How to Get a Green Card for Your Fiancee


Popular television show depictions of “green card marriages” make it seem like turning the love of your life into a permanent citizen is the easiest thing in the world. In reality, marriage or the intent to marry is not necessarily a “free pass.” There are still lots of hoops you have to jump through, and visa issues you’ll have to navigate.

All of this means you’ll have to have a strategy. Will you get married in the United States or will you do it overseas? What do you do if you’ve been denied?

While this is obviously an issue that requires the help of a qualified immigration attorney, this post will offer you a broad overview of your options and the implications of each of them. Keep in mind there is no direct path straight to a green card no matter what you do.

Meeting the Requirements

There are certain requirements you and your fiancee will have to meet before you can apply for any of the appropriate visas. 

  1. You need to be a citizen.
  2. Your fiance must be eligible for immigration.
  3. You must both be legally capable of marriage; that is, you can’t already be married, you must both be of age, and you must meet all other applicable laws which would allow you and your loved one to get married.

A whole host of issues can make your intended ineligible. Certain diseases, like tuberculosis, can make it impossible to enter the country. So can a criminal record of any kind, a failure to receive certain vaccinations, and past violations of immigration law. 

Marrying Outside the United States

If you get married in your spouse’s home country you can either have them apply for a (immigration) permanent resident visa or a K-3 visa. If you apply for an immigration visa your spouse will have to wait in their home country before coming over to the United States. 

If your spouse does not want to wait the K-3 visa offers a pathway for entering the United States legally. You can then work on adjustment of status after you and your spouse are settled in the United States. 

K-1 Nonimmigrant Visas

If you want to get married in the United States this visa is your only option. You will be eligible for this visa if:

  1. You and your fiance met in person within the past two years.
  2. Your wedding day is set for 90 days after the issue of the visa.

Once your spouse can prove you got married within the 90 day window they may apply for adjustment of status. You’ll need to submit the appropriate forms. Your spouse will also have to take a medical exam, submit to a background check, and attend an interview. 

This process will require some additional planning and legal help if you want to bring over your spouse’s children as well.

K-3 Nonimmigrant Visas

This visa allows your spouse to come into the US while awaiting permanent residency status. It will start with an application abroad, and an interview at the appropriate US embassy within your spouse’s country.

This visa will require you to provide an Affidavit of Support. This proves you have enough income to keep your spouse off public assistance. Your spouse will also have to attend an adjustment interview and submit to a background check. 

Your spouse will receive a 2-year conditional green card when the status has been adjusted. This is a “test period” for your marriage and is designed to help prevent marriage fraud. Your spouse will then have to apply to get the conditions removed before your visa can become permanent. 

Dealing With Denials

Sadly, K-1 and K-3 denials happen, even when you do everything right. If you receive a denial you should reach out to your immigration attorney right away so you can begin correcting the issues raised in the denial letter. You can submit a new application, or you can get married overseas and go straight to applying for an immigrant visa. 

See also:

Avoid These 3 Green Card Sponsorship Mistakes

5 Things Same Sex-Couples Should Know About Immigration

Marriage/Fiance Visas

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