Here in the U.S., both individuals who are in the country on permanent resident status and U.S. citizens generally can apply for permanent resident status for a spouse who lives in another country.
However, this does not mean that it is irrelevant whether a petitioner is a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen for immigration matters regarding their spouse. Rather, this is one of the many things that can have significant impacts on what sorts of concerns and issues can arise for a person in relation to spousal immigration matters. Experienced immigration lawyers can help U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents who desire permanent resident status for a spouse with the unique issues related to their particular spousal immigration case.
There are multiple ways in which spousal immigration matters related to U.S. citizens are different from spousal immigration matters related to permanent residents. We will now go over a couple examples of these differences.
One issue is whether, during the course of a petition for permanent resident status for a person's spouse being considered, the spouse could be granted permission to come over and live with the person in the U.S. during the period the petition is pending. There is a special temporary status, K-3 status, that can be granted to a spouse for this purpose. However, spouses of permanent residents are not eligible for this status. Only spouses of U.S. citizens can qualify for it.
Another difference relates to how much waiting time the spousal immigration process can involve. One thing that could lead to a fair amount of waiting time is a spouse having to go onto a waitlist in relation to getting an immigrant visa number. Spouses of permanent residents generally are subject to having to go onto such a list. Spouses of U.S. citizens, however, are exempt from having to go on such a waitlist.
Source: FindLaw, "Spouse Immigration," Accessed June 2, 2016