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The Immigrant Spouse Visa

U.S. Spouse Visa Eligibility Requirements

 To qualify for a marriage visa to the United States, the foreign national spouse must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a legally married;
  • Must intend to reside permanently in the United States;
  • The U.S. citizen spouse must be 18 years of age and maintain their primary domicile in the U.S., or intend to establish their primary domicile in the U.S.;
  • Must be otherwise admissible under U.S. immigration law.

Definition of a Spouse Under U.S. Immigration Law

A “spouse” is defined under U.S. immigration law as being a wife or husband who is legally married. Additionally:

  • Simply living together with your partner will not qualify as a valid marriage for purposes of a marriage-based visa to the U.S.;
  • Foreign common-law marriages may be considered valid marriages for purposes of a spousal visa, so long as the marriage is recognized as valid in the foreign jurisdiction;
  • Polygamous marriages are generally not recognized as valid marriages in the United States, even though they may be valid in the foreign jurisdiction;
  • A same-sex marriage, while recognized in several U.S. states, is not currently recognized under U.S. law as valid for immigration purposes. This will soon change! Stay tuned.

How to Apply for a Marriage Visa: Filing the Initial Spouse Visa Petition

The initial step toward obtaining a U.S. marriage visa is for the U.S. spouse to file a spouse petition with the USCIS in the United States.

U.S. citizens residing abroad may qualify to file their spousal petition in their country of residence, if the USCIS has an international field office in that country, and the U.S. citizen spouse has been resident in that country for six months or more. Otherwise, the spouse petition must be filed in the States at the designated USCIS lockbox address. Always check for filing address updates with the USCIS before filing.

Minimum Age for the Affidavit of Support

There is not a minimum age requirement for the U.S. citizen spouse to qualify as a petitioner for purposes of the initial spouse visa petition, as long as the marriage is otherwise valid.  However, for purposes of the affidavit of support, the age requirement is 18 for the sponsor and the sponsor must be domiciled in the United States. This affidavit of financial support is a requirement for the immigrant spouse visa as well as for adjustment of status in the U.S. .

U.S. Domicile

For purposes of the sponsor’s affidavit of financial support, to be eligible, each sponsor must maintain their primary domicile within the United States, or plan to establish their primary domicile within the United States on or before the foreign national spouse immigrates.

Upgrading a Spouse Visa Petition

A lawful permanent resident spouse visa petitioner who naturalizes or otherwise obtains U.S. citizenship may upgrade the spouse visa beneficiary’s preference category by contacting the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) with proof of their newly obtained U.S. citizenship status. A separate petition may be required for any derivative children of the beneficiary if the preference category is upgraded to the immediate relative category (IR).

National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

After the spouse visa petition is approved, the USCIS will forward the approved petition to the NVC. The NVC will initiate the immigrant visa processing stage of the case and assign the case a unique NVC case number. The NVC will then send an email fee invoice to both the spouse visa applicant and the petitioner along with instructions for paying the proper fees online. Once the immigrant visa and affidavit of support invoices are paid, the marriage visa applicant must submit all required forms and documents to the NVC, including the Immigrant Visa Application, the Affidavit of [financial] Support, required civil documents, supporting financial documents, and any other required documents.

Need Help?

The spouse visa process can be complicated and time consuming. For most spouses, delay is not an option. An experienced immigration attorney can save you time and money over the long haul. Please call us today for a free spouse visa consultation with a licensed U.S. immigration lawyer:

1-888-9-MY-VISA (888-969-8472)

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For further information about our spouse visa services, please contact us at

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