You are entering one of the most exciting times of your life, but thanks to the circumstances, it can also be one of the scariest. You met the love of your life while on a tourist visa in the USA, and they sweep you off your feet, and finally asked you to marry them in one of the most romantic ways possible! There is just one problem: Only one of you is a U.S. citizen.
What is the best way to handle this situation? Given the current political climate and turmoil when it comes to immigration legislation, it is difficult to know how to handle getting married. Which Visa is right? Should you go the tourist-visa route (the same path they allowed you to meet each other), or do you need to secure a fiance visa?
This article will help you recognize the differences between these pathways and decide on whether to pursue a K-1 fiance visa or simply get married on your B-2 tourist visa. It will also highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of each visa pathway so that you can make a more informed decision.
Tourist visas, otherwise known as ‘B-2 Visas’, are temporary visas issued to non-immigrants who wish to come to the United States for a temporary stay for the purpose of traveling for pleasure or short-term education. Specifically, B-2 visas allow immigrants to enter the United States for the purpose of the following ‘tourism’ activities:
- vacations and holidays
- visiting family members and friends
- seeking medical treatment
- participating in social events hosted by organizations you are a member of
- unpaid amateur participating in musical, sporting, and gaming events and contests
- enrollment in short study courses (though not for degree credits)
B-2 Tourist visas do not permit:
- full time study and education
- paid performances and professional performances
- arrival as a crew-member on ships and aircraft
- work as a foreign member of the press in radio, film, or print
- for permanent residence in the United States
A K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa granted to the foreign citizen fiancé of a United States citizen. This visa permits the foreign citizen to travel to the United States and marry his or her sponsor within 90 days of arrival. Upon marriage, the foreign citizen is allowed to apply for an ‘adjustment of (their) status’ to a status of ‘permanent resident.’ Because this visa allows the holder to immigrate and marry shortly after arrival, they must meet many requirements and be able to document that the relationship is bona fide.
Marriage with Visas
Both tourist visas and fiance visas have different set of restrictions and requirements that must be fulfilled in order to grant the immigrant spouse permanent citizenship in the United States.
Read more about the process of marriage for each visa below.
Tourist visas make it pretty hard to move towards citizenship, however it is a workable option if you plan to marry in the United States but return to your home country afterwards.
While it is perfectly legal to get married while in the United States on a tourist visa, it can be difficult to secure permanent resident status afterwards. It is considered ‘visa fraud’ to come to the states on a tourist visa with the intent to get married and file for a status adjustment. In order to get a status change through this visa, you must prove that you came to the US with honest intentions, and prove that the decision to get married and stay was made after entry. However, proving that you entered the US with no preconceived intent to marry can be very difficult.
For these reasons, this method is only recommended for couples that met while one was in the States on a tourist visa, quickly fell in love, and decided to get married. However, keep in mind this is an especially difficult line to walk if you knew each other before gaining a tourist visa. If that is your situation, it is preferable to get the K-1 visa instead.
K-1 visas are the best option for engaged couples that want to get married in the United States, especially if they intend to remain there permanently after marriage.
The first step in applying for a K-1 Visa is for the United States citizen fiance to file a form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé. This form effectively requests that the USCIS acknowledge and recognize the relationship you have. Generally speaking, these forms are granted to couples that have seen each other frequently and can prove the legitimacy of their relationship. Once the form and supporting documents are reviewed, your form will be approved. If you are denied, you will be notified of the reasons so you know how to correct mistakes and show your relationship for the future. Approved forms are then sent to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).
The next process is the visa application. The NVC forwards the approved Form I-129F to the U.S. Embassy where their fiancé will apply for their K-1 nonimmigrant visa. This is usually the consulate nearest where their fiancé lives. The Embassy will notify your fiancé when the visa interview is scheduled. They will need to bring the required forms and documents to their interview. From there, the consular will determine whether you qualify for the K-1 visa. If you do, it is valid for 6 months. If not, they will return the Form I-129F, instead.
Once you are approved for the K-1 Visa, you are free to travel to the United States, where a CPB officer will admit you for entry. Once you are admitted, you and your fiancé have 90 days to get married, after which you can apply for a permanent change of status.
While getting married on a tourist visa seems like a reliable option, the safest way to ensure you eventually receive permanent resident status is to get a K-1 visa. For more information about tourist or fiance visas and how to apply for a permanent change of status, Pride Immigration today! Their experienced immigration attorneys are experts in handling marital visa cases and can help to answer any additional questions on the subject.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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