Is Your Spouse in the United States or Abroad?
Spouse in the United States
The wait time to get a green card after marriage will vary depending on where your spouse is located.
If your spouse is in the United States, and he or she qualifies to obtain permanent residence via the adjustment of status process, the wait time between locations in the United States will vary.
For example, most of these types of cases we file are in Sacramento and San Francisco California.
In Sacramento currently the wait time is about 8 months from start to finish. In San Francisco, for cases filed in 2017 the wait time was 12 to 18 months. Cases filed in 2018 were processed faster. It was possible to file your case in 2018 in San Francisco and have your interview sooner than had you filed a similar case in 2017.
We filed a case in late 2018 in Fresno and had the interview 5 months later.
In other words wait times are all over the board currently. It depends on where your case is adjudicated and their current case load. This was not always the case. For over 10 years the wait time on these cases was roughly 4 months for both Sacramento and San Francisco. Wait times currently for these types of cases, surprisingly, seem to be shrinking, just a bit, overall. We will see if this trend will hold true over the next couple of years.
If your spouse is abroad
If your spouse is in another country and you file an I-130 for him or her you should expect the wait time to be between 14 and 18 months in 2019.
However, with the extra scrutiny that USCIS is giving cases it could be even longer. For many years the wait time, from start to finish was only 9-12 months. The wait time, overall, is longer under the current administration. I expect the wait time for these types of cases to increase a bit over the next couple of years.
Is a Fiance Visa Faster?
A fiance visa is almost always going to be a faster route to bring your loved one into the United States. (The current wait time for a fiance visa, for most cases, is 9-10 months.) This assumes that the case is prepared and filed properly. However, there are trade offs when you file for a fiance visa instead of marrying your loved one abroad and filing for their green card in their home country.
First and foremost you will have to do 2 cases. You will be doing a fiance visa and then a green card case via adjustment of status, in the United States, for your loved one. Therefore overall the process could be more expensive (although you would save travelling and other costs by not having to travel to your loved one’s home country in order to marry him or her.)
However, if you do a fiance visa, unlike a marriage abroad case, you most likely would be able to do a prenuptial agreement (speak to a family law attorney) which you may not be able to do, or may not be able to do very easily, if you get married abroad (again speak to a family law attorney).
With a fiance visa your loved one would likely not be able to work in the United States for 3-6 months (times vary) after he or she arrived in the United States.
The fiance visa route is currently taking about 9-10 months from start to finish (all 3 phases of the case and not just initial USCIS approval). If you have not yet married your loved one you may want to seriously consider the fiance visa route. (You can see the timeline to see how long this will take.) If you are interested in learning more about the fiance visa route please read: Top 10 Things You Should Know About the Fiance Visa Process.
Attorney Lawrence Gruner is a fiance visa attorney. He would be happy to talk to you about all of your immigration options. His office is located Sacramento California. He handles cases in California, the United States, and the World. He has handled marriage green card and fiance visa cases for almost 25 years. He would be happy to talk to you, free of charge, about your options. You can call 888-801-6558 or 916-760-7270 or email us email@example.com
The information above is for informational purposes only and is not meant to take the place of a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. Laws can and do change. Therefore, you should always consult with an attorney prior to filing anything with USCIS.