Plan ahead for bringing a new spouse home from abroad

Traveling or working abroad can be very exciting. You get to experience new cultures, see new places and meet fascinating new people. In fact, you might just fall in love and decide you want to bring this special someone back to the U.S. and spend the rest of your lives together.

Congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful future! But remember that this could be a recipe for heartache and disappointment if you don’t follow some necessary steps along the way. That’s because returning to the U.S. with a non-citizen spouse isn’t necessarily as simple as you think and takes advance planning. Otherwise you may arrive in America ready to live as a family, only to have immigration officials block your spouse from coming in.

So what do you have to do?

The main thing is to make sure you file all the documentation required by the U.S. government to repatriate your spouse in America. This mainly involves a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130. There are documents you and your foreign-born spouse need to sign and that need to be executed on behalf of any foreign-born children too. Then it will take the U.S. government several months to process and approve the petition. Sometimes this can take upwards of a year. Meanwhile, your spouse can’t move to the U.S. until that happens.

It’s also important to know that you need to go through this process even if you’ve already been married to your foreign-born spouse for years and you’re just now planning to move back. You may even have traveled to the U.S. with your foreign-born family multiple times. But moving back on a permanent basis is a different story and there are many more hoops to jump through. The same is true if you’re living in the U.S. while your foreign-born spouse is still in his or her country of origin. If you’re in this boat, talk to a family lawyer with immigration experience to make sure you’re doing all you need to do.