Immigration Marriage Laws

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What Is an Immigration Marriage?

An immigration marriage is when a non-citizen (immigrant) gains U.S. citizenship by marrying an American citizen. Most immigrant spouses first enter the country through a fiancé visa (K-1 visa) or a permanent visa. The fiancé visa allows a non-citizen to enter the country to marry his or her fiancé, while the permanent visa is intended for non-citizens who have already married an American citizen. The permanent visa, a conditional green card, allows the immigrant to remain in the U.S. while he or she goes through the full green card application process.

Immigration Marriage Laws

The laws surrounding immigration via a marriage to a current US Citizen are created at the Federal Level with the main body of laws surrounding the immigration of a future spouse stemming from the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, however this has been amended many times over the years. The immigration of a bride, or groom, to be is one of the intersections between Immigration Law and Family Law because of this these matters can be extremely complex, with the entire process possibly taking years to fully complete. There are also a number of requirements for entry into the US, even as a future spouse, including having a sponsor. The sponsor takes on many responsibilities for the immigrant and these do not end until the person has obtained full citizenship, even if there has been a divorce for whatever reason.

How Can a Fiancé Visa Be Obtained?

A fiancé visa can be obtained by getting married to a U.S citizen. If a non-citizen wants to be eligible for a fiancé visa, they do not even have to intend to live permanently in the United States after the marriage. The option to stay in the United States and live permanently after marriage is up to the non-citizen.

In order to be eligible for a fiancé visa, the following requirements are necessary:

The intention to marry is one of the most important requirements. The U.S government wants assurance that the marriage will actually take place in the future and you are not just using the marriage as an excuse to come to the United States.

What Can Prevent Me from Obtaining a Permanent Visa?

If you entered the country illegally, as in you entered the U.S. without a visa, you may not be eligible to receive a green card. Furthermore, if you entered the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intention of marrying an American citizen, that is considered marriage fraud by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and may be grounds for deportation.

You must also be legally able to marry. For example, you won’t be able to marry if the person in the United States is under age or a blood relative. Also, you can’t already be married to someone else.

What If I Have Not Met My Spouse in the past Two Years?

To protect fraudulent and fake marriages, the United States government requires that all fiancé visa applicants must have met their intended spouse within the last two years. This means that the couples must have physically met each other at least once before applying for a fiancé visa. Even a short period or brief period will be sufficient.

There is an exception to this rule for couples that cannot meet their intended spouses before the wedding for religious reasons. If one or both of the spouses come from a country where the meeting is not allowed for religious or customary reasons, this requirement can be waived after sufficient documentation has been provided to the USCIS.

How Do I Obtain a Green Card?

If you have already married an American citizen and wish to come to the U.S., you should apply for a conditional green card. The rules governing green card marriages are incredibly strict and have far reaching and severe legal consequences. To begin the application process, the American spouse should complete a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-30), in order to show his or her intent to sponsor the immigrant spouse, and submit it to the local USCIS office in the immigrant spouse's country.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

If you or a loved one needs a fiancé visa or needs to apply for a green card marriage, you should talk to a lawyer. An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to help you through the process and ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filed in order to smooth the path to citizen for you or your spouse.

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Last Modified: 07-24-2015 11:54 AM PDT

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