When a Permanent Resident Petitioning an Immigrant Spouse Becomes a U.S. Citizen

How to speed up an immigrating spouse's path toward a U.S. green card.

If you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and have submitted a visa petition for your foreign-born spouse to receive a green card as well, your becoming a citizen would be very good news for you. Your husband or wife would go from category 2A (where he or she is probably stuck waiting for years for a visa to become available) straight to being what’s called an “immediate relative.” The wait would be over and he or she could move straight to applying for an immigrant visa (green card)

If you already meet the legal requirements for U.S. citizenship, you would be wise to apply as soon as possible. Most permanent residents can apply within five years of receiving their residence. They must also be of good moral character, meet certain U.S. residency requirements, and be able to pass a test on the English language and U.S. history and government.

If you succeed in becoming a citizen while your spouse is still waiting for an available visa, advise the U.S. government and send it a copy of your citizenship certificate and your spouse’s I-130 approval notice. The National Visa Center (NVC) will upgrade your spouse’s status to immediate relative.

The sample letter below shows how to explain this fortunate turn of events.

Need more information on the eligibility and procedural requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship? See the articles under “How to Become a U.S. Citizen,” or the comprehensive guide, Becoming a U.S. Citizen: A Guide to the Law, Exam & Interview, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).

Letter Requesting Upgrade to Immediate Relative

123 Salmon Way
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 555-1212

April 20, 20xx

National Visa Center
32 Rochester Avenue
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2909

RE: Petitioner: Sam Washington

Beneficiary: Marta Moscow
Preference Category: 2A, Spouse of LPR
Case Number: [Enter your number]

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am the petitioner in the above case. I recently became a U.S. citizen. A copy of my citizenship certificate is enclosed. Please upgrade my wife, Marta Moscow, from category 2A to immediate relative, and proceed with consular processing. Thank you.

Very truly yours,
Sam Washington
Sam Washington
Encl: Copy of U.S. citizenship certificate

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