U.S. citizen marrying a foreign national

By WORLDLawDirect  [January 26th, 2011]

The Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, provides U.S. citizens with two options for facilitating the immigration of future spouses to the United States:

  • the K-1 fiance visa and
  • the alien-spouse immigrant visa.

In many cases, the processing time for a fiance visa is shorter than that for an alien spouse. Fiance visa processing can take several months from the filing of the petition to the final adjudication of the visa. Total processing time for the alien-spouse visa can take 6-12 months depending on individual circumstances. If your alien fiance is already in the United States and plans to adjust status in the U.S., contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Marriage In the United States: Fiance Visa

U.S. citizens may file an I-129F petition with USCIS for the issuance of a K-1 fiance visa to an alien fiance. A citizen exercising this option must remain unmarried until the arrival of the fiance in the U.S., and the wedding must take place within three months of the fiance's arrival if he/she is to remain in status. Also, the alien and U.S. citizen must have met personally at least once in the two years before the petition was filed. Please note that legal permanent residents may not file petitions for fiance visas. They must marry abroad and then file an I-130 petition for the immigration of a new spouse.

Marriage Abroad: Alien-Spouse Visa

If a U.S. citizen marries an alien abroad, an I-130 petition must be filed after the marriage to begin the immigration process for the alien spouse. This can be filed either with the USCIS in the United States, or, under certain circumstances, at U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad. U.S. Embassies and Consulates have differing policies on approving I-130s and should be individually contacted about the availability of this service. Many posts have their own web pages which include this information and which can be accessed through the U.S. Embassy and Consulate links page. Prior to departure from this country, the U.S. citizen should contact the USCIS or appropriate foreign service post to ascertain exactly what documents will be necessary to file the immigrant petition for a new spouse.

For more information see:

Fiance and K-3 Spouse Visas

Spouse and Fiance(e) of an American Citizen