Jumping the Broom in the U.S. and Abroad
Love knows no boundaries, but the United States government does and strictly enforces them. It is in situations such as the one present here that countless people all over the world find themselves trapped between love and immigration enforcement. A very common situation is when we have a United States citizen (“USC”) and a foreign-born partner (“FBP”). What options do these two individuals have?
In this scenario, the USC goes abroad to marry FBP. USC has to file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for FBP. USC now has to wait in her home country while I-130 is approved and, upon approval, goes to Consular Processing and finally to the U.S. embassy for her Green Card.
If, before approval, FBP wants to go visit USC in the United States, she might run into difficulty. Because she is now married to USC, visiting the United States on a tourist visa is very hard. Immigration officials are rightly suspicious of anyone who comes to the United States already married to a U.S. citizen on a tourist visa, and says they will leave within the allotted time. However, USC can file for a K-3 visa on her behalf (through form I-129F) and she can come live in the U.S. while her forms are pending.
It can take between 11 and 15 months for the I-130 petition and it can take between 11 and 22 months for the Green Card to be approved. A K-3 visa takes approximately 6 to 8 months.
Alternatively, there is the K-1 Nonimmigrant Visa:
The first requirement is for USC and FBP to meet at least once before engagement within two years prior to filing. The exceptions to this are 1) if it is culturally/religiously forbidden for husband and wife to meet before marriage, and 2) if there is extreme hardship to USC. Extreme hardship means medical, not economic, and is very hard to get approved.
Once USC and FBP have met, USC can complete the I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). The petition goes to USCIS, who approve it and forward it to the National Visa Center, who then sends it to the local U.S. Consulate where FBP will have an interview. Once approved, FBP will have 60 days to come to the U.S. She and USC must marry within 90 days. If USC and FBP don’t marry, FBP will have to leave the country. Once they marry, they file an I-485 Adjustment of Status petition to get FBP a Green Card.
This entire process can take 9-11 months for the K-1 visa, and, after they marry, 11-22 months for the Green Card.
If FBP wants to leave the U.S. after marrying but before she gets her Green Card, she can apply for advanced parole, but should not leave for more than ninety days at a time or she might have problems getting her Green Card.
Marriage in the United States:
What if USC and FBP decide that FBP will come to the U.S. on a tourist visa and get married here? The intent of a tourist visa is not to stay in the United States. Therefore, if she intends to get married and remain but tells the border patrol official she is just visiting, she lying to immigration officials.
Even if FBP does leave the United States after marrying USC here, she may have trouble getting back in the U.S. even for visits due to the reason stated above: immigration officials will be suspicious of FBP, married to USC, and saying she is just visiting and won’t overstay her visa. USC would have to start the I-130 process abroad and may end up being separated for a long time.
Notes: Same-sex marriage is allowed. Same-sex partners have to follow the same steps.
None of this is intended to be legal advice. Before embarking on the greatest journey of your lives together, be sure to speak to experienced immigration attorneys! They will tell you what the best option for you is, depending on your personal situation. There are many factors we cannot cover here which may influence your situation! The attorneys at Wu and Hung Law, LLC are experienced and compassionate, and would love to help you any way they can.