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Love and Immigration in the USA

Fiancé(e) & Marriage Green Card Questions

U.S. immigration is getting more and more complicated by the day. Thankfully, though, the immigration process for family members is still relatively straight forward - at least as much as any US immigration process can be. Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about your marriage green card and the path to US Citizenship for Fiancé(e)s, Spouses and Children of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Can I pass my US citizenship to my spouse?

United States Citizens cannot automatically pass their citizenship to their spouse. If your non-US Citizen spouse lives overseas and wants to live permanently in the United States, your spouse will need to apply for an immigrant visa in order to live here.

Once your spouse obtains his or her immigrant visa, he or she can enter the US and then be processed for either Lawful Permanent Resident or Conditional Resident status, depending on how long you have been married. As the spouse of a US citizen, he or she can apply for citizenship after three years of residency.

Which is faster to get - an immigrant or a fiancé visa?

Processing times always vary, but, in general, fiancé(e) visas are processed more quickly than immigrant visa applications. Immigrant visa applications are currently taking longer than they once did, although application processing times do vary for each individual. If time is a major factor in your decision making, you should contact USCIS and ask for the most accurate, current processing times for both applications.

Can my common law spouse sponsor me for immigration?

Unfortunately, common law marriages or civil partnerships are not recognized by the US government for immigration purposes. If you and your partner are not legally married and your non-US Citizen partner wants to live permanently in the U.S., then he or she will have to apply for permanent residency (i.e. a green card) through another category, such as the employment-based immigrant visa category.

I'm traveling to the US to get married but will return home after. Do I need a fiancé visa?

If you're planning to get married in the US and then return to your home country to live, you would not need to apply for a fiancé visa. Instead, the B2 visa may be sufficient, or you can travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program if you are eligible. If you do not have a B-2 visa, you will have to apply for one and go through a visa interview. You will be required to prove that you intend to return to your home country after visiting the US. The evidence you could provide as proof varies with each person's individual circumstances. In any case, if questioned by the consular officer as to why you are coming to the U.S., you should always be honest.

Can I enter the US on a fiancé visa, then leave for my honeymoon?

If you enter the US on a fiancé (K1) visa, get married to a US citizen, and then want to leave on a honeymoon abroad afterwards, the best way is to file an Adjustment of Status (i.e. green card) application as soon as possible after marrying. The application should also include an application for a Travel Document. Once you receive the travel document, then you can leave the US for your honeymoon. You will need to have the travel document prior to leaving - otherwise, your Adjustment of Status application will be deemed abandoned by USCIS. It is currently taking USCIS approximately 6 months to approve an application for a Travel Document.

Can I travel to the US while my visa application is being processed?

If you're planning on living permanently in the US and you've applied for an immigrant or fiancé visa, you'll need to wait until that visa has been issued in order to move. You cannot live in the US on a tourist visa or under the Visa Waiver program while waiting for your visa to process.

You possibly can still visit the US while your immigrant or fiancé visa application is being processed, provided you intend to return to your country of permanent residence at the end of each visit. If eligible, you can travel visa free under the Visa Waiver program or apply for, or travel on an already issued, B2 tourist visa.

If you need to apply for a B2 tourist visa in order to visit the US, you'll be asked to provide evidence that you truly intend to return to your home country following your visit. Having a pending immigrant or fiancé visa application is not conclusive evidence that you intend to stay in the U.S.; however, the US government does advise that it is a factor that will be considered by the consular officer when deciding whether to issue the B2 visa, so it would be best to prepare your counter evidence accordingly.

When I filed a petition for my relative, I was a Green Card holder. Recently I became a US Citizen. How does the change affect my family member’s petition?

Now that you have become a US citizen, the green card category that your family member can qualify for may change.

If you filed a petition for your spouse or minor children (unmarried children under the age of 21), they will now be eligible for the Immediate Relative visa category. This is great news for you and your family, as there are no limits to the number of visas that can be issued annually in the Immediate Relative visa category, and the wait times, therefore, are much shorter.

If your original petition was for an unmarried son or daughter (aged 21 or older), the visa category for which he or she is eligible will move from "family, second preference" (F2B) to "family, first preference" (F1). This upgrade in immigrant visa category usually means shorter wait times. To upgrade, you will have to provide proof of your US citizenship. However, you can "opt out" and continue with your F2B petition, as "family, second preference" visa waiting times are sometimes shorter than family first preference visa waiting times. You can check the US State Department's' Visa Bulletin to see if it would be beneficial for your adult unmarried child to remain in the F2B category or to to change to the F1 visa category.

If you had a child born abroad after you became a US Citizen, your child may automatically have become a US Citizen at birth, and you would not need to file a petition at all.