How Long Until My Spouse Can LEAVE the US??

Please Note: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not take this post as legal advice, as each case is unique. This post is a story about my experience with my spouse during the process of getting my husband’s marriage-based greencard in the US.

When my husband and I processed his permanent residency documents, we had to wait over two years before he had his greencard–and we were afraid to travel until then. Please note: I am NOT an attorney, and this post is NOT legal advice! It has been several years since we processed our documents, so laws and processes may have changed. Check the USCIS website or with an attorney for the most current information.

For the spouses of US citizens in the USA who have filed paperwork, it can take a long time before the spouse can safely leave and return to the US depending on the status and visa of the foreign spouse.  If you have filed your paperwork with USCIS, try calling their hotline at 1-800-870-3676 to see what the estimated wait time will be. (For information on various types of cases, browse immigration discussion boards on the sites of law firms or ask an immigration attorney online–but remember the information posted often comes from members of the public, only sometimes from attorneys. )

My husband had overstayed his B-2 visa when we were married. Therefore while his documents were processing, had he left the US without permission from USCIS, he would have been barred from re-entering the country. At that time, we could have used Advanced Parole to get permission to travel while his documents were processing–however, we heard of families how had trouble re-entering even WITH Advanced Parole. For us, it was a very easy decision to stay in the US until my husband had his greencard in hand.

USCIS 1-800 Telephone Number–Good to Know!

When you have questions about a visa situation, you can always call United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Their National Customer Service Center is at (800) 375-5283.

They may ask for your A# (or Alien #). (You can find this on the I-94 record that you receive when entering the United States. If you entered illegally, you will not have this record, since it is officially given at the point of entry.)

Calling is a little intimidating, but they have given me helpful information many times. Before September 11, 2001, it was NOT helpful to call. But after, they became much more helpful and efficient.

So You Wanna Marry a Foreigner…

To find a husband or wife seems like the hard part…until you get married!  Then we learn that marriage, while fabulous in so many ways…has many trials and tribulations. Anticipating marrying someone from a different country can feel “scary” because somewhere inside, you know you’re taking a leap of faith that is bigger than that involved with marrying a person from the same culture. If you want to marry a foreigner, let me take a guess at a few of the thoughts you’re having:

  1. CAN I marry this person? I don’t know the first thing about immigration.
  2. Won’t marriage with a foreigner be complicated?
  3. I really think he/she loves me, but what if deep down, my love is thinking about a greencard?
  4. Will he/she change his/her mind and later want to move back home to a different country?
  5. Will he/she ever learn to speak English well? If not, what will happen?
  6. Will he/she ever find a good job? If not, what will happen?
  7. Will people, especially family and friends, accept our marriage?
  8. Will speaking different languages at home confuse our future children?
  9. Do children feel that the foreign parent is different from other parents?
  10. Is it possible to make a marriage between foreigners last?

I have good news and bad news to share! Good news first. The answer to #10 is YES. The answer to #1 is most often YES–I will post a few immigration links for you soon, plus I will describe our immigration situation (which ended fine and was very easy, just a long process) and a few of our friends’ as well.

The bad news. Marrying a foreigner could teach you many things you never wanted to learn about society, culture, how the nicest people in all cultures can turn horrible when their loved ones marry people from different places, that child-rearing practices are different everywhere and people get darn stubborn about the ones they were raised with…Oh, each of these needs its own post or many of them…

What I’m saying is, marriage is complicated–period. Marriage with a foreigner is even more complicated. Having lived in three countries, worked as an ESL teacher for 10 years (with hundreds of foreigners from many, many countries including all continents except Antarctica), I have known MANY couples comprised of spouses from different countries. I saw a few divorce within two years. I see some who are still holding on but unhappy. BUT I KNOW SOME who figured it out and are living an exciting, love-filled, culturally rich life together.

I hope to shed some light on my personal experience and offer help or advice whenever possible through this site. Good luck to you, and know that many international couples are thriving and happy!!!!