If you are engaged and either you or your partner is a U.S. citizen, you have two main choices for immigration. The non-citizen partner could apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, or the citizen could sponsor the other partner for a marriage-based green card.
The right option for you will depend on a variety of factors, including where you intend to get married. An immigration attorney could help choose the best available path based on your unique circumstances, but here is a basic overview of the differences between a fiancé visa and a marriage-based green card.
How a Fiancé Visa Works
A K-1 fiancé visa is a temporary visa that enables the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. to be married in this country. This visa only lasts for 90 days, so it is considered a nonimmigrant visa. The purpose of the visa is to allow a fiancé to travel to the U.S. for the wedding, with the expectation that once the couple is married, the citizen spouse will sponsor the foreign spouse for a green card.
Generally, to obtain a fiancé visa, the couple must have seen each other in person within the previous two years. However, it is possible to apply for an exception if you can show good reason, such as extreme hardship or a cultural reason for remaining apart. You must, however, be able to present evidence to show that your relationship is genuine. A contract for a wedding venue would be excellent evidence, but couples may be permitted to provide a simple statement professing an intent to marry within 90 days.
Both members of the couple must be free to legally marry, and their proposed marriage must be legal under the laws of the state where they will be married. This allows same-sex couples to apply for a fiancé visa even if same-sex marriages are not allowed in the fiancé’s home country.
Obtaining a Marriage Green Card
If a couple is already married or if the foreign fiancé is already in the U.S., then a marriage-based green card is the only option. Spouses of green card holders are also eligible to apply for a green card, although they may have a longer wait than spouses of citizens and have to apply while in a lawful immigration status.
For a marriage-based green card, a couple will need to show proof of a valid marriage and proof that they have a legitimate relationship rather than a marriage of convenience. Joint account statements, a joint lease, or even photos can serve as evidence. The couple will also need to prove that any previous marriages have been terminated.
An Immigration Attorney Could Help with Fiancé Visas and Marriage Green Cards
Whether you choose to seek a K-1 fiancé visa or apply for permanent residence after the marriage has already taken place, it is important to follow procedures correctly and submit all necessary supporting documentation to prove you meet the requirements. Failure to do so could result in lengthy delays or denial of your application.
Many couples find it helpful to work with an experienced immigration lawyer who can help avoid potential mistakes and work to resolve any difficulties that arise during the process. For more information about how the dedicated legal team at Robert M. Bell, P.A. could help get your married life started on sound footing with respect to immigration issues, contact us today for a free consultation.