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Immigration Law Blog

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Options for Soon-To-Be Married Immigrants

Immigrating to the U.S. is often a long and drawn out process. Visa lotteries, company sponsorship, marriage visas – the possible avenues to secure a U.S. visa are varied. However, an often-forgotten issue facing many couples is how to handle visa issues following the marriage. Contrary to popular belief, simply being married to a U.S. citizen does not guarantee or grant you the ability to remain in the U.S.  

Under U.S. law, there are two methods for which to marry and enter the U.S. as an immigrant. First, you may choose to be married outside of the U.S. and then apply for a visa to enter the U.S. Alternatively, you may choose to file for permission to enter the U.S. for the purposes of marriage.

If you and your spouse choose to be married outside the U.S., then there are two visa options available to you: waiting for your immigrant visa to be granted following proper filing, or filing for a K-3 nonimmigrant visa to temporarily enter the U.S. If you decide to wait for the immigrant visa to be issued, the foreign spouse will be required to wait overseas for the issuance of the visa. Alternatively, the K-3 nonimmigrant visa allows temporary residence in the U.S. while awaiting the issuance of the immigrant visa.

However, if you and your spouse decide that you would like to be married in the U.S., then you will be required to pursue the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. The K-1 nonimmigrant visa allows foreign citizens to enter the U.S. to be married and then remain in the U.S. following the marriage. Not everyone qualifies for the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. To qualify, the following requirements must be met:

  1. The foreign fiancé(e) and U.S. citizen must have met in person within the prior two years
  2. The marriage must occur within 90 days of the K-1 visa issuing

Certain exceptions exist regarding the two-year meeting rule. If you do not meet the above requirements, consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine whether you may still be eligible under one of the exceptions. 

Regardless of which of the three visa options that you choose, you should be prepared to gather proof of relationship among other information to satisfy visa requirements. If you choose to be married outside the U.S., then you will begin the process by filing a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). Alternatively, if you choose to pursue entrance under the K-3 nonimmigrant visa, then you will be required to file a Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)). Filing the appropriate form will begin the process, although there are many steps and additional filings required prior to any nonimmigrant or immigrant visa being issued. If you are considering immigrating to the U.S., or your fiancé(e) or spouse is, then consult with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that your application is filed appropriately and handled expeditiously.  


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