A common question immigration attorneys are asked is how a U.S. citizen can acquire or sponsor their spouse or fiancé for a green card. A green card grants an individual from a foreign country the right to obtain permanent residence through family, employment, refugee, or asylum status. Some U.S. citizens wrongly assume they will be able to bring their fiancé or spouse over on a temporary visa such as a visitor visa and their partner will be given an immediate green card. This could result in your partner being sent back home again with future immigration bars, and instead you will need to go through a multi-step application process to secure permanent residency status for your spouse or soon-to-be spouse. Your fiancé or spouse will not be able to enter the U.S. until both their visa petition and subsequent applications are approved. An immigrant cannot misuse their tourist visa or other temporary visa with the primary purpose of getting married or applying for a green card, as this could result in a charge of visa fraud (misrepresentation for an immigration benefit inadmissibility ground) or denial of a green card.
Eligibility for Various Visas
The requirements for fiancé visas are different from those for marriage visas.
To be eligible for a fiancé visa, also called the K-1 visa, the immigrant (who still lives in another country) must intend to marry a U.S. citizen, they must have met the citizen within the last 2 years, and be legally able to marry. As part of the process, the couple must prove their intention to marry through a simple signed statement. To prove your marriage is the real deal, you can provide documents such as phone bills showing continual communication, or wedding ceremony contracts. The more objective and accurate documentation demonstrating the bona fide relationship, the stronger the likelihood of meeting this ground of eligibility of proving a legitimate relationship. You’ll also have to prove you’ve met within the last two years, and you can do so by submitting copies of plane tickets, hotel bills, photographs, and so on. Once the fiancé visa is approved, the couple will have 90 days to get married, or they forfeit the visa. Note there are also several other requirements, including an affidavit of support (or commonly referred to as financial sponsorship) among several other requirements.
The fiancé visa process includes two major steps:
- Fill out form I-129f, which serves to show there is a real relationship between you and your immigrant fiancé
- Consular processing will go over your paperwork, and the consulate or embassy will provide notification and processing information including through National Visa Center (NVC)
The estimated processing time for a fiancé visa is usually currently about a year and a half, but each case is different and these are average processing times based on both steps and vary by country as well.
If you are already married to an immigrant spouse, your spouse may be eligible for a green card based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The marriage must be legitimate, meaning it is not just a sham to get a green card. You will have to prove your marriage is bona fide by submitting documentation such as joint bank statements, children’s birth certificates, wedding day photos, electronic communications, and so on.
The estimated processing time for a marriage based green card is usually currently about a year and a half as well, but each case is different and these are average processing times based on both steps and vary by country as well. Moreover, although similar to the K fiancé visa process as mentioned above, the first step is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative instead of the I129f for a fiancé visa. Note there are several other requirements including medical exams, background checks, etc that may apply.
What Paperwork Will I Need in Order to Get My Fiancé or Spouse a Green Card?
You will need to submit paperwork to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by specific deadlines in order to be considered for a fiancé or marriage-based visa. If your spouse is already with you in the U.S. on a different visa, you are highly advised to have a consultation with an immigration attorney as they’re eligibility for a green card based on marriage to a US citizen depends on many factors including how and when your spouse entered the US, whether they have any criminal history, prior relationships, length of your current relationship among many other questions. If they do qualifty to be petitioned by you for a green card, you may need to fill out Form I-130, or the “Petition for Alien Relative,” along with Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Resident or to Adjust Status.” There are also several other forms and requirements which may apply including but not limited to affidavits of support, request for employment authorization, etc. It is very important to have the assistance of a knowledgeable immigration attorney to try to ensure the documentation is submitted properly.
You can expect the entire filing process to take as long as approximately 22 months to complete, but processing times vary.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for a Fiancé or Marriage-Based Visa?
It benefits you to have a legal consultation with an immigration attorney to ensure you have the best odds of approval for your fiancé or marriage-based visa. With The Modi Law Firm, PLLC you can get the confidence you need to move forward with this exciting next step of your life: marriage.
To set up a consultation with our Houston immigration attorneys, please call (832) 514-4030 today and schedule a meeting.