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Marriage to an American

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
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Green Card and Visa Procedures

Existing Marriage to an American

If you are living outside the U.S., you have two options:

1. Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
You and your spouse can file for an immigrant visa (green card), but you will have to live abroad until it's approved, and may not be able to visit the U.S. in the meantime. (Applications for your unmarried children under 21 should be submitted simultaneously if they will be living in the U.S. with you.)

  • Total processing time for this alien-spouse visa can take 6-12 months depending on individual circumstances (cooperation of the embassy in your location, any questions that arise on your application and need a response, etc.)

    2. Nonimmigrant (K-3) visa for Spouse
    This visa may be get you to the U.S. faster, because it's temporary. Once your U.S. citizen spouse obtains this visa for you, you can come live in the United States and file for a green card here. (If you want your unmarried children under the age of 21 to come with you, have your spouse apply for them simultaneously).

  • The K-3 visa must be applied for and issued in the country where the marriage to an American took place.

    If you marriage to an American citizen took place in the U.S.:

    1. You must file for an Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (green card). There is no actual deadline, but sooner is better; and

    2. Either file for an Advance Parole (travel permission) to travel outside the U.S., or not travel outside the country until the green card is issued.

    Important Note! - If you married within 30 days of entering the U.S. on a temporary visa or visa waiver, or if you married while on an expired visa, or in illegal status, you should not apply for Advance Parole, and should not travel outside the U.S. until your green card arrives. (You could be approved for the Advance Parole, leave the U.S. without incident, but then be refused re-entry at the border.)

    Planning Marriage to an American from Afar:
    Engaged to a U.S. Citizen, but Living Outside the U.S.

    1. The K-1 fiance visa allows the foreign fiance of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. and marry here. In most cases, this route is much faster than marrying abroad and then filing for a K-3 (temporary visa for spouse) or green card.

    2. Once in the U.S., you must marry your U.S. fiance within 90 days to remain in legal status. You should then start the green card process.

  • Do not apply for the fiance visa and then marry your fiance abroad. The marriage to an American must take place after the K-1 is issued, in the U.S.

  • Also, the foreign fiance and U.S. citizen must have met in person at least once in the two years before the petition was filed.

  • Phone call, e-mail and postal letters will help your application get approved, but the in-person meeting is still required, no exceptions.


    Legal permanent residents (green card holders) may not file for a fiance visa. Instead, LPR's should marry abroad, then file for an Immigrant Spouse Visa.

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