Authored by K. Thor Jensen in Legal, Marriage
Published on 07-22-2009
Love – it’s a many-splendored thing, and it transcends all barriers made by man. Well, almost all barriers – if you’ve gone head over heels for a foreign national and you want to bring them over to this side of the pond, there’s still some work you have to do to make it nice and legal. In this article, I will walk you through the steps required in bringing your fiancée over to the United States before you tie the knot.
The first step is to set the wedding date. You will need to build a strict time-line around your fiancee’s visit in order to make the procedure go as smoothly as possible. Once the date is set, you must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office. The petition must attest that both you and your fiancée are legal adults with no prior undissolved marriage and that you intend in all good faith to be married within 90 days of their arrival in America. After the petition is approved, the foreign visitor must collect their visa from the local U.S. Embassy or consulate before they travel. The terms of the visa grant the visitor a stay of 90 days in the country, and that time period may not be extended. If, as a petitioner, you need specific advice on the K-1 petition, there are a number of community organizations founded to assist new immigrants, and they may be able to help you.
Under the terms of the visa, your fiancée is considered a nonimmigrant visitor – they still retain all the rights of a foreign national and acknowledge that they are not on the track to United States citizenship. If the marriage does not occur within the space of those 90 days, or if the nonimmigrant visitor marries someone besides the petitioner from the visa, the visa is considered void and the foreign national must return to their home country under threat of deportation. So let’s try to not have that happen, right? In addition, if the nonimmigrant visitor travels outside of the United States during the 90 day period, there is a chance that they will not be allowed readmission to the country without applying for a new visa. In all cases, caution is the best path of action in these post 9-11 times.
Once the marriage is completed, your work with the government is still not done. If you intend to stay in the United States, your new spouse must apply to be a legal permanent resident of the United States. Please note that this is not the same as applying for citizenship. If you choose not to make this application, your husband or wife only has until the end of the aforementioned 90 day period to vacate the country – hopefully taking you with.
If your new spouse is seeking to become a permanent resident or a United States citizen, they must apply for conditional permanent residency. This is a two-year period contingent on the prospective citizen applying for a work permit and obeying the rules and regulations of their new country. But that’s another article entirely.