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Moving to US with my American wife

Moving to US with my American wife

Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:04 pm
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Default Moving to US with my American wife

Hi guys,

First post here!... I'm desperate for info so signed up in hope I could find it here.

I'm a UK Citizen, my wife is a US Citizen. We've been living in London, UK for the past 5 years. She has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) here in the UK. I have only ever visited the US on Visa Waiver programs (ESTA).

She has a potential job offer in Virgina and we'd both like to move out there to live and work. I will not be looking to find work until I get there and we will easily be able to support ourselves on just her wages in this new job until I find one.

What is not clear to me, is how I actually enter the US or what the process is. If I go in via an ESTA it clearly states I cannot change my immigrant status if I entered the USA using it. So I understand that my wife can petition for me to get a green card, but how do I lawfully enter the US to begin with if I'm not able to do that with an ESTA?

It's really stressing us out and the online literature is contradicting in a lot of places.

Thanks so much for any help you can give.


Nick
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:19 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Welcome to BE. You've come to the right place for free advice, criticism and some cynicism thrown in!

I'm sure a mod will be along soon to move this into the marriage visa forum, but in the meantime, look at the Wiki at the top of the page and come back with any specific questions. The first step will be for your wife to petition for you.
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:38 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Thank you! and sorry, I didn't realise I was positing in the wrong place.

I apologise if I'm not being thorough enough, but I can't see any info specifically on how I legally gain entry in to the US so that my wife can work and petition for me? and remain in the US while she does that?
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:38 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Originally Posted by Spanknap View Post
Hi guys,

First post here!... I'm desperate for info so signed up in hope I could find it here.

I'm a UK Citizen, my wife is a US Citizen. We've been living in London, UK for the past 5 years. She has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) here in the UK. I have only ever visited the US on Visa Waiver programs (ESTA).

She has a potential job offer in Virgina and we'd both like to move out there to live and work. I will not be looking to find work until I get there and we will easily be able to support ourselves on just her wages in this new job until I find one.

What is not clear to me, is how I actually enter the US or what the process is. If I go in via an ESTA it clearly states I cannot change my immigrant status if I entered the USA using it. So I understand that my wife can petition for me to get a green card, but how do I lawfully enter the US to begin with if I'm not able to do that with an ESTA?

It's really stressing us out and the online literature is contradicting in a lot of places.

Thanks so much for any help you can give.

Nick
Start with this BE wiki article DCF I-130 Filed In London : British Expat Wiki

The good news is that the whole process of filing via London only takes about 4-6 months and is just about the fastest route there is from the UK to becoming a US Permanent Resident (a.k.a "getting a Green Card").

If your wife needs to leave earlier than that timescale, you can still visit her on the ESTA but you'd need to limit your visits to 90 days max and be ready to return to the UK for your immigration medical and visa interview, both of which happen in London. You won't be able to work as a visitor, but once you have your immigrant visa and enter the US using it you'll be a Permanent Resident with full rights to live and work in the USA.

Also, if your wife does need to go ahead of you, she MUST file the I-130 through London before she leaves, and it'd be prudent to wait a few days to make sure they've accepted it (they will only cash the payment if they do) before heading off.

On the whole, it's a pretty straightforward process, and lots of us have done it and are happy to answer any specific questions. Welcome and good luck!
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:40 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Thank you Roy! ok I think that's straight forward.

Can you just clarify that there would be no way of me living in the US with her while she worked and petitioned for me?
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:52 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Spend some time working through this as well. It seems complicated at first sight but, as rpjs says, many of us have successfully taken this route.

Applying for an Immigrant Visa | Embassy of the United States
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:52 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

You can visit the US while the petition is going through, but you cannot LIVE in the US until you have a visa.
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:54 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Originally Posted by Spanknap View Post
Thank you Roy! ok I think that's straight forward.

Can you just clarify that there would be no way of me living in the US with her while she worked and petitioned for me?
No, it's illegal to enter as a visitor with the intent to adjust status. People sometimes try and sometimes get away with it, but they run the risk if it all goes pear-shaped of being permanently banned from the US.

You can still enter as a visitor, so long as you don't overstay the 90 days limit, and don't chance your arm by trying something like leaving and returning back to back.

Given that the timescale is so short for DCF, you could quite conceivably go out as a visitor and barely even hit 90 days before your medical and interview dates come around. You'd just need to make sure that the embassy sends your notifications to a mailing address in the UK where someone can be sure to get them and let you know - e.g. with friends or relatives.
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 2:58 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Hi Spanknap, you are correct you may not arrive in the US on an ESTA only to then file an I-130 application to adjust your status to become a US permanent resident. If you try to do this you may be deported and barred from entering the US permanently. If you want to visit your wife in the US you can but you will need to maintain your UK residence to be eligible for a family immigrant visa so your wife will have to move to the US ahead of you and you will be living apart for a few months.

Your wife can sponsor your immigrant visa in the immediate relative category, there's a minimum amount she needs to earn but it's likely she will be eligible - she agrees to assume financial responsibility for you in the US until you become benefits eligible for which you must pay at least 40 quarters of social security contributions ie 10 years of paychecks, but your employer may offer various health/life/disability insurance to cover some of what you might need if something happens in the interim.

After you apply you should wait until you are notified by mail to your UK address when a family visa becomes available, at some point you will pay to have a medical performed in London by a US Embassy certified 'civil surgeon', you will need to get several required vaccinations and x-rays, you will need to pass the interview with a USCIS employee at the US Embassy in London to prove your relationship, you will hand over your UK passport to have the US family visa pasted in. Only when your UK passport is returned with a current valid visa should you then put your UK affairs in order and make your travel arrangements. Ten years ago my fiancee visa process took about 5-6 months, but visa processing times do vary year to year. Once you arrive in the US as a family immigrant I recommend you should not leave the country again before you adjust your status to become a US permanent resident which will take another 3-6 months.

Some helpful website I found include the US Embassy London website, the VisaJourney immigration guides website, and of course this website.

Good luck!
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:04 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Originally Posted by Dewey View Post
Once you arrive in the US as a family immigrant I recommend you should not leave the country again before you adjust your status to become a US permanent resident which will take another 3-6 months.
This is incorrect - Spanknap would be entering on an IR-1 immigrant visa and so would become an unconditional US Permanent Resident on arrival. There is no adjustment of status. He could, if he wanted, turn around and take the next flight out. He would just have to be careful about not spending so much time outside of the US that his Permanent Resident status is deemed "abandoned" but he'd need to be out at least six months for that to even come up, and a year or more to be at serious risk.

Some helpful website I found include the US Embassy London website, the VisaJourney immigration guides website, and of course this website.
Visajourney is generally regarded to be a mire of inaccurate information around these parts...
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:06 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Guys, thank you so much for all this info... it's really helpful and I'm going to digest. But of a blow that I can't be out there with her and she's going to have to do it alone for a while.
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:11 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Originally Posted by rpjs View Post
He would just have to be careful about not spending so much time outside of the US that his Permanent Resident status is deemed "abandoned" but he'd need to be out at least six months for that to even come up, and a year or more to be at serious risk...Visajourney is generally regarded to be a mire of inaccurate information around these parts...
Happy to be corrected, I have found BE to be an excellent source of accurate information, indeed your comment proves this, I am constantly impressed at the wealth of immigration knowledge and experience of commentors on this board.
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:31 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Have you also considered sorting out UK citizenship for your wife before she leaves so that a return to the UK would be easier if future circumstances lead to that?
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:36 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Ok, I am slightly puzzled by something... So here's how I see this playing out.

We fly to the US together, she has a one way ticket on her US citizenship. I have a return ticket for 90 days on an ESTA.

My wife says to border security, she is moving back to the US for a job offer. I say, I am moving back to spend time with my wife while she settles in and files an I-130 for my green card. - Am I right so far?

I am under the impression that once the I-130 is filed I am in some kind of "holding space" where I cannot move around, i.e. I cannot leave the US or the UK, wherever I happen to be. So what happens when the ESTA runs out?

If I have misunderstood any of those steps, please feel free to rewrite my step by step walkthrough
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Old Jul 1st 2015, 3:45 pm
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Default Re: Moving to US with my American wife

Originally Posted by rpjs View Post
Spanknap would be entering on an IR-1 immigrant visa and so would become an unconditional US Permanent Resident on arrival.
This would be true only if he has been married more than 2 years on the date he enters the US with his immigrant visa. While we might assume this given that his wife has IRL and has been in the UK for 5 years, we don't actually know whether or not the marriage is, in fact, more than 2 years old.

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