There’s a common misconception that if you, as an American citizen, marry your foreign-born partner abroad, that person automatically earns the right to immigrate to the U.S. In actuality, the process is a bit more complicated than that.
In this article, we break down the main criteria and considerations for couples going through this process:
If you’re a U.S. citizen who’s planning to get married to your partner in their country of origin, you first want to do your homework on that country’s laws surrounding marriage. You will want to find out:
- Is there a residency requirement or minimum stay requirement for you to get married?
- Will you need a certain type of visa?
- What other documents will you need to present?
- If you’re in a same-sex relationship, is same-sex marriage legal in that country? If not, then you may want to apply for K-1 fiancé visa. With this visa, you can bring your partner to the U.S. to get married.
- What types of marriage certificates are officially recognized in that country?
Once married, your foreign-born partner doesn’t automatically become a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant. The next step is to submit Form I-130 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with your wedding certificate. Again, the final step in the previous section is critical, because the USCIS will check that country’s rules of what types of marriage certificates are considered valid and will deny your application if yours doesn’t meet that standard.
In order to bring your partner to the U.S., you will need to be able to demonstrate that you can support them financially. For this, you’ll have to complete an Affidavit of Support—Form I-864. There are certain requirements to complete this form:
- You must be a resident of the U.S., and you must present proof to that effect (e.g., apartment lease, mortgage documentation). It’s not sufficient to return to the U.S. only for the duration of your partner’s immigration process.
- You need to earn at least 125 percent of the income listed in the HHS Poverty Guidelines.
If you want to get married to a partner from another country, there may be a variety of options available to you. It’s a good idea to talk to an immigration attorney to discuss which course of action is best for you.