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I am a UK citizen married to a US/UK dual citizen: we both live in the UK. It is possible my husband's career could take him to the US some time in the future. We'd like to understand:

  • whether I could gain the right to work in the US
  • whether I'd need a job offer to get it
  • most importantly, whether we can start the process of my gaining the right to work now, in order to avoid long delays (perhaps while living in separate countries) in the future.

I found this page, which says:

If you want to bring your foreign spouse to the US, but you are currently living outside the US, you must submit a visa petition (form I-130) to either your local US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or directly to the US Embassy where your foreign spouse resides.

So that suggests that I could at least gain the right to live in the US, but it's not clear whether I could work.

But it also says:

If you and your spouse are planning to remain outside the US indefinitely, it is not recommended that you apply for a Green Card.

We're not planning to remain outside the US indefinitely, but nor do we know - currently - when we might go.

Not sure if it's relevant, but I'm a software engineer so could almost certainly get a job offer if needed - but I would much rather start any job hunt with the right to work in the US!

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The submission of Form I-130 is the first step in the process. Once approved by the USCIS, you then file for a green card (lawful permanent residence), enabling you to work. You may be able to do this while you are still outside the country, using consular processing (but not if you are unsure when you'll go to the US). Done once you arrive in the US, it takes about a month to receive the card and, thus, the ability to work.

As a side note, you could job hunt immediately. You'd be in the US lawfully and, in a matter of weeks, your green card will arrive. Prospective employers wouldn't see that as an obstacle to offering you employment. You simply couldn't begin until work authorization is in place.

  • Quick followup: It seems my UK-born husband wouldn't be able to sponsor the I-130 petition unless he has firm plans to become a US resident. So probably we'd have to submit the I-130 form after he gets a job offer. Any idea how long I-130 approval typically takes? The US embassy in London currently report 3 months to process an I-130 form, but not how long to approve. Thanks again! – Richard Sep 25 '16 at 16:08
  • That's a bit trickier @Richard ... his residence is immediate, as a US citizen. It's difficult to predict the time period for your I-130 approval, and I don't want to misguide you. Explore other avenues, such as a K-3 visa non-immigrant visa for the US, normally granted within a few months. You can use the K3 to start the process outside of the US, travel to the US to complete the immigration process. Either way, your ability to work would be delayed. – Giorgio Sep 25 '16 at 16:48
  • @Richard according to the article you linked to, domicile can be established by "seeking employment." So it may not be necessary to wait until after a job offer. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 2:24
  • @Dorothy: K-3 is obsolete, and usually cannot be gotten even if you apply for it. – user102008 Sep 26 '16 at 6:15
  • One thing to note from experience, you can apply for and get the green card while resident in the UK. – ouflak Sep 26 '16 at 11:02

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