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Can you bring your foreign national spouse to the United States?

When you marry your spouse, you promise to build a life together and to support one another. It can be hard to know how life will test that commitment in the future. Sometimes, life circumstances may force you apart.

Work, schooling or family matters could lead to long-term separations of married spouses. In rare situations, people find themselves living in a completely different country than their spouse. Eventually, one spouse will need to move if the couple is ever to reunite.

If you are in the United States and your spouse is a foreign national, how can you help your spouse enter the country legally?

As a United States citizen

If you are a natural-born or naturalized United States citizen, you can obtain an immigration visa for your spouse. In fact, you can even apply for a visa if you get engaged to someone from another country.

Both spousal and fiance visas require that the foreign national spouses submit to the same medical review and background check process as other visa applicants. You must file a petition with both the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

Provided that your spouse passes, you’ll be in a strong position to help them enter the country and possibly even become naturalized citizens themselves.

When you have a green card

As a permanent resident, you have the right to help your spouse enter the United States. Specifically, you can help them secure a family preference visa. The second preference category is specifically for permanent residents, who can help their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 enter the country.  

When you have a work or student visa

Traveling to the United States to pursue employment or educational opportunities could lead to a long-term separation. Thankfully, you can potentially apply to have your spouse secure a visa subordinate to your own. As long as your spouse meets the requirements for a visa, your family can stay together even if your time in the United States is temporary and not permanent.

Understanding the rules for family-based immigration can help you remain connected with your loved ones who currently live in other countries.