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How can I marry my non-U.S. citizen fiance?

If you are a citizen of the United States, regardless of whether you were born in Asia, the Middle East, India or another foreign country, you may want to bring your fiancé to the United States to be married. With the necessary knowledge, legal support and guidance, you can achieve this and then work on getting your new spouse's permanent residency arranged, which would enable you to build a future in California.

There are two ways to help your loved one join you in America and become a permanent resident. You must follow specific procedures, and there are particular requirements, depending on whether you plan to marry here or wed outside of the United States and then come back to apply for residency for your new spouse.

Your options

For a non-U.S. citizen to marry a U.S. citizen and obtain permanent residency, the available options are twofold:

  • You can apply for a fiancé visa that will allow your fiancé to enter the country. He or she can then stay for 90 days during which time the marriage ceremony must occur in the United States. Following the wedding, your new spouse may file an application for permanent residency. He or she can remain in the U.S. while officials process the application -- even if the 90-day period has expired.
  • An alternative method is for you to travel to your fiancé's country and to get married there. The two of you can then return to the United States as a married couple. For your new spouse's status to be legal, you must file a document called a Petition for Alien Relative, and you must proceed with the permanent residency application.

What are the requirements for eligibility to file a fiancé petition?

To start such a quest, you must be a citizen of the United States, and you will have to indicate that on your petition, along with the following:

  • An undertaking that you intend to marry your fiancé within 90 days of his or her entry into the United States
  • A declaration that both of you are free to get married
  • A statement that you and your fiancé met within the two years prior to this petition -- exceptions that might waive this requirement are available.

What will happen if we change our minds and break off the engagement?

You may not be able to make the necessary arrangements within the allowed 90 days, or you may simply decide not to go ahead with the marriage. In the event you decide not to proceed with your engagement, your fiancé will have to leave the United States before the 90-day period expires. If he or she remains in the country, it will be a violation of the U.S. Immigration Law, which could affect any future efforts to seek U.S. immigration benefits.

Where can I get answers to more questions?

The above is just some of the information you will need to gather before bringing you fiancé to California. You may have further questions such as whether your fiancé's child can come along or whether your fiancé will be allowed to work during the 90-day period or before permanent residency is obtained. Another scenario may have your fiancé already in the United States on a different visa when you decide to marry.

You will likely find comfort knowing that legal guidance and support is available in your language. You can seek the support and guidance of an experienced California immigration attorney who is an immigrant himself. His ability to communicate in Sinhala, Tamil, Gujarat, Hindi and Urdu may help you with understanding the laws, eligibility requirements and more.

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