January 8th, 2010 by Eric J. Ramos
K-1 or Immigrant Visa? You’ve decided to sponsor your foreign fiancé(e). What next?
As a U.S. citizen, you may sponsor your foreign fiancé(e) or spouse for a Green Card. Let’s say you were traveling abroad, fell in love, and became engaged. What are your options for bringing your fiancé(e) to the United States?
The Immigrant Visa
One option is for you and your fiancé(e) to marry while you are both outside of the U.S. You can then sponsor your foreign spouse for an immigrant visa as an immediate relative by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. If you have been living abroad for six (6) months or longer, you have the option of filing Form I-130 directly with a U.S. consulate in your country of residence. If you are living in the U.S. or have been living abroad for less than six (6) months, you must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, at a USCIS Service Center in the United States.
You will need to file this petition with evidence of your marriage to your foreign spouse, such as a marriage certificate, and copies of divorce decrees from any marriages you or your spouse entered into previously. Once the petition is approved, your foreign spouse will receive instructions to appear for an interview at the U.S. consulate in his or her home country. Your spouse will need to complete a medical exam and obtain police clearances before this interview. At the interview, a consular officer will determine if your spouse is eligible for an immigrant visa. If your spouse’s application is approved, your spouse will receive an immigrant visa that is valid for one entry into the U.S. Upon entering the U.S., your spouse will receive a stamp in his or her passport from an immigration officer. This stamp confers permanent resident status.
The K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa
The second option is to apply for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa. This option may be the best option if you cannot legally marry abroad, but can legally marry in the U.S., or if you prefer to marry in the U.S. for any other reason. You will still have to submit proof of the termination of any prior marriages. You will also have to prove that you and your fiancé(e) met in person at least once during the last two (2) years.
You can petition for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with a USCIS Service Center in the United States. After the petition is approved, your fiancé(e) will receive instructions on applying for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. Your fiancé(e) will need to appear for an interview at the consulate and if the case is approved, your fiancé(e) will receive a K-1 visa in his or her passport. Your fiancé(e) should show this visa when entering the U.S.
Once in the U.S., you and your fiancé(e) have 90 days to get married. If you do not get married within 90 days, your fiancé(e) will be in violation of his or her K-1 status. After you are married, your spouse must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. When this application is approved your spouse will become a conditional permanent resident and receive a Green Card valid for two (2) years. Within 90 days of the expiration of this Green Card, your spouse must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. Your spouse will then receive a Green Card valid for ten (10) years.