If you were married or had children at the time your green card application was approved and your spouse or children did not apply for their green cards at that time, they may still be eligible for follow-to-join benefits to allow them to immigrate to the United States.
The advantage of this procedure is that there is no need to submit a separate Form I-130 and your spouse and children do not have to wait until their visa number becomes current to apply for green cards. Please see more information about when your visa number becomes current here.
Eligibility for Follow-to-join benefits
There are two requirements that need to be satisfied for your spouse or children to be eligible for follow-to-join benefits.
- You must have been married/you must have had children at the time your green card application was approved and the relationship must still exist. After your child turns 21 or after your child marries, he or she is no longer able to follow to join you.
- You must have received an immigrant visa or adjusted status in a preference category. Your spouse or children can only follow to join you if you obtained your green card based on one of the following categories: Family preference category, Employment based petition, Religious worker or VAWA petition, or Diversity visa petition.
Applying for Follow-to-join benefits
If you are in the U.S. and you are planning to apply for a green card and your spouse or children are outside the U.S. and are planning to apply for their green cards as well you can file Form I-824 (the form must be completed and signed by you) together with your adjustment of status application. In the Dependents section of Form I-824, you would specify the dependents (your spouse or children) who want to use follow-to-join benefits. The advantage of this procedure is that that you do not have to file any additional documents except those already required to adjust your status.
On the other hand, if you already adjusted your status, and your green card application was approved, you will need to submit the following document: Form I-824 (completed and signed by you), copy of your green card application, copy of your I-797 (Notice of Action) for the original petition, and copy of Form I-551 (green card). On I-824, you will need to specify which U.S. Consulate you want to notify and that will be the Consulate at which your spouse or children will have their interview.
The current processing time for I-824 petition is between 6.5-11.5 months. Once USCIS approves your petition, it will send you a Notice of Approval (Form I-797). USCIS will then sent the application to the National Visa Center (“NVC”). NVC will then send you a letter notifying you that it received the petition and it will explain the next steps. It may take up to 6 weeks to receive this letter from the NVC. Your wife or children will then have to submit visa application forms (DS-260) and supporting documents. Thereafter, they will be able to schedule an interview at the requested U.S. Consulate.
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