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There Are Two Paths to Marriage for Immigrants

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on December 19, 2017

When a U.S. citizen or permanent resident decides to marry a non-citizen immigrant or foreign national, a fiancé visa or marriage-based green card helps ensure that the couple can build a life together as a married couple in the United States. Engaged couples may consider processing timelines, costs, and qualification requirements to help them determine which path to take.

Fiancé Visas

The K-1 fiancé visa is an option for fiancés of United States citizens who are currently living abroad and wish to get married within 90 days of entering the U.S.

This visa requires both partners to be single at the time and eligible for marriage under United States law. Same-sex couples are treated the same as any other couple for immigration law purposes. If either party has been married previously, he or she will need to provide proof of divorce or death certificates for the previous spouse.

Couples will also need to provide proof of their relationship through photos, online and phone correspondence, and written statements from friends and family. Other requirements include concrete wedding plans with proof including invitations and reservations, having met in person at least once within the past two years, and meeting the federal poverty guidelines for income.

With a fiancé visa, it will take about 7 months for the immigrant to join his or her partner in the U.S. and 13 months to obtain a green card. The total cost to take this path is typically about twice the cost of obtaining the marriage-based green card.

Marriage-Based Green Cards

Marriage-based green cards are available to spouses of United States citizens and green card holders with permanent residence.

To qualify, both parties require a legally valid marriage, proven through a marriage certificate that shows the place and date of the marriage. Couples also must be able to prove that any previous marriages have been terminated. Evidence like joint leases, bank accounts, and pictures help prove that the marriage is not fraudulent. The spouse with U.S. citizenship must also earn at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.

For marriage-based green cards, the process takes anywhere from 9-15 months to obtain a green card that enables the foreign-born spouse to enter the U.S.