How do I help my fiancé become a permanent U.S. resident?

It's natural for two people who love each other to want to live together in the United States. If you have become engaged you might be tempted to try to manipulate the system and attempt to obtain a visa and enter the United States by saying one thing, but intending another. Consider, however, if your intention is to marry it's important to get the right visa and avoid any actions which could be construed as immigration fraud.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, penalties for immigration fraud can include restricting a person's ability to obtain immigration benefits, including permanent residence, as well as a possible fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Applying for a fiancé visa

If you are engaged to be married and your foreign national fiancé is currently living abroad you can apply to have them enter the United States by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé. To apply for the petition you, as the petitioner, will have to meet very specific requirements:

  1. You must intend to marry within 90 days from the date your fiancé enters the United States.
  2. You must be a United States citizen.
  3. You must be legally free to be married. If you have been married before the previous marriage must have been ended by death, annulment or divorce.
  4. You generally must have met each other in person within 2 years of filing the petition. Exceptions exist and you may apply for a waiver under certain conditions.

After the Fiancé Visa is Issued

If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants the visa, your fiancé may come to the United States for 90 days for the marriage to be finalized. After the marriage your spouse can request to remain in the United States by filing for permanent residence. Keep in mind, if your spouse has children who are not married and less than 21 years of age you may also request they remain in the United States by filing a K-2 nonimmigrant visa. Be sure to include the names of your fiancé's children on your Form I-129F petition.

Can my fiancé work when they enter the United States?

Yes, if your fiancé is granted permission to live in the United States they can also apply for permission to work by completing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS Service Center. According to the USCIS, "Any work authorization based on a nonimmigrant fiancé (e) visa would be valid for only 90 days after entry. However, your fiancé (e) would also be eligible to apply for an extended work authorization at the same time as he or she files for permanent residence. In this case, your fiancé would file Form I-765 together with Form I-485 as soon as you marry."

What if the wedding is cancelled? - If the wedding does not take place the fiancé status will expire within 90 days. The visa cannot be extended, and it is expected that your fiancé will immediately leave the United States. Consider, if your fiancé chooses not to leave this is a violation of United States Immigration law. Deportation can follow and they may be ineligible for future entry into the United States.

What if my fiancé is in the United States illegally? - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services generally cannot adjust their status to that of a permanent resident while they are in the United States. After you marry, however, you may be able to file the I-130 relative petition which would allow them to request an immigrant visa at an overseas consulate or the United States Embassy.

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