Marriage Petition: Be Prepared For Bringing Your Spouse To The United States
The U.S. Immigration services allow a US citizen to petition for their non-citizen spouse to stay and live the United States, and ultimately to become a citizen. It must be noted that the wait time for a spouse of a US citizen to acquire US citizenship is one of the shortest in the world: three years from the date of becoming a permanent resident.
The first step in this process is to sponsor your spouse by filing an I-130 petition (the current fee is $420). It does not matter whether the spouse is overseas or in the United States. If the spouse is overseas, however, a US citizen might choose a different option and bring their spouse to the US using “fiancé” petition I -129F, even though the couple is already married. This petition allows for shorter processing times, so the couple will stay separated for lesser period time compared to the immigrant visa process. The US citizen, however, still has to file I-130. Another advantage of using I-129F form to bring the spouse on a K-3 visa, is that the non-US citizens spouse’s unmarried children may enter the country along with the immigrating spouse. For K-4 to qualify for the visa, he or she must be unmarried, under 21, and the child of a qualified K-3 non-immigrant visa applicant. In order for a K-41 who is a step-child of a USC to immigrate as a relative of the USC step-parent (whether through adjustment of status in the United States or an immigrant visa abroad) the marriage between his or her parent and the USC must have occurred before his or her 18th birthday.
If Your Child Turns 21 Before Obtaining Immigrant Status
Holders of K-4 non-immigrant visas will be admitted to the United States for 2 years or until the day before their 21st birthday, whichever is shorter. The K-4 non-immigrant's status will expire when he or she turns 21. If the USC petitioner filed a Form I-130 on a K-4 non-immigrant’s behalf before the K-4 turned 21, he or she may continue to be eligible for adjustment of status under the Child Status Protection Act.
If Your Child Marries Before Being Issued an Immigrant Visa
The K-4 non-immigrant’s status automatically expires 30 days after he or she marries. Please note that dependents of the K-1 fiancé petitions will be able to adjust their status to permanent residence even after 21 as long as they were under 21 on the date of the admission to the US. See Matter of Hieu Trung LE, 25 I&N Dec. 541 (BIA 2011).
When the I-130 gets approved, the immigrating spouse will have to either file for an adjustment of status (which is usually done simultaneously with I-130 form when the person is already in the US), or file for an Immigrant visa at the appropriate consulate overseas. If the marriage is less than two years old, the spouse will be issued a conditional resident status, which will be removed and converted into permanent resident status after the couple submits a petition to remove the condition within 90 days immediately prior the second anniversary of conditional residence.
It is always wise to consult with an attorney before starting the process. A complex process of bringing somebody to the US, requires planning and expertise, especially when the US Immigration laws are constantly changing.
1See USCIS explanations on the K-4 status here