Most non-immirant (temporary) visa categories allow the primary applicant to bring his/her spouse and children under the age of 21 to join him/her in the United States. Although such visas must be processed separately, they usually only require proof of the family relationship.
Sponsoring a Family Member:
Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents may petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to classify family members as “alien relatives.” Approval (and in some cases filing) of these petitions and proof of financial support then allows the foreign relative to apply for permanent residence.
While no numerical limitations exist for US citizens sponsoring spouses, children or parents, other categories may come with numerical limitations causing substantial wait times that must be bridged by either maintaining the family member’s primary residence outside the United States or – if the family member is already in the United States – maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status until the time for filing a permanent resident application has arrived.
Conditional Residence for New Spouses:
Married couples must prove the bona fide nature of their relationship through documentation and by presenting themselves at a marriage interview. If this interview takes place before the couple’s second marriage anniversary, the foreign spouse receives receives conditional resident status. The condition on permanent residence must later be removed by a joint application of the spouses. Should the marriage have terminated in the meantime, the foreign spouse can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement but must be prepared to prove the bonafide nature of the marriage.
Visas for Fiances:
Persons contemplating marriage to a US citizen can enter the United States on a so-called “Fiance Visa” to get to know their prospective spouse and their families better before tying the knot. Prerequisites for application are that the couple has met at least once (unless cultural or religious traditions prevent this), that the US fiancé can support his/her prospective spouse and that any history of criminal activity on the part of the US citizen fiancé is disclosed to the foreign bride or groom. The process requires the filing of a petition with USCIS and Consular Processing through the US Consulate in the foreign fiance’s home country.