That’s what Luca*, who has a green card and a fiancée living over overseas, asked us recently: What would be the quicker way for his fiancée Maja* to get a green card: If he married and sponsored her now as a green card holder or if he waited until he became a citizen and then married and sponsored her?
It’s a great question, particularly since many green card categories, as well as citizenship applications, are facing long delays. Here’s the rundown we gave to Luca.
Permanent Resident Sponsor
If Luca and Maja got married today, Luca could sponsor Maja for an F2A green card. Currently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes a minimum of 19 months to process F2A applications at its California Service Center. For an F2A green card, Maja faces waiting for an immigrant visa to become available, according to the Visa Bulletin for February 2019. (For more info about the Visa Bulletin, read the How Does the Visa Bulletin Work? blog post.)
Currently, USCIS is only processing F2A petitions submitted on or before Dec. 1, 2016. Predicting how quickly the green card line will move based on this date is difficult. Assuming the line continues to move forward—without further delays—the processing of Maja’s application could take a couple of years.
Barring any complications—Maja could get her green card in three to four years if Luca sponsored her now while he still has a green card.
U.S. Citizen Sponsor
To sponsor Maja for a green card as a U.S. citizen, Luca would have to wait two more years before he is eligible to apply for citizenship. Currently, the processing time for a citizenship application and scheduling an interview can take at least nine months in the USCIS San Jose office.
After passing the interview, Luca must participate in a naturalization oath ceremony. Individuals who pass the citizenship interview usually receive a notice of their scheduled ceremony anywhere from one to three months later.
Luca and Maja could marry while Luca waits for citizenship. However, visiting or marrying in the U.S. would be tricky for Maja, who would need a visitor visa. That puts Maja in a catch-22 position: She has to prove she has no intention of immigrating to the U.S. Still, the Alcorn Immigration Law team has successfully advised and prepared couples in this situation.
To avoid that situation, Luca and Maja could marry abroad after Luca’s oath ceremony. Maja would then apply for a marriage-based green card. Currently, USCIS takes a minimum of 7.5 months to process a marriage-based green card. Once USCIS approved Luca’s petition for Maja’s green card, Maja would then do consular processing in her home country.
Another option is for Luca to sponsor Maja for a K-1 visa, which would enable them to marry in the U.S. The processing time for a K-1 visa is seven to 10 months. If Luca and Maja get married within 90 days, Maja could then apply for a marriage-based green card.
If Luca sponsored Maja for her green card when he became a citizen, she would face a minimum of a 44-month wait.
Which Option Did They Choose?
The Alcorn Immigration Law team advised Luca that sponsoring Maja now was the fastest way to get a green card. The happy couple plan to marry in Paris in a few weeks.
Reach out to us if we can help you find your happy ending.
* To maintain confidentiality, the name of the client has been changed, and details may have been omitted or slightly altered. Our success in a case does not predict nor guarantee the outcome in your legal matter. The result portrayed above was dependent on the facts of that case. Results will differ based on different facts.