So you are in love and can’t wait to spend the rest of the life with that special someone. The only problem is that she lives in another country. Should you file a fiancé visa in the United States or go back and marry her and bring her in with a green card? This is a tough question to answer. While every situation is different, here are 10 factors to consider:
1. Does your romantic interest have children who will come with her to the United States?
If she does, it is important to note that children under twenty-one can come to the US as derivatives (K-2) of a fiancé visa (K-1) but that if you get married you have to file the children separately and that you can’t file for step-children if you married the parent after the children were eighteen. By contrast children who enter as K-2’s can file their separate adjustment of status application until they are twenty-one.
2. Are you a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident?
Only US citizens can file both a fiancé visa and a marriage visa. Lawful Permanent Residents may file for a marriage visa only. However, this process generally takes several years to process. It may make more sense, in this situation, for the lawful permanent resident to obtain US citizenship and then choose between the two options.
3. Where do you want your wedding to take place?
This is an important issue. Your romantic interest or your romantic interest’s family may wish to have the wedding in their home country. If you get married before your romantic interest enters the United States then you cannot use the fiancé visa process. You must do the marriage visa process.
4. Is your romantic interest still in school and do they want to finish school before migrating to the United States?
A marriage case allows you to have more control of the time frame in which your romantic interest will come to the United States. The time constraints are tighter on a fiancé visa and so in this situation a green card based on marriage case would be preferable.
5. Does your romantic interest have a “good job”?
If your romantic interest enters on a fiancé visa there will be a longer period of time before they are authorized to work. When someone enters the US after being petitioned as a spouse they enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident and only need to obtain a social security number to work. A fiancé has to enter the US get married and then file for work authorization which takes approximately three months. So if your romantic interest is anxious to work in the United States than a marriage case is probably the better route to take.
6. Have you committed certain crimes in the past?
A fiancé petition specifically asks if the petitioner (you the U.S. Citizen) have committed certain crimes such as domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. If you committed one of these crimes it is very difficult to obtain a waiver and have a fiancé visa approved. These questions are not on the paperwork (petition) in a green card based on marriage case.
7. How many times have you met your romantic interest?
You want to show the consular officer who will be adjudicating your case that you have a serious and committed relationship, if you only met briefly on one occasion that is harder to do. In situations like that it may be better to return and visit again and then get married to your romantic interest. This area is tricky and you should speak to an immigration attorney if you have only spent a limited amount of time with your loved one in person.
8. Which process is the quickest to make your romantic interest a lawful permanent resident?
Processing times vary. However, at the present time, you should expect a fiancé visa to process about 2-3 months sooner than a green card case. This means that your loved one should enter the U.S. about 2-3 months sooner on a fiancé visa case. However, a fiancé case requires that your loved one get her green card in the U.S.
Bottom line: Your loved one would enter the U.S. quicker with a fiancé visa but because they would have to process the green card in the U.S. your loved one would have a green card sooner if you married her abroad and processed the green card while she lived there.
9. Which process is more expensive?.
Trick question. The fiancé visa is cheaper than bringing your fiancé in on a green card. However, with a fiancé visa you will still have to go through the green card process in the United States after your fiancé comes in with a fiancé visa. On the other hand, with a fiancé visa you will not need to buy a plane ticket to fly out to marry your loved one in their home country in order to get started (with the other option you will).
10. Can I just lie to the government and have my fiancé come in as a tourist and marry in the US?
While such an option is tempting, particularly for people from visa waiver countries, it is a bad idea. The people who work for the government are not stupid. If someone who enters as a tourist gets married within a few weeks of entering the United States the officer adjudicating the case will know that they entered the country with preconceived intent to get married and they will deny the Adjustment of Status application and at a minimum your loved one will be forced to return to their home country to process the application (they could be banned from the U.S. for a very long time.) This is not worth the risk.
Call Attorney Lawrence Gruner at 888-801-6558 to review your options for FREE. In 5 minutes he can help you determine which is the better option for you. There is no cost or obligation for the consultation.
Learn more about marriage based visas in our section on Visas and Green Cards Based on Marriage to U.S. Citizen.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. This article is only a very basic introduction to this topic. Every Case is Unique. You should seek a competent immigration attorney to review the specific facts and circumstances of your case before proceeding with your case.