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US Green Card for Thai Spouse


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I'm an American citizen living in Thailand. My Thai partner and I got married  during a trip to the US ten years ago. I'm already retired and my spouse plans to retire in 3 years, and we've begun thinking about applying for a green card in case we ever move to the States. I tried to research the topic on the internet but, despite an overload of information, am still not sure about whether or not it's possible to apply for and be issued the green card while residing in Thailand or if it's necessary to reside in the States first, and whether or not there's a US residency requirement to retain the green card's validity and eventually getting citizenship.

 

Thanks for your advice!

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For her to access your Soc Sec benefits, she will need to reside and or work in the USA.  Guessing that is why you want her to have citizenship, or at least a SS #.

 

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Thanks for the link, which is quite helpful. 
My main reason isn't so much for social security payments (mine are quite low) but in case we lived in the States, wanted the spouse to be able to share my Medicare coverage. Not sure if being legally married (having a US marriage certificate) is enough or if a green card is also necessary.

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42 minutes ago, Pawpal said:

Thanks for the link, which is quite helpful. 
My main reason isn't so much for social security payments (mine are quite low) but in case we lived in the States, wanted the spouse to be able to share my Medicare coverage. Not sure if being legally married (having a US marriage certificate) is enough or if a green card is also necessary.

https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-01-2010/ask_ms_medicare_question_75.html

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You can not get a green card until you permanently move to the US.  We had to surrender my wife’s card when we moved to Thailand permanently.

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American citizen services at the US embassy in BKK can answer all your questions. 

I applied for my wife's green card (1995) in BKK, took about 6 months toget everything needed to go to the US. They gave us a sealed envelope and we had to go to a special area when we landed in Detroit (If i remember right). They opened the envelope, stamped my wife's thai passport, and we got the green card about a month later in the mail. Unless things have changed, you have to live in the US at least 7 years before you can apply for citizenship,  and at the same address for 4 years i think. Some of this has probably changed in 25 years....

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Posted (edited)

I'm a US citizen, living in Thailand and legally married to my Thai wife, we've been married 15 years and my wife has been to the US with her 10 year tourist visa/B2, but now we're in the process of applying for her green card. It is possible to live overseas and apply for the green card, as mentioned in the OP, the internet is overloaded with info, but for me I filed my I-130 online with the USCIS website.

 

https://www.uscis.gov/green-card

 

I filed March of this year and just waiting for the approval to start the remaining portions.  We were at the US Embassy just yesterday renewing my son's passport and while talking with the interviewer he asked our travel plans, I said I'm applying for my wife's green card and once she's approved and my son's passport is current we will move back to the US for a while, he asked "did you file online with the USCIS?", I said yes and he said "good".

OP, if you have any questions, feel free to message me and I'll help if I can, there's a lot of info out there and it can be confusing at times.  

 

From what I've read, if someone enters the US on a tourist visa and then try to convert it into a green card it's looked down on, as it's trying to bypass the system and it will take longer to get the card. 

Edited by bbko
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On 5/11/2022 at 3:49 PM, GinBoy2 said:

You don't apply for a green card, 'in case', you decide to relocate to the US.

 

When you go through the process, once approved you enter the US with a sealed packet and will receive a green card a few weeks later in the mail, along with a SSN.

 

But as part of that process you need to demonstrate that you intend to live in  the US, either through already having a residence or plans to have a residence, plus all the evidence of financial support etc.

 

After that if you don't reside within the US for the majority of the year the green card will be revoked.

Yes, if the green card is not used in a timely period after approval or if the holder leaves the US for 6-12 months, the card is revoked and considered "abandoned". 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, bbko said:

Yes, if the green card is not used in a timely period after approval or if the holder leaves the US for 6-12 months, the card is revoked and considered "abandoned". 

If I recall, you have 90 days to enter the US with the sealed packet.

 

The visa that is stamped in the passport is a single entry visa

 

@bbkosince you've been married >2 years I'm assuming your wife will be an IR1.

 

We only got legally married when we decided to move to the US. Pain in the ass since it was a CR-1 then we needed to do an I-751 to remove conditions to the 2 year green card.

 

Just be conscious that USCIS is totally f****cked up after Trump basically tried to stop all immigration, legal or otherwise. The backlog is horrendous.

 

We were lucky, we filed an I-130 when the USCIS office in BKK was still open. Took us exactly 100 days from start to finish.

 

The I-751 however, that was a nightmare. My wife's 2 year green card expired in 2020. 

 

We got several extension letters, finally I contacted my local Senators office and they did their best to pressure these people to actually do their job.

 

The National Benefits Center(MSC) had approved the I-751 in March 2021, yet the simple act of sending the file the local Omaha office took over a year. 

 

Finally after my Senators office help the file was sent to Omaha, they approved it within 2 days with no additional interview, and my wife now has her bright shiny 10 year green card

 

Edited by Rimmer
image removed per OP request
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16 hours ago, GinBoy2 said:

The visa that is stamped in the passport is a single entry visa

Thanks for all your info, very helpful.  As for the "single entry" mention.  I understand if my wife leaves the US for almost a year she can lose the green card, but is she not allowed to come back to Thailand for a short visit? Is there a multi entry visa option? Or will I have to file additional paperwork?

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, bbko said:

Thanks for all your info, very helpful.  As for the "single entry" mention.  I understand if my wife leaves the US for almost a year she can lose the green card, but is she not allowed to come back to Thailand for a short visit? Is there a multi entry visa option? Or will I have to file additional paperwork?

The 'single entry visa' is what is stamped in the passport before they enter with the sealed packet, which allows them to travel to the US.

When you get to the port of entry, they will take the sealed packet and after review their passport is stamped with an I-551 which serves as a temporary green card

 

After they receive their green card, which takes a couple of weeks they are free to travel normally.

 

But, be aware that she will need to reside in the US for the majority of the year, or the green card will be revoked.

 

Regular vacation trips are fine. My wife has, and does do a four week trip every year

Edited by GinBoy2
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On 5/11/2022 at 3:49 PM, GinBoy2 said:

super travel tourist visa, what if, kind of thing,

555, This will stick with me for a while and bring a smile "super travel tourist visa".

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  • 2 weeks later...

W/O trying to hijack this thread, I'd like to get some expanded information along the lines of the OP - Do you need an address in the US prior to starting the application process? We've been married 17 years and live in BKK. My wife has an "R B1/B2" 10 year visa. I completely "cashed out" from the states when I moved here 22 years ago so I don't currently have a US address. (my mother is still alive atm and lives in the states)

Like the OP, I'm now retired and 1 of the requirements to change the visa and apply for a green card is showing income filed with the IRS that is higher than the standard poverty level which is currently $13,590 for 1 and $18,310 for 2. (I'm currently a "non-filer" at the request of the IRS)

My current SS payments are sufficient for our current living situation in BKK but not high enough to reach the FPL (Federal Poverty Level) required for the immigrant visa/green card application process.

I could work part-time to reach this but do NOT want to jeopardize my SS payments (if you earn too much they cut your benefits).

I'm also not sure if the benefit payments I get now are listed as "SSI". If so, I would qualify for FBRs and FPLs to reach the threshold to sponsor my wife but would need to move to the states 1st which then jeopardizes the application for a visa change and green card unless she stays here while I move there. (we're obviously trying to avoid living apart for a year or more)

This all seems like a LOT of hoops just so my wife can qualify to collect my SS after I die.

Any thoughts other than "Give up"? We'd like to do everything correctly.

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On 5/14/2022 at 8:54 AM, GinBoy2 said:

But, be aware that she will need to reside in the US for the majority of the year, or the green card will be revoked.

This is an important note.

 

We got burned. We came to visit Thailand in Dec 2019 and intended to stay for just a few months. Then covid came and we figured it was better to ride it out here. Once international travel normalized in 2021 we started planning a return to the US. My spouse had to request a special exemption for re entry. She was denied -- a global pandemic wasn't a good enough excuse to stay outside of America! So we now have to redo the whole process of getting her a visa again.

 

Just a warning that it will take over a year from start to finish.

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6 hours ago, mrwebb8825 said:

W/O trying to hijack this thread, I'd like to get some expanded information along the lines of the OP - Do you need an address in the US prior to starting the application process? We've been married 17 years and live in BKK. My wife has an "R B1/B2" 10 year visa. I completely "cashed out" from the states when I moved here 22 years ago so I don't currently have a US address. (my mother is still alive atm and lives in the states)

Like the OP, I'm now retired and 1 of the requirements to change the visa and apply for a green card is showing income filed with the IRS that is higher than the standard poverty level which is currently $13,590 for 1 and $18,310 for 2. (I'm currently a "non-filer" at the request of the IRS)

My current SS payments are sufficient for our current living situation in BKK but not high enough to reach the FPL (Federal Poverty Level) required for the immigrant visa/green card application process.

I could work part-time to reach this but do NOT want to jeopardize my SS payments (if you earn too much they cut your benefits).

I'm also not sure if the benefit payments I get now are listed as "SSI". If so, I would qualify for FBRs and FPLs to reach the threshold to sponsor my wife but would need to move to the states 1st which then jeopardizes the application for a visa change and green card unless she stays here while I move there. (we're obviously trying to avoid living apart for a year or more)

This all seems like a LOT of hoops just so my wife can qualify to collect my SS after I die.

Any thoughts other than "Give up"? We'd like to do everything correctly.

So to answer a couple of these points;

 

You have to demonstrate, the 'intent' to live in the US, so you can use your Mothers address as a transition to residency.

 

Now on the topic of financial support, slightly more thorny.

 

At the time we applied I had no US income, but I had a house in the US and we used the asset route to pass the threshold. You say you cashed out, so that route isn't open to you.

 

You can also get a co-sponser to pass this test. Any family, friends who would be willing to do that?

 

I remember being in our attorneys office in BKK, and there was a guy who sounded like you, and he was getting the paperwork sent over from his son to enable him to pass the threshold test

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15 hours ago, GinBoy2 said:

Now on the topic of financial support, slightly more thorny.

 

At the time we applied I had no US income, but I had a house in the US and we used the asset route to pass the threshold. You say you cashed out, so that route isn't open to you.

 

You can also get a co-sponser to pass this test. Any family, friends who would be willing to do that?

 

I remember being in our attorneys office in BKK, and there was a guy who sounded like you, and he was getting the paperwork sent over from his son to enable him to pass the threshold test

My mother is my only living relative currently living in the states so I broached the subject with her as she has a house and a few assets. Just don't want anything to alter her standing as far as taxes and such.

On a more morbid note, what happens if she sponsors my wife and dies before she reaches citizenship? (she's 84 and in waning health) Her house and assets pass to me but would we need to start over?

Also, does my wife HAVE TO get a job when in receipt of a green card? Her English is 'lacking proficiency'.

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, mrwebb8825 said:

My mother is my only living relative currently living in the states so I broached the subject with her as she has a house and a few assets. Just don't want anything to alter her standing as far as taxes and such.

On a more morbid note, what happens if she sponsors my wife and dies before she reaches citizenship? (she's 84 and in waning health) Her house and assets pass to me but would we need to start over?

Also, does my wife HAVE TO get a job when in receipt of a green card? Her English is 'lacking proficiency'.

Providing an affidavit of support won't alter your Mom's tax status, it just means her assets would be on the hook 'if' your wife was to claim government benefits.

I don't believe anything would change if your Mom was to die, and in practical terms, USCIS doesn't actually monitor what happens after the green card is issued

 

As for wife working, there is nothing as part of process that requires your wife to work as a condition of holding a green card.

 

Oh I just thought I'll add this.

 

Government benefits means direct payments, food stamps etc, housing subsidy etc

 

You can however apply for health insurance through the ACA.

 

You're on SS, so may well be eligible for Medicare. 

 

But when we first landed, neither of us had a job, so we signed up through the ACA and the tax credits handily paid the premium until both of us got employer health insurance

Edited by GinBoy2
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Bank account or investment assets of 5x the poverty level can be used instead of income.  I think your poverty numbers were low. Unless military it's 125%>  I Believe it is 22k for 2. https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p

I think for a spouse to get your SS benefits she has to work for 40 quarters. And yes trump did really hate immigrants.  Funny since his family and wife are recent immigrants.  And Dad was a crook.  See what Germany thought of him.  And funny how melania got her parents into the USA.   How silly can trump fans be with these sorts of things in his record. His union busting workers, his connection to mafia cement suppliers, his degrading comments towards military members and Generals.  

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Posted (edited)
On 5/30/2022 at 6:58 AM, Elkski said:

Bank account or investment assets of 5x the poverty level can be used instead of income.  I think your poverty numbers were low. Unless military it's 125%>  I Believe it is 22k for 2. https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p

I think for a spouse to get your SS benefits she has to work for 40 quarters. And yes trump did really hate immigrants.  Funny since his family and wife are recent immigrants.  And Dad was a crook.  See what Germany thought of him.  And funny how melania got her parents into the USA.   How silly can trump fans be with these sorts of things in his record. His union busting workers, his connection to mafia cement suppliers, his degrading comments towards military members and Generals.  

I'd forgotten about the 5x thing when using assets, but you are right. My house and my 401K were worth way more than that so it wasn't an issue.

 

I 'think' if I recall correctly you can use 'any asset which may be readily liquidated'.

 

As for family Trump. Well we all know the only way Melania's parents came to the US was on a first preference green card. There is no other way that a used car salesman (his last documented profession) and a factory worker get into the US legally.

Yet, even though in the Trump ecoverse that was 'chain migration'.....very bad, but seems to have been perfectly OK in that particular case. Curious huh?

Edited by GinBoy2
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