If you are a U.S. citizen who intends to sponsor your foreign-born husband or wife for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence), you or your immigration lawyer will start the application process by filing a visa petition. This petition is called the Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
Your immigration attorney will mail this form (with accompanying documents and fee) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your spouse is currently residing overseas, your spouse will only be able to proceed with the green card application only after the I-130 is approved, using a procedure called “consular processing”.
If your foreign-born spouse is already in the United States after a legal entry, he or she is likely eligible to “adjust status” (apply for the green card) at a USCIS office, without having to leave the United States — in which case you do not need to submit the I-130 and wait for its approval before submitting the adjustment of status application (I-485 and accompanying forms and documents). The two can be submitted to USCIS all at once.
It is important to note, however, that physical presence in the U.S. is not enough by itself, to render an immigrant eligible to adjust status. If, for example, your spouse entered the U.S. illegally, it is likely that he or she is not eligible to adjust status, but can only use the consular processing procedure and may need a waiver of past unlawful presence as well.
In these cases, you may want to contact a local immigration lawyer in Miami, Florida for assistance. For more information, please visit www.mmurraylaw.com, or contact Michael G. Murray, Esq. at 305-895-2500 (office) or [email protected].