Wiki on Immigration to the U.S. with an incarcerated spouse

A popular prior discussion topic has been how to immigrate to the U.S. with an incarcerated spouse - this is Wiki provided by a member, please note it is dated and does not constitute legal advice. It might help point folks in the right direction or give a sense of the process. [work in progress]
h/t Lovebirds

The US spouse files an I-130 petition with USCIS ( Along with the I-130, you also need to include the following forms:

• G-1145 (to get electronic notification)
• G-325A for Petitioner and one for immigrant (

Next is to include proof with the petition, which should include:

• Proof of US Citizenship for Petitioner (e.g. birth certificate)
• Proof of Relationship, which is a copy of your marriage certificate
• A passport style photo of the petitioner (I scanned a photo of my husband into the computer and cropped it to the size and style of a passport photo)
• A passport style photo of the immigrant
• Evidence of bona fides of marriage. The absolute best thing to send here is a copy of your passport showing the entry stamps to the US when visiting your spouse. Other things include photos of you together as well as with family, joint bank account if you have such, email logs and a few email samples, phone records etc. The I-130 instructions talks about co-mingling of finances but don’t worry about this one, most people doing the spousal visa don’t have co-mingling of finances.

Finally you add a personal check or a banker’s draft with the I-130 filing fee. Check on to see what the current fee is.

About two weeks after you sent off your I-130 petition package, you’ll get an email saying USCIS have received it. Then the waiting game begins. Count about five to six months before you hear something. Hopefully it’ll be an approval, called NOA2, and then your case gets shipped to NVC.

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Count about four weeks from NOA2 and until your case gets a case number and IIN at NVC. Everything at NVC is done online. Here’s a link to NVC:…d/contact.html

First step at NVC is to fill out the DS-261 (choice of agent, i.e. who they should email case updates to) and pay the AOS fee (affidavit of support). Then wait about two weeks for the IV fee to open up online (actual visa fee).

During the time of NOA2 and till the IV fee opens up, get all the documents you need for the NVC stage. You need two packages that go together in one envelope. The first package is petitioner info:

• i-864 from US spouse. This is to show that there is enough money to support the immigrant. For a household of two, the US petitioner needs an annual salary of $20,000, which obviously isn’t possible while in prison so you then need either $60,000 in assets or a joint sponsor. Someone with enough salary that will fill in their own i-864 to take financial responsibility over the immigrant. Just remember that even with a joint sponsor, the US spouse still needs to fill out their own i-864 and then just write unemployed and zero salary.
• A signed and dated statement from the US spouse saying that he or she has been exempt from filing taxes due to his or her incarceration (zero income).
• Joint sponsor needs i-864, proof of US status such as US birth cert or naturalization, IRS transcript and paystubs for last six months.

The second package is immigrant info:

• Copy of immigrant’s birth certificate
• Copy of immigrant’s police certificate from every country lived in longer than a year from the age of 16 plus from country of nationality and country of residence
• Copy of biometric page of immigrant’s passport
• Two passport style photos of immigrant

Count about three to four months at NVC, after which you hopefully have case complete and your case will be put for an interview at the US embassy in the immigrant’s country of residence. How long you wait for your interview depends on how busy the US embassy in your country is (meaning how many apply for US immigration visas). Count a minimum of five weeks.

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Once your interview’s been scheduled, it’s time for a medical exam from an embassy approved medical clinic. You can find which ones are approved from NVC’s website. The medical exam will include a chest x-ray to check for TB, standard of checking blood pressure, sight etc. You also need to have certain vaccinations. Finally they take a blood test to check for syphilis. Make sure you do your medical at least 10 days before your interview, so they get the results in time.

At the interview, be prepared for questions about how you met, do you have contact with his family, what are visits like etc. The person interviewing me actually said straight out that he wanted to make sure that we had contact visits or it wouldn’t be a bona fida relationship. Also be prepared for them having spoken to your spouse’s prison before the interview. Bring lots of photos to the interview, including photos of you with his family. Also bring more emails and other bona fida evidence from the time you filed the I-130, especially if you’ve had more trips during the process.

And that’s the spousal visa process.

Hoping for the very best for everyone else going for the spousal visa. And feel free to ask any questions. It’s a long and sometimes tough and bureaucratic process. But it is possible, so hang in there. We had to fight and involve our Senator to get our case moving from NVC, so be prepared for extra scrutiny simply because the US spouse is in prison. Yep, it sucks but that’s the way it works and if you’re prepared for it, it just makes it easier to deal with.

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I wonder how much of this process has changed since it was first written. I had a copy of this saved, as I will need to follow this process myself. I won’t have a joint sponsor and am in the process of saving the required funds, on my own. My husband and I have been married for over 3 years, and for 3 years, we didn’t get to see each other in person, due to covid no fly etc, but we got to be together again last Oct/Nov and now have updated photos and visit wrist bands, for all the visits. I believe I’ll have to get myself a migration lawyer, lots of ‘what ifs’ that they are in the best position to answer, and all their information will be up to date. I really believe this will happen for us, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Hugs, Nomes


Hi Nomes,
As I mentioned in my direct message to you, there is generally no ‘special’ adverse circumstances on immigration to the U.S. with an incarcerated spouse. It is the same as if your spouse were not incarcerated.

The ‘test’ you refer to is an income/assets test - meant to show that one will not become a ‘public charge’ once in the U.S.

This USCIS link might help: Affidavit of Support | USCIS

If You Can’t Meet the Minimum Income Requirements

If you cannot meet the minimum income requirements using your earned income, you have various options:

  • You may add the cash value of your assets. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property. To determine the amount of assets required to qualify, subtract your household income from the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for your family size). You must prove the cash value of your assets is worth five times this difference (the amount left over).
    • Exceptions:
      • If the person being sponsored is a spouse, or son/daughter (who is 18 years or older) of a U.S. citizen: The minimum cash value of assets must be three times the difference between the sponsor’s household income and 125% of the federal poverty guide line for the household.
      • If the person being sponsored is an orphan coming to the United States for adoption: The adoptive parents’ assets need to equal or exceed the difference between the household income and 125% of the federal poverty line for the household size.
  • You may count the income and assets of members of your household who are related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption. To use their income you must have listed them as dependents on your most recent federal tax return or they must have lived with you for the last 6 months. They must also complete a Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member. If the relative you are sponsoring meets these criteria you may include the value of their income and assets, but the immigrant does not need to complete Form I-864A unless he or she has accompanying family members.
  • You may count the assets of the relatives you are sponsoring.
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Hi Richard,

It’s either wishful thinking on my behalf, or I’m not as smart as people keep telling me I am, but as I read the above information, it’s saying that I take the amount of my annual household (mine and hubby’s) combined income, away from 125% of the poverty level from a family of 2 (again, hubby and I make up our family!) and I need to have 5 times that amount of ‘cash value’…correct?

So lets say our combined income is just over $41000 a year and I subtract that from the minimum income requirement of $22887, this leaves a deficit of negative $18113

Is that math correct? If that’s the case, then I don’t understand why I would need a sponsor, because technically I would have enough in ‘cash in bank’ already to submit my residency application!

I’m so confused!

Hugs, Nomes

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