US Immigration Law
MARRIAGE VISA

In general, when a foreign national marries a United States citizen, that person can obtain permanent residence (otherwise known as green card) status through this process. If the foreign national is in the United States, the process is known as adjustment of status and if they are outside of the United States, they go through a process known as Consular Processing at the United States Consulate in their home country. If done in the United States, the foreign spouse (in most cases) must be able to prove that they entered the US legally.

An immigration or consular officer will interview the couple to make certain that their relationship is legitimate (that they married for love and not to secure a green card for the foreign spouse). The officer will speak to the couple and review documentary evidence. Generally, they are looking for items containing both the husband's and wife's names. Some examples of documents or items that illustrate a good faith marriage may include: auto insurance, health insurance, leases or mortgage/deed documents, joint bank statements, joint investments or credit card accounts, life insurance (where one party is the beneficiary of the other's policy), wills, income tax returns, joint credit card statements, joint utility bills, birth certificates of children born of the marriage, wedding and other photographs, etc.

Couples that are married for less than two years when they are approved for permanent resident status are granted conditional permanent residency. This requires that between 21 and 24 months from the date of approval, they make an application together to remove the conditions on their permanent residency. Evidence submitted in that process is similar to what is gathered for the initial interview, but will show an additional two years of history together.

A permanent resident may also petition for their spouse, but their spouse is not considered an immediate relative (as is the spouse of a US citizen). In those cases, it may take several years before the non-resident spouse is able to obtain their residency. In these cases, it may not be possible to wait those years in the United States, unless the non-resident spouse has some other visa status that would allow them to remain here.

FIANCÉE VISA

A United States citizen who is engaged to be married to a person who lives outside the United States and who otherwise cannot obtain a visa to come to the United States may apply for a fiancée’s visa. This is an alternative to getting married abroad and having your spouse process for his or her permanent residence at the United States Consulate in their home country.

Instead, with the fiancée’s visa, you may choose to first have your fiancée experience life with you in the United States before you marry. In this case, you would opt for the K-1 fiancée visa. This process requires that you have seen your future spouse in person within the past two years and show proof of a relationship, such as phone records, e-mails, etc. The United States citizen files a petition (known as form I-129(F) in the United with the required information and evidence.

When the case is approved, the United States Consulate in the foreign fiancée's home country is notified. Additional paperwork, a medical exam and an interview are completed at the Consulate. Once the foreign fiancée is issued his or her K-1 visa, he or she has four months in which to enter the United States. Once the foreign fiancée enters the US, the couple has 90 days in which to marry, otherwise the foreign fiancée must return to his or her home country. Once married, the couple applies for adjustment of status (the green card) for the foreign spouse. The green card process through marriage is discussed in more detail above.