Our immigration law practice provides legal services to individuals who are petitioning for their spouses or fiancés from abroad to enter the U.S. and reside permanently. There are 2 options for a couple, depending on their current civil status and their personal goals.
If you want to marry your partner but are not legally married in any country, then you may want to bring your partner to the U.S. via a fiancé visa. This visa process is started via a petition filed in the United States, and ends with the foreign national appearing at the U.S. consulate in their home country or country of last residence for a visa interview. You must demonstrate that you have seen your fiancé in person within the past 2 years, are legally able to marry and intend to marry, and that you are in a genuine fiancé relationship. The fiancé visa process tends to be a little shorter than the immigrant visa process, and therefore may be preferable. In addition, sometimes it is not legally or logistically possible for a petitioner to travel abroad and marry, making the fiancé visa the preferable option.
Please note that if you are already legally married either in the U.S. or abroad, you cannot file for a fiancé visa. On the other hand, if you are in a legally recognized domestic partnership, and not married, then you can still apply for the fiancé visa.
The US citizen petitioner must disclose if they have filed a fiancé petition in the past, as the petitioner is limited to filing 2 fiancé petitions and cannot file a second petition within 2 years of the first. (Some exceptions apply.) The petitioner must also disclose if they have been convicted of domestic violence, certain sex crimes, or 3 or more crimes related to alcohol or controlled substances. This information will be disclosed to the immigrating fiancé.
The fiancé visa permits the foreign national fiancé to enter the United States for the sole purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen petitioner. The couple must marry within 90 days of entering, must file an adjustment of status application in the United States, and must sometimes appear at a USCIS office for an interview with an immigration officer.
The fiancé visa may be the best option for a couple when it is not legally possible or logistically feasible to marry abroad and file for an immigrant visa. Potential downsides to the fiancé visa are:
- The fiancé will not enter the U.S. with authorization to work, but rather must apply for work authorization, which can take 90 days.
- After entering the U.S., the fiancé cannot travel outside of the U.S. until granted permission by USCIS to travel, or wait until the green card application process is complete.
- The fiancé visa sometimes (depending on jurisdiction) requires two interviews for the foreign national spouse: at the consulate, and subsequently at the USCIS in the United States.
- Much of the process for applying for the green card once in the United States is redundant and a repeat of the process the foreign national spouse has to undergo at the consulate abroad to get the fiancé visa.
The fiancé visa can be a great option to bring your partner to the U.S. for purposes of marriage if reuniting with your fiancé as quickly as possible is the goal, or where legally marrying abroad is not feasible.
If you are already legally married in a jurisdiction either in the U.S. or abroad, you cannot apply for a fiancé visa. Instead you will file an I-130 visa petition and your spouse will obtain an immigrant visa to enter the U.S.
The immigrant visa is initiated in the U.S. by the U.S. citizen with the filing of an I-130 visa petition. You must demonstrate that you are legally able to marry (i.e. all prior marriages have been dissolved), and you are in a valid marriage that was not entered into for purposes of evading immigration law.
After the I-130 is approved, the processing is transferred to the National Visa Center for a second round of paperwork before the visa applicant (the foreign national) is ultimately scheduled for an interview at a consulate abroad. If the applicant is approved for an immigrant visa, the applicant has 180 days to travel to the United States. Upon entering the United States, the foreign national is granted lawful permanent residence and a green card is sent in the mail shortly thereafter. The foreign national can begin working immediately and can also travel outside of the U.S.
Our office has filed hundreds of fiancé and immigrant visa petitions, and can help you determine which process fits better with your personal immigration goals. Feel free to email us the details of your case, or call us at 415-627-9161.