign national.  When the beneficiary is in the United States and the beneficiary changes their status to that of lawful permanent resident without going anywhere, they do everything here in the U.S., that is adjustment of status.  But it can be problematic.  So there are some problems – and we’re going to talk about fraud when entering the United States.  We’re also going to talk about what would happen if you had not been inspected.  So you had crossed the border without being inspected at all by an immigration officer, or out of status, there can be some problems there.

But that’s what you call the process when everything is done in the United States.  Now if your spouse is overseas and you’re doing everything through the U.S. embassy, then what you’re shooting for is for your spouse to get an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy.  The immigrant visa is what allows your foreign national loved one, the beneficiary, the spouse, that’s what allows them to enter the United States.  So you use that to get in the United States.  And then on the first day they step foot on U.S. soil, they become a U.S. Permanent Resident that day.

I mean there’s still some problems there because if you’re separated from your spouse, if your spouse is in another country, it’s going to be a little bit harder for you probably to prove the marriage is bona fide.  If you’re living here in the United States, you’re going to be able to get joint leases, joint utility bills, all kinds of joint documents.  But if you’ve got a situation where you’ve been married recently and your spouse is still living at home with his or her family members, what are you going to have to show the marriage is real?  And so that can be a little bit problematic if you’re going for consular processing at the U.S. embassy.

Murali Bashyam: And I think also, would you think that’d be especially true in arranged marriages, where there really isn’t a long history beforehand?

Ame Coats: Yeah, but you know Murali, and those of you who might not know, Murali was born in Canada but his parents are from India.  And so he’s really the expert on Indian affairs here maybe, but from my perspective, I do so many family cases, I really don’t see this true arranged marriage situation anymore.  I see a situation where two parties meet each other, they have a little bit of time to spend with each other, email back and forth and do some phone calls, so they have something.  It’s not like they’ve never met before or ever spoken before.

Murali Bashyam: If you do have any other questions regarding this topic, all you need to do is send me or Ame an email.  Our email addresses are right there on the PowerPoint in front of you, and we’d be happy to help you.  Our next webinar is going to be coming up in a couple of weeks.  It’s on the topic of spouse sponsoring for permanent residency.  If you’re tired of waiting for your perm process to go through or tired of waiting for these visa backlogs, then if you are – you might quality to sponsor yourself.  So tune in to that.  You can get the date and times on our seminar and training link on our website, which is www.BashyamSpiro.com, and thank you for attending.

Ame Coats: Yes.  Thank you for joining us.  Bye-bye.

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