When you and your significant other aren’t citizens of the same country, getting married can be a challenge. Knowing how to navigate issues related to citizenship, visas, and marriage laws will help you make smart, educated decisions that give you and your partner the best chance of living a happy and healthy life together.
Understanding Your Best Options
Love doesn’t recognize borders. Black, white, yellow, brown, American, European, Asian…attraction cuts through matters of race, ethnicity, and location. They aren’t even asterisks in the game of love. Unfortunately, immigration laws, government regulations, and bureaucracy don’t see it through the same lens. To maintain control and order, there are strict regulations on who can marry whom (regarding citizenship and immigration).
As an American interested in marrying someone living in another country, be prepared to deal with a drawn-out process filled with paperwork, timelines, and delays. It is, however, possible. In essence, you have two major options:
1. Get Married in Your Fiancé’s Country
The first option you have is to get married in your fiancé’s country. Depending on where they live and what sort of immigration laws exist, this will come with its own set of unique circumstances and/or complications.
There are a couple of paths you can take within this category. First off, you could choose to get married in your fiancé’s country and then live there permanently. This is probably the easiest way to do it. The second, and arguably more difficult option, is to get married in your fiancé’s country and then move back to the United States together.
Let’s use the UK as an example. If you want to get married in the UK, you have to apply for a fiancé visa. Once granted, this will give you the ability to enter the UK for six months. During this period, you must get married per the terms of the visa application. This will provide you with a provisional spousal visa that’s valid for two years. Full citizenship can then be sought.
If you want to get married in the UK and then return to the US to settle, you’ll need a marriage visitor visa. After getting married, you should apply for the UK citizen’s CR-1 spousal visa. Once granted, the UK citizen can enter the US and receive a green card, which eventually leads to naturalization.
2. Get Married in the United States
Most commonly, Americans marrying foreigners choose to get married in the US. To do this, your fiancé will need to apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa that permits them to enter the US specifically for the purpose of getting married. They then have the option of applying to adjust their status after following through with the marriage.
To qualify for a K-1 visa, you and your fiancé must have met in person within the last two years and are required to marry within 90 days of the visa issuance.
“To start the application process, you would need to submit Form I-129F to USCIS. After that is approved, the case will be forwarded to the NVC, which will send your fiancé a packet of forms and instructions,” AllLaw.com explains.
After completing the appropriate forms, your fiancé will be called in for an interview with the local US consulate or embassy in their country. A rigorous interview will follow. If passed, the individual will receive the K-1 visa. At this point, the 90-day clock starts.
Once the marriage takes place, your new spouse will have to submit a new application to adjust citizenship status with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Assuming everything checks out, citizenship will soon follow.
Finding Your Happily Ever After
Whether you choose to get married in your fiancé’s country or stateside, there are certain challenges and hurdles you’ll have to clear. The key is to remain patient and let the process unfold. Rules are rules and, as frustrating as they may be, you’ll only hurt your situation by trying to circumvent them. Find a visa lawyer or immigration attorney and follow their guidance. You deserve a chance at living happily ever after and playing by the rules will increase your chances of getting there.