Some California residents may not realize how long the immigration process can be until they attempt to obtain a visa for a foreign spouse. Even the official time frames provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service can make it look as though the processing times are fairly reasonable. However, since getting permission for a spouse to live in the United States is generally a multi-step process, it can take longer.

A U.S. citizen uses an I-30 petition to sponsor a spouse, and this takes several months. Once this is in place, the spouse then has to either apply from outside the country to enter the United States or adjust the status to permanent residence. The entire process may take a year. A work permit can also take several months to obtain, and this can mean that one spouse is without income for several months.

Immigration officials are primarily concerned with ensuring that the marriage is a genuine one, that the spouse does not have a criminal record and that the spouse is healthy. There are several steps a person can take to make the process smoother. All requested information should be provided. Copies of documents should be clear and may need to be translated into English. Applicants should be truthful.

While it is possible for individuals to do this paperwork, they may want assistance. An attorney may be able to help in completing forms and explaining any requests or changes in the law. Other types of family-based immigration may be more complex and could take even more time. In some cases, people might qualify for immigration in several different ways, and an attorney might be able to help clarify which path would be best. After a certain amount a time, the family member may be eligible for naturalization.