I want to marry a US Citizen – what are my options?
Amidst these unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic, it has never been more important for partners/fiancé(e)s of US citizens to remain together. These unprecedented times may create significant disruption for the families of US citizens, including planning where the family may want to reside.
We are here to help sort through the anxiety and stress of figuring out how to bring your foreign national partner to the US, including US ex-pats who currently reside overseas but may need to return to the US. Please note that this article does not focus on partners already residing in the US on non-immigrant visas.
A planned filing of a visa petition for a foreign partner will likely take significant time to process, so advanced planning for a US visa case is important. Note that for those familiar with Australian migration and family law, the US does not allow for de-facto partnerships to be considered for US spouse immigration benefits. Therefore, at some point in the immigration process, a marriage will need to take place for your partner/fiancé(e) to obtain US immigration benefits as the spouse of a US citizen. Also note that when the US Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the US has allowed same-sex marriages to be recognised for US immigration purposes.
The first option and many times the one that is most practical for couples is to get married and then proceed with an immediate relative I-130 Petition and immigrant visa. The second option is a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, to bring your partner to the US to get married and then apply for permanent resident status afterwards. Many times, a K-1 visa will be used if the speed of entry to the US is the most important factor or if the couple cannot get married prior to starting an immigration case.
We covered the options for spouses of US citizens to immigrate here.
For a fiancé(e) (K-1 visa) case, there are some additional steps to permanent residency once the fiancé(e) marries in the US. This is because a K-1 visa is a more limited, non-immigrant visa. For a K-1 visa case, it is important to remember that a K-1 visa is only a single-entry visa, and no employment is authorised by the visa in the US.
- An I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is filed with USCIS.
- USCIS then forwards the case to the NVC that transfers the case to a US consulate overseas for a visa application.
- If a K-1 visa is approved, the foreign national fiancé(e) may then enter the US.
- After entry, the couple must get married within 90 days of entry on the K-1 visa.
After marriage, the couple then must file a Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status with USCIS for the non-US spouse to become a lawful, permanent US resident.
It is important to remember that as of February 24, 2020, there have been significant changes to the adjudication of public charge. Public charge is an important hurdle in these cases where the totality of circumstances are reviewed to determine if the foreign national relative is likely to become dependent on the government in the future. This is a potential reason a visa can be refused, or an adjustment of status denied. This is now an even more important part of planning for the immigration of a foreign national partner/fiancé(e).
There you have it, a breakdown of your current options for a partner of a US citizen residing abroad to immigrate to the US. We recognise that we’re currently living in stressful and unusual times. At the very least, Worldwide Migration Partners can ensure ease in the application process and remove this singular worry on your behalf. If you would like further information regarding your eligibility, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a US attorney, an Australian migration agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 20 years of experience in migration law, including practising at the world’s largest US immigration firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.