Many United States citizens meet the person they want to marry while they are working or studying overseas. Upon returning to the United States, these individuals want to know how – or if – they can arrange for their fiancés to move to the United States and obtain permanent residency or citizenship status. The Citizenship and Immigration Services have a detailed process for allowing individuals who are citizens of another country to move here, eventually marry, and obtain permanent resident status.
The first step: A fiancé visa
Perhaps the easiest way to begin the process of arranging the move of a fiancé to the U.S. is to obtain what is called a “fiancé visa.” The U.S. resident must obtain Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance. The form must be filed according to instructions printed on the back of the form. The immigration service will review the form and decide whether it should be approved. If the form is approved, it will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest to the finance’s residence.
Basic eligibility requirements
The foreign citizen and the U.S. citizen who filed the petition must meet the following requirements:
- The person filing the petition is a United States citizen.
- The U.S. citizen and the fiancé plan to marry within 90 days of the fiance’s entry into the U.S.
- Both individuals are free to marry.
- The couple has met each other in person with 2 years before the petition was filed.
The next steps
As soon as the couple marries, the foreign spouse must apply for permanent residence on Form I-485. The fiance may immediately apply for a work permit and accept any offered employment. The permit, however, is limited to 90 days. If the couple does not marry within 90 days, the fiancé visa expires and cannot be renewed.
Other methods of obtaining permission to marry
In many situations, the foreign fiancé will be in the United States under some other type of visa. The couple may file a Form I-485 and pursue an I-130 petition for a relative visa.
As can be seen from this summary, the process of bringing the resident of another country to the United States in order to marry has a few pitfalls. For this reason, consulting an experienced immigration lawyer is often a wise choice. A knowledgeable attorney can ensure that the couple files the necessary forms and complies with all applicable regulations.