You plan to get married and join your spouse in the United States. Should you marry in your home country and apply for a marriage-based visa or should you come to the United States on a fiancé visa and marry here? Which process you choose depends upon your timeline and choice of wedding venue.
If you are engaged to a U.S. citizen and plan to hold your wedding in the United States, you should consider the fiancé K-1 visa. Note that this option is not available for personal residents or foreign nationals in the United States as nonimmigrants.
Once you enter the United States, you only have 90 days to get married and file your permanent residency application. You are permitted to remain in the country while the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes your application.
You cannot extend or renew the visa. If you do not get married in time, you must leave and start the process over again, including refiling all evidence, paying all fees and waiting for your new fiancé visa application to be processed.
Learn how to apply for the fiancé(e) visa in 6 easy steps here.
If you are already married or plan to marry in your country, you should consider applying for a conditional resident (CR) immigrant visa or an immediate relative (IR) immigrant visa, which allows you to enter the United States on a green card. You should apply for conditional residence if you have been married for less than two years when you file your application. Before the expiration of the two-year period, you must file to have the conditions removed. You can apply as an immediate relative of a U.S spouse if you have been married for more than two years.
Couples used to apply for a marriage-based non-immigrant visa (K-3) after a U.S. citizen spouse filed a form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. In the past, this process was generally quicker than the process to obtain an IR or CR. However, the processing times have grown, making this a less desirable option.
This process takes longer than applying for your fiancé visa. However, if you are already married, your only choices are a K-3 nonimmigrant visa or an IR or CR immigration visa. As with the fiancé visa, only a U.S. citizen can be a sponsor for an immediate relative or conditional relative spouse.
Immigration laws and processing times are in constant flux. An experienced immigration attorney can help you choose the correct visa and file successfully. Contact an attorney today and congratulations on your engagement or marriage!
Related articles: 6 Steps to Applying for a Fiance(e) Visa
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.