Home Wedding Marrying a Foreign Spouse in the USA: Everything You Need to Know

Marrying a Foreign Spouse in the USA: Everything You Need to Know

by Louise W. Rice

After many years of searching for your special someone, you have finally met the love of your life, who happens to be an ex-pat living in the USA. Now, international marriage is in your future, and you suddenly have a wedding to plan.

However, before you actually sign the papers, there are a few important things you should know in order to make sure your marriage to a foreign spouse is legal. By learning all information regarding this matter, you follow the laws and allow your new fiancé to stay in the country legally.

Unfortunately, the process of doing all of this can be long and overwhelming. So, to make things easier for you, we have decided to come up with a useful checklist that will give you insight into the procedure of marrying a foreigner.

Here is everything you need to know and do to legally bind your marriage with your international spouse.

Compile all necessary paperwork

In order for the international marriage process to go smoothly, it is crucial that you compile all necessary paperwork in advance. For completing all the requisite paperwork and submitting it to the authorities in the US, you may require the help of a language translation agency, if any of the spouses happen to be from a non-English speaking nation, and all his/her documents are in a foreign language of that particular country. These documents are required so your foreign spouse can be granted a legal stay in America.

Some of the most important documents you need include your spouse’s personal records, financial documents, proof of lawful US entry and status, and medical examination documents.

Since your fiancé is a non-US citizen, you may need to use certified translation services for their immigration documents, such as getting a birth certificate translation or other administrative papers necessary for the application process.    

Get a fiancé visa

Getting a fiancé visa is another legal step you must take in the international marriage procedure. This is known as a K-1 visa which allows a fiancé to enter the country for the sole purpose of marrying a US citizen. This means that it doesn’t permit your future spouse to stay in the US permanently.

To obtain your K-1 visa, you will first need to complete the Petition for Alien Fiancé. Once the petition is approved, your significant other will have a visa interview at the US consulate office. Afterward, you have 90 days to marry before your spouse must leave the country.

Obtain resident status

obtain resident status

Once you are married, you can move on to the next step and obtain resident status for your new spouse. This is commonly known as the green card, which gives an individual the ability to permanently live and work in the United States. It is advised that you do this within two years of marriage because afterward, the conditional status can be removed.

In general, green cards are valid for 10 years and must be renewed. If you fail to do this, your future spouse may lose their resident status.

Undergo the US naturalization process

After obtaining a resident status, you can move on to the next step of going through the United States naturalization procedure. This refers to the process of a permanent resident, in this case, your spouse, becoming a full US citizen.

The requirements your significant other must comply with include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having a green card for at least three years
  • Being married and living in marital union with a US citizen for three years before applying
  • Living in the state where filing the application for at least three months
  • Have been and residing continuously in the US for at least 18 months in the last three years

Seek legal support

Because the process can be overwhelming and time-consuming, you can always seek expert advice from attorneys specializing in this matter. In fact, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency offers programs and referrals to assist such international couples throughout this journey and help them get through it with fewer issues.

You can ask questions about your spouse’s basic eligibility for a visa or green card, which documents you need for the entire application process, ways to prove the legitimacy of your relationship and marriage, and whether your spouse can attend your spouse’s interviews.

Final thoughts

If you are a US citizen who wishes to get married to a foreigner, there are a few steps you must take to make your marriage legal in the United States. By fulfilling all requirements, you will allow your future spouse to permanently live and work in the country. Since the process can be a bit long and confusing, it is important that you gather all information before you say your vows.

Hopefully, this post will serve as a guide and help you navigate through the process much easier. 

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