Marriage is one of the avenues to obtaining citizenship in the U.S. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to try to fake a marital union in an effort to naturalize in America. Sensitive to this potential for fraud, officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have devised a number of practices – like conducted interviews during the naturalization process – in order to make sure that marriage is legitimate.

To help those who are in a romantic relationship navigate this process – and avoid being suspected of fraud, the following presents some helpful information about securing fiancé visas in the U.S.

do step in to interview the pair at the end to make sure their stories and some basic questions are answered correctly. The moral of the story is there are real consequences, if you do not marry for a legitimate reason.

The following is some guidance in the area of bringing someone to America who you either married or are planning to marry.1

happy Mexican family with kids riding on parent's shoulders
happy Mexican family with kids riding on parent's shoulders

Process for Securing a Fianceé Visa

  1. Gather up your evidence of a two-year prior face-to-face encounter and continued correspondence. (Note: It is very rare, but the USCIS can waive the two-year face-to-face meeting requirement. It would have to be a scenario where you had met at least once more than two years ago, but now the citizen cannot travel abroad because of some kind of health reason or the meeting would be considered taboo by the foreinger’s wedding rituals, religion, or social customs.
  2. Next fill out the I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance(e) status.
  3. Wait for USCIS to approve the petition.
  4. A U.S. Consular officer abroad will interview the Fiance(e).
  5. The U.S. Consulate abroad will gather biometric data, including fingerprints, photo, and name that will be checked though a sophisticated database to ensure the person is cleared to come to the United States.
  6. Once USCIS grants a K-1 Visa, your loved one may travel here for up to 90 days.
  7. During that 90-day window, if the two of you marry, your finance(e) can apply for a Green Card.
  8. The fiancé(e) will then go through a second round of biometric screening.
  9. If all goes well, you’ll both get called in for a final USCIS interview to make sure your marriage stories and background check out.
  10. The USCIS will then either approve or deny her permanent resident status.

Married Overseas and Re-Entry with New Spouse

If you are a U.S. citizen and you marry abroad, there’s steps you must take as well to get your spouse an immigration visa a.k.a. Green Card. Here are those processes you can take after you’ve completed a marriage recognized in that foreign country with a marriage certificate:

  • Fill out a DS-260 Immigration Visa application online
    • You will need your NVC case number and invoice ID number
  • Your spouse can wait in their homeland until they receive a Green Card
  • Or, you can apply for a K-3 non-immigration (temporary) visa that will allow them to be here legally until they get their Green Card. Your spouse will still have to perform final interviews and biometric screening here in the U.S.
  • U.S. citizens must also complete a I-130, Petition for Alien Relative form that allows you to sponsor relatives, while they go through the immigration visa process

Marriages Not Recognized by the USCIS

The following types of marriages are not recognized by USCIS (meaning that they are not considered to be ‘valid’ for the purposes of securing citizenship or a change of immigration status in the U.S.):

  • Polygamous marriages
  • Marriages that violate public policy (for instance, incestuous relationships)
  • Domestic relationships, civil unions, and common law in some jurisdictions (only those jurisdictions that recognize common law as marriage will USCIS approve of)
  • If one of the partners was not in attendance at the wedding
  • Marriages for reasons to evade immigration laws
  • Same sex marriages taking place in a jurisdiction which doesn’t legally recognize that type of union.

Applying for Citizenship

Once you’ve gotten your love interest a Green Card and permanent resident status, and you believe they have assimilated well here, you might have them look into studying to become naturalized citizen. That process is described in detail online on the USCIS’ website.

Contact a Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

For experienced representation securing any change in your immigration status, call a Los Angeles immigration lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C. at (626) 684-3712 or (866) 227-5527. You can also email our firm using the form on this page.