Fiancée and Marriage Visas

Getting married abroad or bringing your foreign fiancée to the United States?

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and you are engaged or already married to a  citizen of another country, your spouse or fiancée may be eligible for a green card. What do you need to do?

Getting Married Overseas: Choice of Two Visa Options 

What do you do if you marry outside the U.S.?

Let’s say you visit your fiancée in his or her home country and you get married there. How can you bring your spouse to the U.S.?

Option 1. Your spouse may remain outside the U.S. until an immigrant visa is issued. If your spouse plans to apply for an immigrant visa, then, upon approval of the I-130 (Petition For Alien Relative) form, the case will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will issue a packet with documents. Your spouse will complete the necessary forms, pay the appropriate fees, undergo a medical examination and be fingerprinted for a criminal background check. You will also need to submit an Affidavit of Support.

After completing the above steps, the NVC will forward the case to the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. Your spouse will be called for a visa interview. If granted a visa, your spouse will be admitted to the U.S. as permanent resident. Your spouse will receive a green card in the mail after arrival in the U.S.

Option 2. If you marry outside the U.S. but decide to do most of the processing for a green card inside the U.S., you may go with a K-3 – non-immigrant (temporary visiting) visa, often being called a hybrid of the fiancée and marriage-based visa. The K-3 visa was designed specifically because of delays in the immigrant visa process, to at least get applicants into the U.S. quicker.  After you file Form I-130 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and get your receipt notice, you will file Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé). Once the I-129F is approved, USCIS notifies the NVC. Your spouse completes the necessary paperwork, pays fees and attends an interview for a K-3 visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. The consulate must be in the country where you got married.

As your spouse enters the U.S., your spouse should file an application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485 and other relevant forms and documents). After your spouse is fingerprinted and cleared for a background check, your spouse will be invited for an interview at a USCIS office.

Getting Married in the US: Bringing a Fiancé to the U.S.

Should you and your fiancée decide to have a wedding in the U.S., how can you bring your fiancée to the U.S. from another country and marry them here?  You will need to apply for a K-1 visa. The K-1 nonimmigrant visa permits a foreign citizen to enter the U.S. specifically for the purpose of marriage, with the option of applying to adjust status in the U.S. after the marriage.

You will need to show proof that you truly plan to get married, such as letters to each other discussing your plans and wedding announcements sent to friends, etc.

Exceptions:

For some couples, the requirement that they have already met is difficult or violates their religious principles. If you practice a religion in which marriages are customarily arranged by families and premarital meetings are prohibited, you can ask that the USCIS waive the personal meeting requirement. You’ll have to show that both parties will be following all the customs of marriage and weddings that are part of the religion.

Please note:

If your spouse is denied a visa during consular processing, there is no appeal process. By contrast, you can appeal a USCIS decision on an adjustment of status application in the U.S. with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU). Again, for this reason, the K-1 and K-3 options are often the preferred method of immigrating.

 

Children of your Fiancée or Spouse 

Your stepchildren (your spouse or fiancé’s minor, unmarried children) may be permitted to immigrate with the parent. However, the eligibility rules and procedural requirements that apply to each category differ and warrant thorough consideration.

 

Two-Year Testing Period for Young Marriages

Regardless of which type of visa you choose, getting a green card through marriage may lead to one of two results in the short term. Your spouse will receive either permanent residence or conditional residence (which expires after two years unless renewed), depending on the length of the marriage. If the marriage is less than two years old at the time your spouse enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa or adjusts status, he or she will receive conditional residence.

Two years of conditional resident status is given to immigrants whose marriage to their U.S. spouse was less than two years old at the time they were approved for U.S. residence (by USCIS) or entered the U.S. after receiving an immigrant visa from a U.S. consulate. The purpose of this two-year condition is for the couple to prove that when they entered the marriage, they did so in good faith. At least 90 days before the conditional status expires, both spouses are expected to complete the Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. Once the petition is approved, the condition is removed, and your spouse will receive permanent residence status.

If you fail to file this petition, you will lose your legal status, and you might be placed into removal proceedings.

The information above is intended to educate the general public and is not intended to provide legal advice. To ensure proper handling of your individual situation, please contact The Law Offices of Irina G Ehrlich, LLC at (215) 665-1175 or by email at iehrlich@irinaehrichlaw.com. 

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