If you live outside the United States and your spouse is a U.S. lawful permanent resident, then you’ll apply through a ‘Consular Processing.’ In this case, you will use an online green card application- Form DS-260 (officially called the “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application”).
Step 1. Form I-130 Processing
The petitioner (green card holder) has to file the Form I-130 package and Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, and wait for the approval of the green card application, usually about 7-10 months.
Step 2. Visa number availability (F2A category)
Upon approval of your I-130 petition, USCIS will transfer the case to National Visa Center NVC.
When NVC identifies the case, the spouse of a U.S. green cardholder needs to wait until the visa number in the F2A category becomes available. As we mentioned earlier, you can check this in the Visa Bulletin.
The waiting time of foreign spouses can vary depending on the country of origin.
Step 3. NVC Processing
Once the visa number is available, the foreign spouse can apply for a green card.
All the required forms and documents should be submitted with NVC, typically taking 3-5 months to make a decision.
Step 4. Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
The next step is attending the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview in the spouse’s home country. After 1-2 months, a foreign spouse will attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
Step 5. Green Card Arrival
The spouses living abroad will receive the physical marriage green card to the U.S. address, usually within six months upon arrival in the United States.
In this case, the estimated time of the green card process will take a bit longer, so after the marriage interview and approval, the green card will arrive within 23-32 months.