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Are you marrying a non-U.S. citizen? Apply for a K-1 visa

Visiting other countries can expand your horizons in more ways than one. You may have met the love of your life when one of you was vacationing or living temporarily in another country. Now, the two of you wish to marry and live here in the United States.

Before your intended can come to New York for your wedding, you need to make sure that he or she enters the country legally. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows your soon-to-be spouse to enter the United States for your wedding upon the receipt of a K-1 visa, or fiancé visa. A fiancé visa allows your intended spouse to enter the country for the sole purpose of marrying you with the goal of becoming a permanent resident thereafter.

How do we start the process?

Actually, you must file a Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with USCIS to start the admission process on behalf of your intended spouse. The application must provide proof that you and your intended spouse are both free to marry. In addition, your wedding should take place within 90 days of your fiancé's arrival.

USCIS will also want to make sure that you met your fiancé in person sometime in the two years prior to your application. USCIS will probably conduct background checks on both of you to ensure that your fiancé is not ineligible to enter the country.

What happens next?

If USCIS approves your petition, it gets forwarded to the consulate or embassy in your betrothed's country of origin. At the appropriate time, you will receive notification that it's time for your fiancé to apply for the K-1 visa. After filing the application, your fiancé will undergo the necessary security checks and attend an interview.

At the interview, he or she will need to provide proof of a medical examination, your relationship and other necessary documentation. If approved, your fiancé must enter the United States within six months of the issuance date. Be careful of your timing, because the visa is only valid for one entry into the country.

Admission is not guaranteed

Both of you need to understand that having the visa does not automatically mean that your fiancé can enter the country. Upon arrival at a port of entry to the United States, whether your fiancé can enter the country will be determined. It may be necessary to show once again that the two of you still intend to marry and that the marriage will take place within 90 days of admission.

What happens after the wedding?

Once you are married, your spouse must apply for permanent residency in order to remain in the country. If your husband or wife receives a green card prior to your second wedding anniversary, it will be conditional and last for only two years. If received after your two-year anniversary, the green card will have no conditions and be valid for 10 years.

Give your fiancé the best chance of being admitted to the country

In order to increase the chances that your fiancé will gain admittance to the country in time for the wedding, you may consider utilizing the services of an immigration attorney. A legal advocate can walk you through the process to minimize the possibility of costly and time-consuming mistakes.

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