Marrying a NON-US Citizen Guide in 2023
How to marry someone from another country legally? What is a marriage-based green card, and what are the dangers of marrying a foreigner?
Here, we’ll tell you everything about bringing your immigrant spouse to the US. We’ll explain all three possible situations and provide some useful information on the dangers of marrying a non-U.S. citizen. Continue reading and find out how to make everything right!
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What is the process for marrying someone from another country?
There are three possible situations: when both you and your partner are in the US when neither you nor your partner is in the US, and when you’re in the US but your partner is not. Let’s talk about each situation in detail.
If both partners are present in the United States
This might look like the easiest thing in the world: you and your partner are together in the US, so you only need to get married, and it’s done. Well, it’s more complicated.
Let’s say your foreign partner entered the US on a business visa (B-1) or on a tourist visa (B-2). These visas are called temporary visas, and here’s the problem: if a temporary visa holder (e.g., your partner who entered the US to visit you) marries an American citizen within 90 days after their arrival in the US, the USCIS assumes that the visa holder intended to use their temporary visa for marriage.
In this case, the chances of the temporary visa holder getting a green card and passing the interview are extremely low. Of course, this doesn’t mean it will be impossible to apply for a green card, but deportation looks more likely.
But what if you don’t break the 90-day rule?
If 90 days have passed since the arrival of your partner, they can transfer their visa to a green card through adjustment of status. The adjustment of the status process begins after the registration of the marriage in the US—it’s 100% legal to marry your partner who is already in the US.
In this case, you’ll need to file Form I-130 (petition for an alien relative) and Form I-485 (application for adjustment of status) and wait. The total wait time is around 17 months now, but it depends on the status and location.
Thus, if you’re a US citizen, you’ll have to wait for less, and if you’re a green card holder, you’ll need to wait up to 32 months (especially if you live abroad).
Please, bear in mind that if you’re not a US citizen but a permanent resident, your partner will need to maintain their valid visa (valid immigration status) during this period because overstaying a visa will ruin the visa petition. If you’re a US citizen, your future spouse’s overstaying will be forgiven.
It all doesn’t end with a green card, of course. Marriage green card holders can file the naturalization application after 3 years of living in the marital union—so their partner will be able to become a US citizen after 3 years.
If both partners are not present in the United States
How to get married to someone in another country? We’ll explain right here.
There are three ways you can go: K-1 visa, getting married on a temporary visa, and getting married and initially living abroad.
- Although extremely popular for international marriages, the first method is not that common for couples who live outside the US—we’ll cover this type of visa in the next paragraph.
- You can also marry your partner on a temporary visa. This might be the best option if you are not going to move to the US right now. In this case, you’ll have to return to the US for at least 91 days (remember about the 90-day rule), get married there, and then you can go back to the country you live in.
- Another option is to get married abroad, in the country you’re living in. Get married there, register your marriage with authorities, and continue living there. Once you decide to move to the US, your spouse will be able to receive a CR-1/IR-1 green card. USCIS doesn’t recognize polygamous/underage marriages and civil unions, but in all the other cases, your marriage certificate will be recognized in the US. According to the USCIS, the requirements may vary (some countries even require an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry, which doesn’t exist in the US, but this problem can be solved, too).
So you can just choose the most convenient option for you and use it to get married.
If you’re in the United States but your future spouse isn’t
Now that everything is clear with the “if an American marries a foreigner in their country” situation let’s talk about another possible case, which, in our opinion, is the most common situation today. What does the immigration process look like if you’re in the US but your partner is in their country?
There are two ways you can go: marry outside the US and have your partner come to the US on a K-1 visa.
- The first option is called consular processing and looks like this: you marry outside the US, file Form I-130 and Form DS-160 (online nonimmigrant visa application form); your partner passes the medical exam and attends an interview; after that, they will be able to enter the US and get a green card immediately.
- The second option, a K-1 visa, K-1 is also called a fiancé visa. In this case, your partner will be able to enter the US sooner than with the consular processing option, but they won’t get a green card automatically after the arrival. The requirements are standard, but there’s also an additional requirement for a K-1 visa: thus, you need to have met your partner in person within the previous 2-year period. After getting a visa, your partner will be able to arrive in the US, and you will have to marry within 90 days after arrival to avoid deportation. After the marriage, your spouse can get a green card (a visa interview is required at this stage, too).
The same can be applied to same-sex marriage, by the way. An American citizen can marry their gay or lesbian partner legally, and such marriages are treated equally to other marriages for federal immigration law purposes.
P.S. The process of marrying someone from another country is not that simple, as you can see. Consider contacting an immigration attorney who will help you navigate the process and avoid issues.
Pros and cons of marrying someone from another country
Why should you marry a foreigner? Why might it be a bad idea? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of marrying a person from a foreign country.
- Your children will speak 2 languages and have better mental alertness, which will help them solve problems faster, according to some studies. Other people will also consider them more attractive (if we’re talking about mixed-race children).
- You’ll be able to expand your mind, learn another language, and study the culture of your partner’s country.
- More opportunities to travel. Even if you are not a fan of traveling, you’ll have more reasons to travel to your partner’s country after the marriage.
- You’ll become a better version of yourself. Your spouse will most likely affect your personal development, and you will become a more open-minded, tolerant, and caring person.
- Language barrier. Unfortunately, people from foreign countries are typically not fluent English speakers, so you’ll have to learn your partner’s language to understand each other better.
- Cultural barrier. Everything will be slightly different, from the cooking habits of your foreign partner to their sense of humor. This might feel uncomfortable at the early stages of your relationship.
- Stereotypes. Some people will talk about a green card, and others will talk about gold diggers. Well, let them talk.
- Legal issues. They are annoying (as you already noticed), time-consuming, and not that cheap, especially if you hire an immigration lawyer.
However, all these points are easily leveled, depending on the person you plan to marry, so you should listen to your intuition first.
Main dangers of marrying a foreigner
When marrying someone from another country, there are some dangers you need to be aware of. Here they are:
- Fake dating websites
- Marriage fraud
Now, let’s be more detailed.
Fake dating websites
Lots of Americans meet their foreign spouses online because it’s simple, affordable, and convenient. However, many people who don’t know how to find a wife online simply choose the first website that pops up in Google search results. Unfortunately, that’s not the best strategy.
The problem is that there are many fake dating services and bad websites with poor anti-scam measures. These websites are typically full of bots, fake profiles, and scammers—and it’s obvious that you will never find a real spouse there.
So, you should choose only the most reputable and trustworthy websites for marriage. Always read the reviews and pay attention to the dating profiles’ quality—it’s extremely important.
We are not talking about marrying someone from another country for money—it’s against US immigration law, and both parties will bear legal responsibility for that (up to 5 years in prison or a $250,000 fine). Here, we’re talking about the green card diggers (people whose only goal is to get a green card).
They may look like the most loving people in the world, but they only want to get a marriage green card. After getting it, they dump their victims and continue living in the US legally.
The only thing you can do not to get scammed is double-check everything, trust your gut, and slow down—that’s how you’ll increase your chances of spotting a con. The good news is that the number of real foreign brides who want to find an American husband is much higher than the number of green-card diggers.
Video: Green Card through marriage to US citizen process explained
No. If you marry someone from another country, your spouse will not become a U.S. citizen immediately. Your wife or husband will be able to become a permanent resident (green card holder) after the marriage. However, your partner will be able to become a U.S. citizen later: in 3 years, they can get a US citizenship through a naturalization process.
The process of marrying someone from another country may vary depending on such factors as the place of marriage. However, such an option as a K-1 visa will work for most cases and situations. The process of getting a K-1 visa is simple: you file the visa petition, then your partner files the visa application, then they attend the visa interview, and after that, you can get married.
Marrying someone from a different country is 100% legal. However, you need to meet the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements: you must meet your partner at least once to get married, and you as a sponsor must be a US citizen (the process will take much more time and effort if you’re a green card holder), etc.
The answer to the question “can you marry someone from another country online” is “technically, yes”—Utah remote marriage over Zoom is valid for immigration purposes. Though, we don’t know if any real people have already married internationally using this method.