Can I Marry a Non-U.S. Citizen?

If you’re a U.S. citizen or a green-card holder who found love overseas, you might be wondering if the two of you can get married and live in the United States. Of course, the answer is yes if you complete the required process and ensure your foreign partner gets a green card to come and live with you.

The required steps that can eventually make your immigrant partner a permanent resident may differ depending on the circumstances applied to your case.

Don’t worry; we know that all of this may sound complex for someone who already has too much on their mind and would rather plan their wedding, so we encourage you to contact us.

The immigration attorney at Herman Legal Group will answer all questions related to your application. The attorney will not only support you and your spouse throughout the green card application process but be your right hand on the track.

So, let’s see how U.S. citizens can marry a foreign spouse.

Here, we will go through specifics such as the current place of living, so before continuing to read this article, you may want to check your eligibility and learn more about a marriage-based green card.

What is the process for getting married to a non-US citizen?

As we mentioned in the introduction, marrying a non-U.S. citizen can depend on different circumstances. One of those is the current place of living of you and your (future) spouse.

So based on this, there are three possible situations:

  1. You and your (future) spouse are in the United States
  2. You are in the United States, but your (future) spouse is still in his or her home country
  3. You are both abroad, your partner’s home country, or any other

#You and your fiancé(e) are in the United States

If both of you are currently in the United States, this means that your foreign spouse probably has a temporary U.S. work or visitor visa. If this is the case, you will have to shift from a temporary visa to an immigrant visa green card. It starts when you get married and register your marriage with the state or county officials where the wedding took place.

As this seems like a good option, you need to be aware of one thing- the “90-day rule”. USCIS officers will use guidelines to determine whether you may be inadmissible for fraud or willful misrepresentation.

This is why temporary visa holders who get married or apply for the green card within 90 days of the entrance find their green card applications denied. Moreover, their current visas can be revoked, making it hard to obtain a U.S. visa again.

To apply for the green card, you and your foreign partner need to file certain forms, and this is called “concurrent filing.”

#Concurrent Filing Forms

As a U.S. citizen or green-card holder, you will be the “sponsor” of your partner. This means that there is a certain document that you need to apply by yourself along with your spouse’s application. You will submit two forms together:

  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
  2. Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles all applications filed from within the United States. This application process will require you to attend a biometrics appointment and a green card interview.

#Maintain Valid Immigration Status

When your spouse applies for US citizenship, he or she cannot leave the U.S. for more than six months.

Spouses of a U.S. citizen who legally entered the United States but fell out of status can have it pardoned during the adjustment of status process.

In addition, spouses of green-card holders (permanent residents) who wait for the application approval must maintain a valid immigration status in the United States.

To maintain a valid immigration status means that foreign spouses have a valid immigrant visa that will allow them to stay in the country and wait until a visa number becomes available to them before submitting a green card application from within the United States.

Usually, this means that the visa needs to be valid for up to more than two years after filing the marriage-based green card application since the time to process can take up to 2.5 years.

Note that visa numbers are immediately available to U.S. citizens’ spouses but not to spouses of green-card holders.

#You are in the United States but your fiancé(e) isn’t

There are two options for a foreigner who doesn’t live in the United States, but you as the “sponsor” lives:

#Get married outside the U.S. and then apply for a green card

In this case, you will file your applications with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the fiance’s home country through “consular processing.” Here, you will have to:

#Get a fiancé visa

Your partner can enter the U.S. on a K 1 visa, allowing you to marry in the United States within six months. After getting the fiancé visa, a foreign spouse will adjust your status to a green-card holder. Again, your spouse will obtain a fiancé visa in advance from a U.S. embassy or consulate.

There are some other requirements that you need to be aware of. The U.S. government will look through the evidence you provide to determine whether the two of you have met in person within the previous two years.

In addition, you must marry within 90 days of entering the United States, or your spouse will need to leave the country.

After getting married, you can file Form I-485. As mentioned, this will require you to attend the biometrics appointment and an interview.

The non-U.S. spouses can file for a work permit and a travel permit they intend to find a job or travel outside of the United States while waiting for the green card.

#Both you and your (future) spouse are outside the United States

If you want to bring your spouse to the U.S. and get married here, and then live in the U.S. together, your best option is to get the K 1 visa. This fiance visa will allow your future spouse to adjust status afterward.

On the other side, if you want to get married in the United States but prefer to return to your immigrant spouse’s home country to apply for a green card (due to employment or family considerations), you can marry on a temporary visa, as well. Still, under the “90-day rule,” you will not be able to adjust status in the United States.

#Other Occasions

Now, maybe you are wondering are if you can have a wedding abroad. The answer to this question is yes; you can have a wedding ceremony and initially live abroad, and as long as your marriage was registered with local authorities, it will be recognized in the U.S. All you need as proof is your marriage certificate that recognized authorities have issued.

Still, there are some exceptions when USCIS will not recognize your marriage even if it is valid as such in the place you had the wedding ceremonies. This applies to polygamous relationships, underage marriages, domestic partnerships, proxy marriages where one person was not present during the ceremony, etc. Of course, the ones used often- relationships entered into for purely immigration purposes will not be accepted no matter where the wedding took place.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes intentions to immigrate to the United States on the grounds of marriage fraud very seriously. If USCIS officers suspect you are not legally married, they may ask you to prove that your marriage is bona fides and formed from a genuine relationship.

This can be one of your tasks during the interview, or it could be enough to attach some evidence with your application (photos from your wedding, travel itineraries, joint bank accounts, etc). In addition, marrying a foreigner for money is illegal as well.

Immigration fraud can lead to a prison sentence, of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or even both, according to the U.S. Code § 1325: Improper Entry by Alien.

Can I Marry My Gay or Lesbian Partner (of the Same-Sex)?

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a part of a federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) stating that same-sex marriages are legally recognized. Now, the U.S. government treats this type of marriage as any other marriage for federal immigration law purposes.

However, there is one requirement to meet. The country where same-sex marriage took place also needs to recognize gay or lesbian marriages legally. In addition, you will need to attach a government-issued certificate of your marriage as part of the immigrant’s application for U.S. lawful permanent residence or a green card.

How much will this process cost?

The cost of the process will depend on whether you’re filing while you’re both in the United States or while your spouse is abroad. So, depending on what situation applies to you, the fees to pay will range from $1,200 to $1,760. Plus, you will have to pay around $200 for the required medical exam and any other legal fees.

Three years after getting a green card, the immigrant spouse can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Should I See a Lawyer if I want to Marry a Foreigner?

After you got a green card overview process, it may not look very clear with the provided information. Maybe you can conclude that you can start this process independently, but going there without the attorney you might risk it will take lots of time or even end up as a failure.

Since U.S. immigration laws are notoriously complicated, the application procedures require you to do lots of paperwork, so looking through a lawyer referral service to find an immigration attorney may be considered. If you decide that you might need legal advice, finding the right immigration lawyer is the first and crucial step you should take.

What an Immigration Lawyer Can do For Me?

With over 25 years of experience in immigration law matters, an immigration attorney at Herman Legal Group law firm can help you:

  • Determine the eligibility of your partner for a fiance visa or marriage-based green card
  • Look through your case specifically and pick the best strategy
  • Prepare the USCIS forms and documents and advise you and help you gather required documents
  • Help you collect firm proofs of the legitimacy of your relationship and marriage, and
  • Help you prepare and accompany you to to the immigration interview.

As speaking 12 different languages, we will answer all of your questions at any phase. Then, when you are ready to dive into the process and bring your spouse to the United States, you can call us at +1-216-696-617 for phone consultations or use our online form to request Skype or ZOOM consultation if you are outside the U.S.

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