If you are an American citizen marrying a foreigner who is your bae and who is in the U.S. on a tourist visa – as cliche as it sounds or something out of a cheesy Hallmark movie, it is very true and happens more often than one might think.
The only problem occurs when a U.S. citizen doesn't have the full details required and things go wrong or are cumbersome or downright illegal.
It's 100% legal, and there's nothing wrong with marrying a foreigner on a tourist visa; However, when marrying a foreigner, there are some complications or things to be aware of.
1. Marriage must be spontaneous
If the authorities get even a whiff that the marriage was planned in advance and the current spouse applied for a tourist visa while intending to marry on U.S. soil to obtain a green card, it can get very complicated and very fast.
In such cases, when the U.S. citizen marries a foreigner and the couple is engaged or betrothed, it is recommended to apply for an engagement visa for future smooth travel.
The lie told during the visa interview in front of the designated official is called visa fraud and does not paint a pretty picture for future interviews or processes for obvious reasons.
2. Follow the 90-day rule
Know that immigration officials adhere to a standard called the 90-day rule. The standard states that tourists who are stopped during their first 90 days in the United States are at a higher risk for visa falsification or visa fraud.
To stay off the visa authorities' radar, postpone the wedding for the next three months from the day you arrive in the United States. The longer you wait, the better.
Ideally, your foreign partner should plan to return to their country of origin before applying for another visa or green card status.
This keeps the terms of the six-month travel visa in place and minimizes the risk of being accused of visa fraud.
It can take a few months for the U.S. Embassy to approve the application, but this is by far the easiest way to become a legal resident of the United States.
Commitment of visa fraud
If immigration authorities sniff out visa fraud, that person can be jailed, deported, or, if push comes to shove, denied or banned from entering the country.
3. Requesting an adjustment of status
In the event that your new partner does not wish to return to his or her country of origin, he or she can apply for an adjustment of status in the U.S.
This way can be very exhausting, but is certainly feasible. To obtain status, you must prove that the marriage is genuine, and you must convince immigration authorities that the marriage was not planned.
The end product of this process is assigned as a lawful permanent resident, also known as a green card.
After five years in the United States with a sizable green card, your spouse may be eligible to apply for naturalization and become a U.S. citizen.
4. Apply for a K-1 visa for fiancees
If someone wants to travel to the United States to marry a U.S. citizen, they should apply for a K-1 fiance visa, not a B-2 tourist visa.
Under a K-1 visa, the alien must be stopped within 90 days of entering the United States. After the marriage, the person can apply for adjustment of status without leaving the United States.
A K-1 visa application is usually filled out by the person who is a resident of the U.S. The fiance should document Form I-129, Petition for Alien Fiance, with USCIS. If the foreigner has children, he can travel to the United States on a K-2 visa.
Also view: Questions and answers about the K1 visa interview for engaged couples.
5. Seek professional legal advice
The first thing a smart person does when it comes to resolving issues related to a foreign national's marriage is to contact an experienced immigration attorney.
Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you increase your chances of settling with the help of a person who knows what they are doing.
6. Do not attempt visa fraud
The second thing one should do if they have fallen so much in love with a particular person that they have married them and that person is on the verge of deportation because their tourist visa is about to expire, is to let that person back to their hometown and then reapply for the spouse visa.
It may take a few weeks or months, but it increases your chances of finding your permanent residence.
However, when marrying a foreigner in the U.S., there are some proofs you should have up your sleeve before leaving the U.S. and entering your home country
- A return ticket home
- Letters from employers
7. After receiving the visa
If you marry a foreigner, if you are lucky enough to get the visa, congratulations!
What to do next? Can you go anywhere? Like at home?
Sorry, but the answer to this would be a resounding no.
Although they have obtained their residency visa, if they want to make their residency permanent and independent of their spouse, they would have to remain in the U.S. continuously for five years before they can reapply for permanent residency.
In a nut shell
So if you are marrying a foreigner on a tourist visa, here's what you need to do to keep immigration officials off your trail:
- Preplanned weddings
- Follow the 30/60 day rule
- Go through the proper channels