You found the love of your life and you both decide to get married. There's only one problem, they live in a different country. It may seem like a daunting task to initiate spousal visas but there are things you can take to making the process less stressful. Platforms like Courtly have made it possible for couples all around the world to obtain a valid marriage certificate in the U.S. even despite their gender or military status. The pair doesn't even need to be in the same country for a legal U.S. marriage certificate to be issued. With this in mind, practically anyone around the world can marry anybody they want, but if you are looking to initiate a spousal visa for your loved one to emigrate to the United States, there are some steps to take into consideration. Let's take a look at how we can help couples all around the world tie the knot with the love of their lives and petition them to move permanently to the United States. 

Couple exchanging rings

Understanding the Legal Requirements for Marriage in the United States

The legal requirements for marriage in the United States vary from state to state, but generally, couples must meet certain criteria to legally marry. Here are some of the most common legal requirements for marriage in the United States:

  1. Age: Couples must be at least 18 years old to marry without parental consent. Some states allow individuals age 16 or 17 to marry with parental or court consent, while others require individuals under 18 to obtain a court order.
  2. Identification: Both individuals must have valid identification, such as a driver's license or passport, to prove their age and identity. 
  3. Waiting period: Many states have a waiting period between the time a marriage license is issued and when the pair can get married. This waiting period can range from 0 to 5 business days. 
  4. Blood tests: While many states used to require blood tests before issuing a marriage license, this is no longer a common requirement except in a few states which require tests for certain diseases such as syphilis. 
  5. Residency: Some states require couples to be residents of the state in order to get married there, while others do not have this requirement. 
  6. Marriage license: To get married, the duo must obtain a marriage license from a local government office, such as a county clerk's office. The license typically expires within 30 to 90 days, so the couple must get married during that time. 
  7. Ceremony: In order for a marriage to be legally recognized, it must be performed by an authorized individual, such as a judge, clergy member, or justice of the peace. The ceremony must comply with any additional state or local requirements, such as having witnesses present.

Petitioning for a Spousal Green Card: Begin Your Journey as a Permanent Resident

Petitioning for a Spousal Green Card is a process where a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident can sponsor their foreign spouse to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States. This process involves two different steps: filing the immigrant petition and applying for the green card.

The first step in the process is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner must provide evidence to prove the legitimacy of their marriage and that their foreign spouse is eligible for an immigrant visa. Once the petition is approved, the foreign spouse will be placed in line for an immigrant visa based on the visa availability. If the foreign spouse is outside the United States, they will have to go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country to obtain an immigrant visa. If the foreign spouse is already in the United States, they may be eligible to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident without having to leave the United States.

During the process, the foreign fiancé will also be required to undergo a medical examination and obtain a police clearance certificate from their home country. They will also need to attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate or USCIS office to prove their eligibility for the spousal visa. It is important to note that the process of Petitioning for a Spousal Green Card can be a complicated and time-consuming process.

The processing time for the immigrant visa can take months, if not years, especially if the petitioner is a permanent resident rather than a U.S. citizen. It is important to note that the process and requirements may vary depending on individual circumstances, and it is recommended to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney to ensure a smooth and successful application process. 

How Getting a Green Card Through Marriage Works

Getting a Green Card through marriage to a US citizen is a popular and straightforward way for non-citizens to become permanent residents in the United States. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Green Card through marriage: 

  1. Determine your eligibility: As the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card. However, you must meet other criteria such as being physically present in the U.S. and not being inadmissible for any reason such as a criminal record.
  2. File an I-130 petition: The U.S. citizen spouse must file an I-130 petition on behalf of their spouse to establish the relationship and begin the process. Your US citizen spouse will need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf, along with supporting documents such as your marriage certificate, proof of your spouse’s citizenship, etc.
  3. File an I-485 petition: Once your petition is approved, you can apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with the required documents, such as identity and travel documents, medical examinations, and proof of financial support.
  4. Attend a biometrics appointment: You will be notified to attend a biometrics appointment where you will provide your fingerprints, photo and signature to be used for security checks.
  5. Attend Adjustment of Status Interview: The spouse will have to attend an interview with a USCIS officer to prove the validity of the marriage and eligibility for a Green Card. 
  6. Receive Conditional Green Card: If you have been married for less than two years at the time of your interview, you will receive a conditional Green Card which will be valid for two years. If approved, the spouse will receive a Green Card in the mail. 
  7. Conditional Green Card: If the couple has been married for less than two years at the time of applying for the Green Card, the spouse will receive a conditional Green Card that is valid for two years. Within 90 days of the expiration of your conditional Green Card, you and your spouse will need to jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove your conditional status and obtain a permanent Green Card. 

Marriage fraud and visa fraud

Marriage fraud and visa fraud are serious crimes that involve obtaining a visa or green card through fraudulent means. Marriage fraud occurs when someone enters into a marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card or U.S. citizenship. This can include situations where the couple does not actually intend to live together as a married couple, or if one party was paid to marry the other.

Visa fraud involves providing false information on a visa application or supporting documentation in order to obtain a visa. This can include lying about employment, education, or marital status. It can also include presenting false information or false documents at a visa interview.

Both marriage fraud and visa fraud are illegal and can result in serious consequences, including fines, imprisonment, deportation, and being barred from entering the United States in the future. It is important to be honest and truthful in all aspects of the visa application process and to only enter into marriage for genuine reasons.

Where Should I Get Married?

A couple can get married in any state in the United States where they obtain a marriage license and meet the legal requirements for marriage. However, simply getting married does not automatically grant the foreign spouse a green card. The U.S. citizen spouse would need to file a petition for their spouse to immigrate to the United States and go through the U.S. immigration process. It's important to note that the couple should not get married solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card as this is considered fraudulent and can result in serious legal consequences.

If the couple is currently living outside of the United States, they may consider getting married in a country where it is legally recognized and then apply for a spousal visa to immigrate to the United States. The U.S. citizen spouse would need to file a petition for their foreign spouse and provide evidence of their relationship and intentions to move to the United States together. This process can take several months to complete.

Another option for couples is the K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé visa. This visa allows a U.S. citizen to bring their foreign fiancé to the United States for the purpose of getting married within 90 days of arrival. After the marriage, the foreign spouse can then apply for adjustment of status to obtain a green card. However, this process can be complex and may require the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney to navigate successfully.

Marrying in the United States

Bring your fiancé to the U.S. on a K1 visa, which enables you to wed in the U.S. and then seek a green card. A K1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa, is a non-immigrant visa that allows a foreign national engaged to a US citizen to travel to the United States to marry and live with their spouse to be. The purpose of this visa is to provide a way for the engaged couple to be together in the US, prior to their marriage. 

To apply for a K1 visa, the US citizen must first file a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After the petition is approved, the foreign national fiancé can apply for the K1 visa at a US embassy or consulate in their home country. The applicant must attend an interview, pass a medical exam, and provide evidence of their relationship with their US citizen petitioner, as well as other supporting documents such as a police clearance certificate, among others. 

Once the visa is approved, their loved one can enter the US and have 90 days to marry their US citizen fiancé. After the marriage, the foreign national can apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holder. It's important to note that the K1 visa process can be complex and time-consuming. It's imperitive to carefully follow all requirements and deadlines, and seek legal assistance if needed. 

Marrying Abroad

If you live outside the United States, you can pursue the following alternative:

Tie the knot outside the United States and then follow the consular processing route to acquire a green card. This entails submitting Form I-130 and Form DS-160 (the "Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application"), as well as attending a medical examination and an interview at a U.S. Embassy or consulate. While this process may be lengthy at times, it guarantees that you will receive a green card as soon as you arrive in the United States, enabling you to commence living and working in the U.S. right away.

Marrying Online

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is well aware of the phenomenon of "mail-order brides" and will closely scrutinize any application for a green card based on an online marriage to ensure that the marriage is legitimate. Here are some important points to keep in mind when considering an online marriage to initiate the green card process:

  1. The marriage must be legitimate: USCIS will closely examine the marriage to ensure that it is not solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card. This means that the couple must show evidence of a bona fide relationship, such as joint bank accounts, property ownership, and evidence of joint travel and social activities.
  2. Meet in person: USCIS generally requires that the couple have met in person at least once before the green card application can be approved.
  3. Be prepared for an interview: USCIS may require an in-person interview with both the U.S. citizen and the foreign national to assess the legitimacy of the marriage.
  4. Use a reputable online marriage service: There are many online services that claim to facilitate marriages between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, but not all of them are legitimate. It is important to research the service thoroughly and ensure that it is reputable before using it to initiate the green card process.

Final Thoughts

Be prepared for a lengthy procedure as any green card application can take several months to years to process. With the help of Courtly or Boundless you are able to have the knowledgeable tools to help you through the process and maybe speed it up as well. Make sure you are on top of deadlines and paperwork as it could be tedious and extensive. But if you are equipped with the information on how to petition your loved one and obtain a green card, you will be further on your way towards wedded bliss. Hopefully this article helped iron out all the questions and inquiried you may have had about how to start your spousal visa.

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