If your fiancé is a foreign citizen, you will need to know the procedures for bringing your fiancé to the U.S., and for him or her to become a permanent resident of the U.S. Keep in mind that there are some very strict timelines that apply to immigration to the U.S. on the basis of an intended marriage, and failure to meet those timelines can result in your fiancé having to leave the U.S.
Fiancé Visa Application
First, you must file an application at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) Service Center for your fiancé, which is called K-1 immigration classification. At this time, you can also apply for your fiancé’s unmarried children under age 21 to immigrate to the U.S. Once the application is approved, your fiancé will have to go to the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate and obtain a visa. This visa will permit your fiancé to enter the U.S. for a 90-day period as a non-immigrant, for the purposes of marrying you and becoming a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. Your marriage must occur within that 90-day period, and if it doesn’t, then your fiancé must leave the U.S. Plus, your fiancé generally must remain in the U.S. during this 90-day period; if he or she leaves during this 90-day period, then he or she may have to a get a new visa in order to reenter the U.S.
In addition to marrying within the 90-day period, you and your fiancé must have met in person at least once in the two years prior to filing for K-1 status for your fiancé. The only exceptions to this rule are if meeting in person would violate historical customs, or if meeting in person would cause extreme hardship. Plus, both you and your fiancé must be free to marry one another, i.e., you cannot already be married to someone else.
Once your fiancé enters the U.S., he or she can apply for authorization to work in the U.S. As a practical matter, it is unlikely that the work permit will be issued within the 90-day period for marriage; in this case, your fiancé – now spouse – will have to reapply for a work permit.
Remember now that a fiancée visa is actually a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa. So after your marriage, if your new spouse wants to remain permanently in the United States, he or she will need to apply to adjust to permanent resident status.
Applying to become a Lawful Permanent Resident
Following your marriage, your fiancé – now your spouse – should apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. Your spouse will receive conditional permanent residency for a period of two years, which is the only type of residency available based on a marriage that is less than two years old. Assuming that you and your spouse are still married after two years, then your spouse will become eligible for regular permanent residency.
Approximately 90 days prior to the expiration of the two-year conditional residency, you and your spouse must jointly file to remove the conditions on your spouse’s residence. If you don’t jointly apply to remove the conditions during this timeframe, your spouse risks losing his or her conditional residency and having to leave the U.S.