Eligibility Exceptions and Issues

Step-by-step guide for how you can bring your spouse to the United States with a green card


The green card application process described in this guide is generally open to all spouses of U.S. citizens who are living abroad. But there are exceptions and special situations where such spouses may not be eligible for a marriage green card, including:

  • Spouses who previously entered the United States on a J-1 exchange visitor visa are often required to spend two years in their home country after their time in J-1 status. They must satisfy this requirement before they can apply for any other type of visa, unless they obtain a waiver of this residency requirement.
  • Spouses are ineligible if they have previous U.S. immigration violations. For example, if a spouse has entered the United States previously, stayed beyond the time allowed by 180 days or more, and then left the United States, they will have triggered a “bar” that prevents entry to the United States.
  • Spouses are ineligible if they have a criminal conviction that makes them inadmissible to the United States. For example, a conviction for murder, kidnapping, or drug trafficking will make a person ineligible for a green card.

Waivers may be available to help resolve some of the above situations. You can seek legal assistance if any of these situations apply to you.

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