Wait! Don’t let your special day be ruined by U.S. immigration laws. If your fiancé is a foreign national who lives abroad, there are certain immigration rules that s/he must comply with, such as the possible need for a K1 Visa. If you are a U.S. citizen and want your foreign national fiancé to come to the U.S. to marry, you will need to file a fiancé petition and thereafter your fiancé will need to apply for a fiancé visa at the U.S. consulate abroad. Of course, if your fiancé already resides in the U.S., then these procedures will not apply in your situation.
Like most details when planning a wedding, you need to start planning early; likewise you will need to start the immigration paperwork early. At the time this article was written, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. government agency responsible for the adjudication, was taking at least five months to adjudicate a fiancé petition. Thereafter, visa processing could add several more months. And it does not matter that the invitations have been issued; they will not expedite the processing of your petition because the guests are en route, so investigate your need for a K1 Visa now.
In order to file a fiancé petition, you will need to prove that (1) you are a U.S. citizen; (2) that you and your fiancé have met in person within the last two years or evidence of the extreme hardship or customary/cultural/social practices that prohibited your meeting; (3) provide evidence of your mutual intent to marry within 90 days of your fiancé’s admission into the U.S.; and (4) proof of the termination of all prior marriages. There are other requirements for filing (e.g. photograph) so always read the petition instructions carefully and check the USCIS website for the most current information.
If you, the U.S. citizen, has been convicted of certain crimes, you will need to submit copies of the conviction records, even if the records were sealed. There is a laundry list of crimes which must be disclosed, some of which may be common, others are obscure. Furthermore, a U.S. citizen who has been convicted of specified crimes against minors may be denied a fiancé petition unless a waiver is specifically granted. This criminal information will be disclosed to your fiancé at the time of the visa interview, so you might want to consider a frank discussion with your loved one.
Once the fiancé petition is granted, your fiancé will be able to apply for a fiancé visa at the U.S. Consulate in the country in which s/he resides. The unmarried children under 18 years of age of your fiancé will be eligible for a visa as well (if the child is yours, then the child may have a claim to U.S. citizenship; a subject beyond the scope of this article). You will need to provide an Affidavit of Support to prove that you have sufficient resources so that your fiancé is not likely to become a public charge (i.e. dependent on government assistance). Your fiancé will need to have a medical examination by the U.S. Embassy’s designated physician. Be sure to consult the U.S. Embassy’s website for a list of the full documentation needed for the fiancé visa. If your fiancé has any criminal record, or U.S. immigration violations, s/he will likely require a waiver of inadmissibility. These waivers are complicated, and it is best to consult with experienced immigration counsel.
If the fiancé visa is granted, you and your fiancé must marry within 90 days after your fiancé enters the U.S. The foreign national is limited to marrying only the individual who filed the fiancé petition. Hence if the relationship breaks down, and no marriage occurs, the foreign national cannot use the visa to marry someone else. The fiancé visa is only valid for the 90 days, and expires if the marriage does not occur within that period.
Once married, there is yet more paperwork to file with USCIS so that your spouse can receive his or her green card.
This article does not attempt to cover all the requirements or rules of processing. Be sure to check current information posted on USCIS and U.S. Embassy websites, do your research, start early, and seek expert legal advice where needed so that your fiancé gets to the wedding on time!