Are you thinking about getting married in the USA?
It might not be the first thing you think about when you start dating online but the process of getting married in the USA can really be challenging. This is not something to be worried about as there is plenty of good information. This Facebook Group is one of our favorites. There are plenty of members there to help you through each stage. My wife & I applied for a fiancee visa three years ago. The whole process took us nearly 10 months from start to finish.
With long distance relationship the subject of marriage will likely become a discussion at some point. Your partner may have a specific country, wedding style and even date in mind. That will certainly makes things more interesting if you have different thoughts/expectations. From experience moving from a relationship to marriage is not such a quick thing. It takes time, when you eventually meet in real life all the time you have already invested does make it easier to build confidence in each other.
How to start the process of getting a fiancee visa?
When your both sure it is right for you, it is quite simple to start the process. The US resident goes to the USCIS website and looks at the requirements. If they meet those requirements then they can download the Form I-129F and fill out all the required information. In our case it took about 5 days to complete as there were a few documents and requirements that needed to be met. The US citizen is the one who has to fill in the form and our advice at this stage is to make sure you take your time. Don’t provide too little or too much information. A big fat application will take longer to be processed while a thin application with take longer as the USCIS have to request additional documents/evidence at various stages through the application process.
After you apply and send in the initial fee of $530 + the green card fee after marriage of $1,250. After that application is sent by post there is a wait of about two months for the first confirmation letter which explains that the USCIS have received your application. This letter is very important for getting married in the USA and should be stored safely for future reference during the application. The USA applicant will need to supply a proof of income form. This part can be a bit confusing so take your time. Your income needs to be $22,000 + if self employed and $25,000 + if an employee. You can find other family members or friends to sponsor your affidavit of support.
The next stage comes after a much longer wait. The times vary but it can be a year or more. You can check the USCIS website to see where you are in the application process. There may be additional requests for documents or you may both be inform that a embassy/consulate appointment can now be requested. Navigating the appointment screens to arrange the appointment can be confusing. Your partner will now need to get a medical, provide certain official documents & attend the interviews. The actual interviews can take a few hours.
It’s time for the interview, be prepared…
Things to take into consideration when at the interview stage. You can both attend though this is not that important. If the US applicant has been outside the US for more than three months they may be asked to return home before their fiancee is issued the visa. I got caught by that one as I was on holiday at the time of the application. I had to cut my trip short and return back to the USA as soon as possible. Then when I got home I had to provide additional evidence that I am a US resident. Sounds easy but if you have been away for over a month then you need to get organized.
Flying into the US for the first time can be quite scary for your fiancee though in reality the processing at immigration is painless and usually takes less the 30 minutes. My wife entered through Los Angeles and she said it was really easy and pretty quick.
Try to be ready with your wedding plans.
When you do both meet on US soil for the first time you still have a few things to sort out. To meet the USCIS fiancee visa requirements you will need to get married within 3 months. Only after the marriage is confirmed can your foreign partner apply for their Green Card (currently $1,250). Setting up a wedding can take time so try to plan in advance.
Please be aware your foreign partner will not be allowed to work until a work permit or the green card are issued. Usually the USCIS issue them at the same time. Processing times varies by state and by case but you can expect long delays in California and major cities. Typical processing times are 5 to 18 months. Be aware that the US citizen will need to give full financial support during this time and pay for medical insurance for their wife. State aid, even if you lost your job, is not applicable to your fiancee until she gets her 10 year green card.
One thing you won’t be told but can be useful to know… Your wife may be able to apply for a social security card. It varies by state if they will issue one and the card will state that they are not allowed to work. However it is a useful thing to have for many reasons including proving status.
For us the process of getting married in the USA took us about 18 month. The process is still ongoing and hopefully later this year my wife will get her 10 year Green Card. At which time she will have all the rights of a American citizen. The fees and requirements do keep getting tougher thanks to the US government. This should not put you off though as he is not against lawful entry for immigrants.