It’s estimated that about 14 million couples in the U.S. are in a long-distance relationship. And some of them want to take it to the ultimate level and get married, but one of the couple is a foreign citizen, and marriage doesn’t automatically infer citizenship or even the right to stay with your spouse in this country.
If you found love overseas and want to return home with them and tie the knot, then you’ll need to apply for a marriage green card. Here’s a brief guide to everything you need to know.
Apply For a K-1 Fiance Visa First
If you’re already thinking about the marriage green card, then hold your horses. Before you get married, you need to first apply for the K-1 fiance visa. This is a specific visa that allows your loved one to initially come to the U.S., beyond their just getting a visitor’s visa.
This visa lets your significant other stay for up to 90 days. Within these 90 days, you have to get married. Otherwise, they’ll have to return to their home country. That’s 89 days to get cold feet — more than enough time to chicken out!
Once you receive approval for the visa, your fiance has to visit the United States within six months. Otherwise, the visa expires.
If you want more information about the K-1 fiance visa, here’s a great resource: https://abogadoray.com/practice-areas/immigration/fiance-visa/.
After the K-1 Visa
Once you’ve gotten married, then your new spouse should apply for permanent residency. This is how they get a green card through marriage, which will cost you just under $2,000.
However, before this can happen, you have to apply for Adjustment of Status on their behalf. You’ll have to fill out both Form I-130 and Form I-485, or Form DS-260. Once you’ve filed, it’ll take a little bit of time for your spouse to receive their green card. If you’re living in the U.S., it can take 29 to 38 months to receive. If you’re living abroad, then it can take 23 to 32 months.
The marriage green card timeline can be quite long, over two years and even possible over three. Note that during this period, your significant other won’t be able to work, as they won’t have the legal right to. So make sure that before you bring them over, you have either enough money and/or work to support your household.
For Those Who Are Already Married (Mazel Tov!)
Perhaps you were impatient and didn’t want to apply for the K-1 fiance visa. If you already got married to them in another country, you can file for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa after filing form I-130. This allows your spouse to join you in the U.S. while you wait for their green card approval.