If you plan to marry a foreign national outside the United States or your fiancé(e) is already residing legally in the United States, you do not need to file for a fiancé(e) visa, but instead would file for lawful permanent residency.
Generally, you will need to have met each other, in person, at least once within 2 years prior to filing your fiancé(e) petition. There are two rare exceptions to the rule for the in-person meeting that require a waiver and we recommend that you consult with an attorney to see if the exception applies to your situation.
The fiancé(e) petition requires proof of a bona fide relationship and generally takes about 6 months to process with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your fiancé(e) has children under the age of 21, you can also petition for them. If the child is yours, you would need to consult with an attorney regarding recognizing the child’s status.
Once approved, the petition is then sent to the Consulate in the country indicated with the Department of States, where you as the petitioner will need to show proof that you can support your foreign national fiancé(e). A medical examination before an indicated Civil Surgeon will be conducted and police clearances will be required in order for your fiancé(e) to be granted the visa. The fiancé(e) visa (or K-1 nonimmigrant visa) allows your fiancé(e) to enter the United States for 90 days so that your marriage ceremony can take place.
Once you marry in the U.S., your spouse may apply for permanent residence and remain in the United States while USCIS processes the application. As part of this process, your spouse will need to again see a USCIS Civil Surgeon in the United States and prepare more forms, including further evidence that the petitioner (U.S. Citizen) meets the Affidavit of Support requirements. Some common questions that arise are below:
The spouse cannot obtain a Social Security number until he/she has either the Employment Authorization Document Approval or the Lawful Permanent Residency Card (i.e. green card).
For employment, he/she also cannot work until he/she has either the Employment Authorization Document Approval or the Green Card. It almost always takes the 90 days to process the Employment Authorization document. There is no maximum and sometimes it can take longer.
For travel abroad, he/she cannot do so until he/she has the approved Advance Parole Document or the Green Card. A K-1/K-2 visa is only valid for one entry and leaving before is problematic.
To ensure smooth and fast processing by USCIS, our immigration attorneys can work with you to ensure that all the forms, documents, and evidence are correctly prepared and filed with USCIS and give you the peace of mind that you are correctly following all procedures. Evidence gathering and presentation often will have a significant impact on the processing time. On average it takes about 90 days for the approvals of the work/travel permits and/or the scheduling of the interview if there is one.
Once approved, the Green Card is granted for a conditional period of two years. An application to remove the conditions on the residency will then be required within 90 days of the expiration date. Please contact one of our attorneys if you have any questions regarding the Removal of Conditions petition.
Disclaimer: Published on April 11, 2014 with latest available information. This is a blog article for general education and is not intended as legal advice. Please contact our attorneys for legal advice.