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American citizen-foreign national marriages

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getting the proper paperwork

The Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, provides US citizens with two options for facilitating the immigration of future spouses to the United States: the K-1 fiancé visa and the alien-spouse immigrant visa. Find out more here!

In many cases, the processing time for a fiancé visa is shorter than that for an alien spouse. Fiancé visa processing can take several months from the filing of the petition to the final adjudication of the visa. Total processing time for the alien-spouse visa can take 6-12 months depending on individual circumstances. If your alien fiancé is already in the United States and plans to adjust status in the U.S., contact the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (BCIS).

Marriage In the United States: Fiancé Visa


U.S. citizens may file an I-129F petition with BCIS for the issuance of a K-1 fiancé visa to an alien fiancé. A citizen exercising this option must remain unmarried until the arrival of the fiancé in the U.S., and the wedding must take place within three months of the fiancé's arrival if he/she is to remain in status. Also, the alien and U.S. citizen must have met personally at least once in the two years before the petition was filed. For more information about K-1 visas see the Bureau of Consular Affairs' brochure Tips For US Visas: Fiance(e)s. Please note that legal permanent residents may not file petitions for fiancé visas. They must marry abroad and then file an I-130 petition for the immigration of a new spouse. Marriage Abroad: Alien-Spouse Visa
If a U.S. citizen marries an alien abroad, an I-130 petition must be filed after the marriage to begin the immigration process for the alien spouse. This can be filed either with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (BCIS) in the United States, or, under certain circumstances, at U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad. US Embassies and Consulates have differing policies on approving I-130s and should be individually contacted about the availability of this service. Many posts have their own web pages which include this information and which can be accessed through the US Embassy and Consulate links page. Prior to departure from this country, the U.S. citizen should contact the BCIS or appropriate foreign service post to ascertain exactly what documents will be necessary to file the immigrant petition for a new spouse.

For more information about this option, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs' brochure Tips for US Visas: Family-Based Immigrants. For more information on how to arrange a legally valid marriage abroad, see the Office of Citizens Consular Services' brochure Marriage of U.S. Citizens Abroad.

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