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I live and work in Hong Kong as a US Citizen. In June of this year I attended a conference in the US, and after my girlfriend flew to the US on a valid tourist visa and we did a vacation trip around the US. While on this trip we got married, finished the trip, and returned to Hong Kong.

With the civil unrest developing in Hong Kong, I am looking for opportunities outside of Hong Kong. One obvious options is to seek a job in the US, however I want to try to minimize separation, as not only is it not healthy for our relationship but again the civil unrest in Hong Kong as well as the costliness of paying for an apartment in Hong Kong.

She does currently still have the valid tourist visa in her old passport with her old name.

Would I be looking at the full 1 year process before she could come to the US? If I end up not finding a job in the US is it possible to maintain the immigration visa we obtain for her to enter the US and receive the temporary green card for a few years until I do get a job in the US?

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Would I be looking at the full 1 year process before she could come to the US?

I don't think it necessarily takes a whole year, but I don't really know, and I am sure that it can take longer than a year in some cases. In principle, yes, you would be looking at the full process. Your spouse can travel to the US as a tourist and then stay in the US for "adjustment of status," but that option is intended for people who legitimately enter as tourists and then have a legitimate change of plans or circumstances. If she arrives as a tourist with the intention to remain and adjust status, the officer is supposed to refuse entry.

If she does get an immigrant visa and then uses it to travel to the US, she will be a permanent resident of the US. Extended absences from the US can lead to a loss of permanent residence, but it is not automatic. In that case you'd have to sponsor her again from scratch if you subsequently decide to move to the US together.

As far as I understand it, you can sponsor her for immigration now, so the two of you can move to the US together after her visa is approved. This might be the way to go. If you then find a job outside the US, she can go with you, and if you decide to stay there, she can abandon her PR status or allow it to lapse. If you find a job inside the US, she can of course stay there with you. In neither case would you have to spend much time apart, if any.

The potential cost is the loss of money and effort expended in the applications if you settle elsewhere, but depending on your income this may be a worthwhile expenditure to help ensure that you do not endure months of separation.

I'm saying all of this based on my understanding of the system. I have no direct experience with people who've done this either way; all the immigrants I know did adjustment of status (either from an H-1B visa or after meeting and marrying a US citizen in the US). So do keep looking for advice from others with more pertinent experience or from a competent immigration lawyer.

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    It is possible to have it approved in less than a month in exceptional cases. I know of a case in which the USC, wanting to move to the US for better work opportunities, emailed the HK consulate asking permission to file directly with the consulate for the IR1 (usually you have to file the petition in the lockbox in Chicago). The consulate allowed him to file the I-130 with them and they were able to have all steps done in 25 days. If I were you I would try this first since, like Phoog said, you might be looking at something close to a year waiting. – IanDan Aug 20 at 14:43
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    @IanDantas that anecdote deserves to be in an answer. – phoog Aug 20 at 14:44
  • Thanks @phoog. I posted as an answer now. – IanDan Aug 21 at 14:37
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It is possible to have it approved in less than a month in exceptional cases. I know of a case in which the USC, wanting to move to the US for better work opportunities, emailed the HK consulate asking permission to file directly with the consulate for the IR-1 (usually you have to file the petition in the lockbox in Chicago) since he had a job offer in California already.

The consulate allowed him to file the I-130 with them and they were able to have all steps done in 25 days. If I were you I would try this first since, like Phoog said, you might be looking at something close to a year waiting.

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