An introduction to marriage and fiancé visas

America's family immigration laws were designed to help keep families from being torn apart when a family member immigrates to the United States in search of new opportunities. These laws allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) to apply for family immigration visas on behalf of certain relatives, including spouses and fiancés.

K-3 visas for spouses of U.S. citizens

When a United States citizen is married to a citizen of another country, U.S. immigration laws provide a path for the foreign national spouse to immigrate legally to the United States, along with his or her minor children if applicable. A K-3 immigrant visa allows the non-citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States to reunite their family.

Typically, a foreign national spouse who enters the U.S. on a K-3 visa will also be eligible to receive a green card, allowing him or her to live legally in the United States as a permanent resident. If the couple has been married for less than two years at the time that permanent residency is granted, the green card will be issued on a conditional basis.

The process of seeking an immigrant visa for a foreign-born spouse can be complicated and time consuming. Therefore, as with any immigration issue, it is important to seek advice from a knowledgeable immigration lawyer when applying for a visa on behalf of a spouse.

K-1 visas for fiancés of U.S. citizens

For couples who are not yet married, a K-1 fiancé visa allows a foreign national fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married. A U.S. citizen seeking to bring a fiancé to the United States on a K-1 visa must prove that:

  • The petitioner is a citizen of the United States.
  • The couple plans to marry within 90 days after the fiancé's arrival in the United States.
  • Both individuals are eligible to marry, and any previous marriages by either person have been legally ended by death, divorce or annulment.
  • The couple has met in person on at least one occasion in the two years before filing the petition. (This requirement may be waived under certain circumstances.)

After a K-1 visa is granted, the fiancé will be authorized to enter the United States for 90 days in order to get married. After the marriage ceremony takes place, the foreign national spouse may apply for a green card. He or she must remain in the U.S. while the green card application is processed.

Applying for a K-1 or K-3 visa

The process of applying for a K-1 or K-3 visa involves several steps and requires the U.S. citizen spouse to file a series of complex legal forms and documents. Examples of required documentation may include:

  • Birth certificates and/or naturalization papers
  • Passports
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death or divorce certificates if either spouse was previously married
  • Medical records
  • Criminal records

In addition, the U.S. citizen spouse must also provide evidence of his or her ability to support the other spouse in the United States. Possible forms of documentation may include income tax records, pay stubs and letters of verification from employers.

An attorney can help with immigration issues

When marriage spans across national boundaries, the family immigration visa process often seems overwhelming and threatens to keep families apart. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help couples navigate the immigration process smoothly and efficiently. A lawyer with broad experience in family immigration issues will help clients understand their options and ensure that all necessary requirements are met for the course of action they choose to pursue.