USA and the UK
- Overview of the Marriage Visa
- Eligibility for a Marriage Visa
- Marriage Visa vs Fiance Visa: Which One to Choose
- Fiance Visa Process
- Marriage Visa Requirements
- Marriage Visa Application Process
- Marriage-Based Green Card Application Process
- Form I-130 Petition
- NVC Processing
- Visa Interview
- Entering the United States
- Getting Your Green Card
- Marriage Visa Cost and Timeline
- Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Marriage Visa vs Fiance Visa
- Types of Non-Immigrant Marriage Visas
- DOS Definition of a Spouse
- How Can IAS Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of the Marriage Visa
The marriage visa allows you to bring your spouse to the U.S. to work and live anywhere. The Immigration and Nationality Act, empowers a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have their foreign spouse relocate permanently to the U.S.
The National Visa Centre (NVC) receives the petition once the USCIS grants its approval. Your overseas spouse must submit an online immigrant visa application to the NVC, together with the necessary paperwork and an affidavit of support. Your foreign spouse undergoes a background investigation by the NVC.
The K category is where the nonimmigrant visas that have to do with marriage are found. These categories include, the K-1 fiance visa, K-2 visa, K-3 visa and K-4 visa. It should be noted that foreign nationals are allowed to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) while they are under the K status.
Eligibility for a Marriage Visa
There are certain eligibility criteria you need to meet in order to get a marriage visa. They include:
- Show the validity of your marriage with supporting evidence and have a qualifying relationship with your spouse.
- Be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or a U.S. citizen.
- Prove that you can support the applicant or that you are 125% or more above the poverty line.
Marriage Visa and Fiance visa are the two main types of visas that can help spouses obtain citizenship in the U.S.
A marriage visa is also termed a green card for eligible spouses of lawful permanent residents or a U.S. citizen. You will get married outside of the U.S. and apply for family sponsorship immigration (because your spouse is now a member of your immediate family), if you take this route. The IR1 or CR1 process is used to describe this.
Another option is the K-3 spouse visa, which enables your spouse to legally enter and remain in the U.S. while USCIS processes their application for permanent residency. This is the fastest way to be reunited with your spouse in the event that the LPR or U.S. citizen spouse needs to return to the U.S.
The K-3 visa is temporary because it is considered as a non immigrant visa. This visa is comparable to the fiance visa, however there are key distinctions between the two, such as previous marriages.
The possibility for an LPR to bring a spouse to the US is one of the opportunities that the marriage visa might provide for newlyweds. Only the U.S. citizens and their foreign spouse are eligible for a fiancé visa.
LPRs are not permitted to bring their fiancé from abroad to the country. LPRs may apply for their foreign fiancé to join them in the U.S. using a marriage visa in order to apply to become lawful permanent residents.
Reasons to Consider Marriage Visa
- You and your spouse want to get married abroad.
- The permanent resident or U.S. citizen doesn’t need to come back to the United States immediately. This can contribute to your situation but doesn’t have to be your situation.
- You want your spouse to apply to become a lawful permanent residence just as you already are.
Fiance Visa (K-1 Visa)
A finance visa can be seen as a temporary non immigrant visa. To obtain a K-1 visa, you would first need to apply for a non immigrant visa, be married in the United States, and then submit an application for an Adjustment of Status with the USCIS. When this is done, the foreign national has the possibility to become a lawful permanent resident.
Fiance visas are temporary non-immigrant visas. The K-1 visa process would be to apply for an Adjustment of Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after applying for a non immigrant visa and marrying in the United States. Then the foreign national may later become an LPR.
Reasons to Consider this visa (K-1)
- You would want to get married as soon as you can.
- You intend to wed in the United States.
- Your fiance’s country does not authorize your union, therefore you must get married in the United States.
- Compared to a marriage visa, you want the residence application procedure to be quicker.
- Your partner is not an LPR but a citizen of the United States.
Fiance Visa Process
This visa process is usually faster than that of a marriage visa. To start-off this visa process the following occurs:
- Form I-129F will be used by the U.S. citizen fiance to file a petition on behalf of the foreign national fiance.
- Once the visa is granted, the USCIS will forward the application to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which will send your application to the United States embassy in the country of origin of the foreign national fiance. Then, the foreign national fiance will bring the required documents to apply for the K-1 visa there. After the visa has been granted, you have six months to enter the United States and then 90 days to get married.
- You will be inspected at the entry port of the U.S.
- You will apply for a green card with Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence) after the marriage.
Eligibility for Fiance Visa
You need to meet the eligibility criteria for the fiance visa. In order to do that, you:
- Must provide the evidence of being a U.S. citizen.
- Must have met your fiance face-to-face at least once in two years before you applied for the K-1 visa.
- Have planned to marry your fiance within the 90 days timeline of your admission into the U.S.
There are two distinct ways to apply for a marriage visa, as you will discover below. But you and your spouse will wed outside of the United States in both situations.
You must submit Form I-130, Petition for Relative, in either scenario. The K-3 visa application is an addition to the primary visa application process.
IR1 or CR1
When you bring your spouse to the country, they become a permanent resident. To do it, three main visa forms are required. Consular processing, or filing for a green card from your home country, is the method used for marriage visas.
- The LPR or U.S. citizen will submit Form I-130, Petition for Relative. You may also choose to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident at the same time. An Affidavit of support, Form I-864 will also need to be included by you.
It should be noted that the processing and approval of Form I-130 is just the beginning of the LPR process. At this stage, the foreign national fiance isn’t issued a permanent resident status yet, the form just verifies their relationship.
- The next step is the biometrics appointment. Here, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will conduct background checks and gather other information.
- A consular interview follows immediately. The foreign national will need to visit the nearest Consulate or U.S. Embassy. They will ask you questions to know whether your marriage is legitimate and if you are inadmissible.
- Your visa will be granted after your application approval, if everything goes well.
Spousal Visa (K-3 Visa)
A K-3 spousal visa is a great choice for immigrant spouses who need to go outside the U.S. after entering the U.S. and stay together and live in the U.S. while their marriage visa is being processed.
As previously mentioned, the K-3 visa is an addition to the CR1 visa rather than a substitute. The foreign national spouse can apply for a K-3 nonimmigrant visa after you file a petition for them to be an LPR in the U.S.
The K-3 visa authorizes the foreign national spouse to live and work in the U.S. lawfully while the marriage visa is being processed.
The foreign spouse files Form I-129F, Petition for Fiance, after the U.S. citizen or LPR submits Form I-130, Petition for Relative. Keep in mind that you are applying as a spouse, not as a fiance. There is a box to check in Section 1 of the form to indicate the type of visa you are requesting. You should select Spouse (K-3 visa) here.
Marriage Visa Application Process
The sponsoring American citizen must submit an I-129F petition on behalf of their foreign fiancé(e) in order to get a K-1 or K-2 visa. The fiance is not permitted to file a petition on their own behalf. If the petition is granted, the fiance must visit the U.S. consulate or embassy in their nation.
There, they must take part in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer to confirm the legitimacy of your relationship. The fiance will receive their K-1 visa as well as any K-2 visas required for accompanying children if the interview is passed. Then the sponsor can submit an I-130 for a marriage-based green card as soon as the U.S. citizen and the foreign fiance have married.
Only after the I-130 has been submitted on behalf of the immigrant spouse may the I-129F petition be submitted for the K-3 and K-4 visas. Furthermore, the K-4 dependents do not require a separate petition.
It should be noted that whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green card holder (lawful permanent resident), the overall processing period for a marriage-based green card typically takes 18 months.
Generally, there are three-step processes you can take to get a marriage-based green card. They include:
- Establish the marriage relationship (Form I-130).
- Make a green card application (Form I-485 or Form DS-260).
- Attend the interview for a green card and wait for approval.
Establish the Marriage Relationship (Form I-130)
Submitting Form I-130 to the USCIS, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the first step in the process of getting a green card through marriage. Form I-130 is officially known as the “Petition for Alien Relative.”
The I-130 form’s primary goal, together with the supporting documentation, is to prove that your legal marriage exists.
Make a Green Card Application (Form I-485 or Form DS-260)
In order to determine your spouse eligibility for a marriage-based green card, there are usually two different processes involved. Where your spouse currently lives determines the right process to be used. They are:
For Green Card Applicants Living in the U.S.
The next step is to submit Form I-485, also known as a “Adjustment of Status” application, if the spouse who is applying for a green card actually lives in the U.S. The main goal of the I-485, which is submitted to USCIS, is to prove that the spouse is qualified for a green card.
The immigration process for the following kinds of marriage visas is called adjustment of status:
- When the sponsor is an American citizen, the IR6/CR6 spouse and accompanying IR7/CR7 child.
- When the sponsor is a permanent resident (often known as a “green card holder”), they fall under the F2A category (F26 spouse and F27 child).
- When the sponsor is an American citizen and the foreign spouse is changing status from a K fiance visa, they must be a CF1 spouse or CF2 child.
This I-485 filing package for spouses of U.S. citizens can typically be combined with the I-130 form and supporting documents (a procedure called “concurrent filing”). This concurrent filing is normally processed by USCIS within months.
However, the I-485 filing package for spouses of U.S. citizens with green cards cannot be submitted until the U.S. Department of State has decided that green cards are accessible in the visa bulletin with many annual caps.
Currently, the wait time is around one and a half years, but it can change by a few months depending on the country of origin of the spouse who is applying for a green card. The processing time for the I-485 file package from USCIS is normally 13.5 to 23.5 months (but it may take longer depending on your local field office).
For Abroad-Based Green Card Owners
To sponsor a green card (spousal visa) for a spouse who is currently living abroad, there is a different process to be taken. As the following step, the National Visa Centre (NVC), which is overseen by the State Department, must receive an application package.
As part of the “consular processing” procedure, the NVC compiles the required documents and determines if the spouse is prepared for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Attend the Interview for a Green Card and Wait for Approval
The green card interview is the last stage of the marriage-based green card application process. The interviewer’s main objective is to judge how genuine the marriage is.
The couple’s relationship history, daily routines, and future intentions might all be the subject of inquiries. If the interviewing officer proves that the marriage is genuine, the spouse’s application for a green card will be granted.
The residence of the spouse applying for a green card currently determines where the interview will take place and whether the supporting spouse needs to attend as well.
A spouse from within the U.S. who is applying for a green card will join the sponsoring spouse for an interview at their local USCIS office. After a case is approved, the physical green card usually takes two to three weeks to arrive by mail.
But a spouse from another country who wants to apply for a green card must go to an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their country. This interview is not attended by the sponsoring spouse.
The spouse who is applying for a green card will then receive a visa stamp in their passport, enabling them to visit the US. A physical green card cannot be granted until the $220 USCIS Immigrant Fee has been paid online. The USCIS advises paying this cost prior to the spouse’s departure for the US.) Within two to three weeks of the spouse’s arrival, the green card is typically mailed to the couple’s U.S. address.
Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is your first step in getting a marriage-based green card. The form must be submitted to the USCIS by a citizen or lawful permanent resident on behalf of the beneficiary spouse.
This form is intended to ask the agency for permission to grant your spouse permanent residency status in the United States. Additionally, it gives you the chance to prove that your marriage is legitimate, which is the foundation of any petition based on a marriage.
You will need to provide items, especially your marriage certificate (recognized by law of the country where the marriage took place) to prove your marriage to the USCIS. Family pictures, joint bank and other related evidence will help prove the marital relationship with your spouse.
Depending on your background, there are various forms and different documents you need to submit in marriage immigration. However, the processing of your application and arrival in the U.S. can be delayed due to errors or mistakes.
The Checklist of Form I-130 Document
Submit the I-130 petition with:
- Colour passport-style photos of the petitioner and beneficiary, taken no later than 30 days of petition filing.
- Proof of the petitioner’s citizenship, such as a current U.S. passport, birth certificate or naturalization record.
- A legally binding marriage certificate from a reputable authority.
- A shared home and finances are examples of valid marriage-related evidence. Including joint bank accounts, flat leases, shared household expenses, health or life insurance designations, birth certificates of children from the marriage, etc. are a few examples of this.
- Proof of the formal dissolution of any prior marriages, whether one or both of you had been married before. An annulment, divorce, or death certificate will be needed for this.
Following the acceptance of your I-130 petition, USCIS will send the case file for processing to the National Visa Centre (NVC). Your case will be given a number by the NVC, who will also provide guidance on how to complete Form DS-261, the Choice of Address and Agent form.
You will also be informed of the applicable application fees. Following payment, the NVC will request that you submit the necessary supporting paperwork for an immigrant visa, such as civil documents, an affidavit of support and application forms.
NVC Processing Required Documents
For NVC processing, you need to submit the following documents:
- A six-month valid passport before your expected entry date into the U.S.
- Form DS-260 which is for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
- Two 2 x 2 photographs.
- Affidavit of Support filled by the petitioning spouse who lives in the U.S.
- Documents (civil documents) including marriage certificates, birth certificate, documentation of adoption,marriage termination document, military records, etc. More country-specific documents may be required depending on the consulate or embassy handling your application.
- Filled medical examination forms.
When you have submitted all the necessary documents, the NVC will set up an appointment for your interview. Additionally, they will send a file containing your petition and supporting documentation to the American embassy or consulate where you will have your interview. The date and time of the visa interview as well as information on how to arrange a medical exam will subsequently be communicated to you.
You must be at the embassy 15 to 30 minutes prior to the interview’s start time on the planned interview day. You should also come along with your passport and other necessary documents.
Before seeing an immigration officer who will conduct the interview, you will go through an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan as part of the process. You will be informed if you have been accepted or rejected following the interview.
Entering the United States
After the interview, if your visa is approved you can now travel to the United States port of entry with the visa. It should be noted that a visa is merely a valid form of identification which doesn’t guarantee an admission into the U.S.
Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have the authority to approve or reject your entry into the country. You will be permitted as a permanent residence if your request is granted.
Getting Your Green Card
Within 120 days of your entry into the country, after you have been granted admission, your green card will be mailed to you. You can get in touch with USCIS if, after 120 days, you haven’t gotten your permanent green card.
Marriage Visa Cost
The government charges $800 or $34.5 (filing fee) for the K-1 visa plus the “Adjustment of Status” form needed to transfer a K-1 visa to a married green card once you get into the United States. This does not include the usual fee for the necessary medical examination, which varies depending on the provider.
However, there are other mandatory fees you need to pay such as:
- K-1 visa petition (Form I-129F) $535.
- Biometrics for Form I-485 $85.
- U.S. State Department processing (Form DS-160) $265.
- Affidavit of support fee $120.
- Medical examination (depends on the provider).
- USCIS fee $220.
- Adjustment of status form (Form I-485) $1140.
Besides the mandatory fees you should beware of other potential costs such as:
- Document fees.
- Vaccination fees.
- Translation services fees.
- Professional photography fees.
- Travel expenses.
- Shipping cost.
Currently, there is an average 18-month wait period for a green card based on marriage. This will differ depending on where you presently reside (additional backlogs may be applicable depending on your region) and whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
The following are the timelines which could suit your case:
Marriage Green Card Timelines
The following are marriage green card timelines:
Timeline for Marriage Green Card When The Couple Lives in the U.S.
- When the spouse who is applying for a green card is married to a United States citizen and resides in the U.S. Applying for a green card (Form I-485) and establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130) at the same time will take up to 13.5 to 23.5 months.
- When the spouse applying for a green card is married to a U.S green card holder and lives in the U.S., it will take up to 13.5 to 23.5 months.
Timeline for Marriage Green Card When The Spouse Lives Outside the U.S.
- When the spouse (beneficiary) applying for a green card is married to a United States green card holder but lives abroad. It could take up to 17 to 33 months.
- When the spouse (beneficiary) seeking a green card is married to a United States citizen but lives abroad. It could take up to 13 to15 months.
It should be noted that depending on embassy or consulate backlogs, additional time could vary.
Timeline of Marriage
A K-1 fiance visa can be the best choice for you if you are prepared to wait. However, because it may still take up to a year for the foreign-born fiance to be qualified to enter the United States, the visa process is quicker and the wedding will occur later.
The greatest option for you may be to be married abroad if you wish to get married as soon as possible. So, while your spouse is still abroad, you can get married and then apply for a wedding visa.
Marriage Visa vs. Fiance Visa Cost
The cost of a visa is a big factor to consider. Marriage visas are less expensive than fiance visas. There are price differences, therefore this is just an estimate that could vary. These prices account for form and processing charges.
The majority of fiance visas can require up to $2,000 to $3,000. Costs for most marriage visas range from $1,200 to $2,500. Discuss the cost breakdown and what is best for you and your fiance with your immigration lawyer.
Travel In and Out of the United States
The reason you’re traveling abroad is a great factor to consider. So in choosing between a marriage visa and a fiance visa you should know whether you’re traveling for leisure, work or family matters.
The laws around each visa include:
- K-1 Fiance Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that lets you enter into the U.S. You must wait until you get parole (this can take up to 3 months) when you file your Adjustment of Status and Advance Parole applications.
But if the foreign national spouse leaves the United States before the acceptance of the advance parole, their application will become invalid or regarded as abandoned.
- CR1 or IR1 Visa will help you become an LPR once you get into the U.S. All CR1 or IR1 visa holders may travel abroad immediately.
- K-3 Visa is also a non immigrant marriage visa that lets you enter the United States multiple times, so traveling abroad is possible.
Civil Marriages vs Receptions
Religious ceremonies versus legally binding weddings are something else to think about while picking where to get married. In the U.S., civil marriage ceremonies are accepted and you could be eligible to hold a ceremony either before or after your civil union.
Legally, a wedding ceremony held to celebrate a marriage is not the marriage itself. This means that, as a prelude to or celebration of your legal marriage in the United States, you are legally permitted to get married in another country.
Location of Marriage
Unlike fiance visas, which allow the wedding to take place inside the U.S., marriage visas allow couples to wed outside of the U.S.
To be with family (or for other reasons), some couples decide to have the ceremony overseas. As a personal choice, some couples desire to be married in the United States and begin their married life together right away.
Remember that if you opt for a fiance visa, you must get married within 90 days after entering the United States. This implies that extensive planning must be done in advance to guarantee the marriage takes place within the given time frame.
You risk the danger of deportation if the 90 days pass. Make sure your wedding preparations are in place and you can relax once you receive the K-1 visa.
Physically Separated from Your Spouse
The fact that the foreign national spouse cannot enter the country until their petition is completed and their visa is approved is one of the primary barriers of choosing the CR1 marriage visa option. Although there will be a waiting period, the spouse will be granted permanent residency as soon as they arrive in the country.
If your location permits it, you two may stay together if the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse does not need to return to the country. But many individuals would need to relocate to the United States because of their work. Therefore, until the visa is processed, which could take up to a year or more, the spouses are separated.
On the other hand, K-1 fiance visas enable couples to start a life together in the US right away. The immigrant spouse may continue to legally reside in the United States even though their foreign national status has not yet been changed. The K-1 visa application process takes less time than getting married.
Types of Non-Immigrant Marriage Visas
There are four main types of non immigrant visas related to marriage and classified under the K category:
- K-1 visa enables a foreign national fiance to visit the U.S. and marry the U.S. citizen spouse sponsor, within 90 days of arrival. The K-1 visa is also regarded as a fiance visa.
- K-2 visa is for the kids of a K-1-status foreign fiance. Until their statuses are changed and they are eligible to receive green cards, they will only be in this nonimmigrant status.
- K-3 visa is for the immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens. The foreign spouses may use the K-3 visa to remain in the country while waiting for a decision if the citizen sponsor has submitted an I-130 for a marriage-based green card.
- K-4 visa is for the children traveling with your K-3 spouse may stay in the country under K-4 status. The sole restriction is that the marriage must have occurred before the child became 18, if the child is the stepchild of the U.S. citizen sponsor in order for the child to qualify for the K-4 status.
DOS Definition of a Spouse
The DOS says that “a spouse is a legally wedded wife or husband.” However, for immigration application process a spouse is explained as the following:
- Just living together doesn’t make your marriage eligible for immigration.
- Depending on the laws in the nation where the common-law marriage occurred, a common-law spouse may be eligible for a marriage visa. An arrangement between a man and woman to wed without taking part in a religious or legal ceremony is known as a common-law marriage.
- Only the first spouse may be eligible for a marriage visa if you are married to more than one person.
You may qualify for a U.S. marriage visa if you meet its eligibility criteria. The United States citizens or green card holders can bring their spouse to live and work in the U.S. as permanent residents. However, there are specific forms to be filed for it to be possible.
There are four non immigrant visas related to marriage. So as a couple you might not really know the non immigrant visa that best suits your case. This is why we recommend you reach out to our immigration lawyers at IAS.
If you’re not sure on how to properly submit your visa application, it’s wise to avoid taking the chance of doing it alone because the effects of rejections can be severe. Any rejections could affect your future visa applications and necessitate paying the application cost again. Make an appointment with IAS right away for expert advice. We’ll assist you in doing it correctly the first time.
For more information about marriage visa, its requirements, forms petitions, required documents or eligibility criteria, how to apply, visa interview tips and expert advice. You can reach out to our immigration lawyers by calling us on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.
Last modified on July 26th, 2023 at 10:08 am
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