First of all, let us just say: congratulations on getting married! We love to see yet another proof that love transcends borders.
Bad news: bureaucracy isn’t as transcendent as love, you’ll need to go through some seemingly complicated processes to live in the US with your better half. Good news: the process isn’t as complicated as, say, getting a sibling of a US citizen into the States.
There are several available paths if you want to become a permanent resident of the US after your marriage. We will explain them here as well as some tips to help you plan your marriage and married life!
Marry in the US: tips based on your statuses
You can either choose to marry in the states or abroad. If you’re marrying on US soil, the procedure depends on where you are currently and/or your visa status.
If you’re already in the US on another legal status
For example, you already have a US work visa, met your fiance here, and decided to marry here. Then, your partner, who is a US citizen, will have to fill out and submit form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). You may also file form I-485 to register for permanent residence or adjust your immigration status.
If you are in the US but entered unlawfully
We hold no judgment here, immigration laws are complicated and these things happen. While we do not advise going out of your way to pursue this path, there is a way to apply for an immigrant visa after you get married.
Your partner may file an I-130 petition, then you will be able to pursue your immigrant visa in a US Embassy or Consulate abroad, like in your home country.
If you’re not in the US
There’s a specific way you can enter the US and get married if you’re currently abroad. With the aptly named fiance visa (K-1), you may enter the US to marry your partner. To do this, your partner, a US citizen, has to file an I-129F form (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)). If it’s approved, you will be invited to apply for this visa. This visa is valid for 90 days, so you must marry within this period.
This visa is given out so for the specific purpose of entry to marry in the US. It can’t be used to simply get to know each other. If your visa runs out before you get married, you will have to leave the country. Not only that, misusing this visa may negatively affect your future chances of getting US visas.
After your marriage is official, file the I-485 to apply for permanent residence aka the green card!
Don’t use other visas to replace the fiance visa
As we mentioned above, the fiance visa is created for a reason. If you apply for another kind of visa or enter the US stating one intention while actually planning to do something else, this counts as immigration fraud. For example, if you apply for a tourist visa or use your existing tourist visa to enter the US and marry, this is not allowed.
Immigration fraud entails serious penalties, such as a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years of imprisonment, as well as restrictions on immigration benefits, such as on permanent residence.
It is possible to get married abroad and then live with your spouse in the US. After all, it’s your wedding, and we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to celebrate this special day, for example, on some paradise island not in the US.
Your partner then can file an I-130 form, while you apply to relocate to the US through your local US Embassy or Consulate. Your green card will then be processed while you are still abroad.
Or, you may opt to finish the green card application process in the US. This doesn’t exactly make things faster or easier, so it’s more rarely used, but it’s an option! In this case, you can apply for a K-3 visa.
Bring your kid(s) along
If you have children who are unmarried and under the age of 21, they may come along with you and relocate to the US. The K-2 visa is created for this exact purpose. The names of the children will have to be clearly stated in the I-129F petition.
Don’t get discouraged with the various forms and documents; love finds a way!