Every year, thousands of foreign-born people become engaged or married to U.S. citizens. The immigration process for Green Card through marriage varies based on whether you intend to marry the U.S. citizen in the U.S. or outside the U.S. Each of these situations will require slightly different planning and procedures.
What Constitutes a Valid Marriage
According to U.S. immigration laws, the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where the marriage was performed, and legal eligibility of both parties to the marriage.
Certain marriages that are valid and recognized in the place where they were performed are ineligible for availing U.S. immigration benefits:
Common Law Marriage
Common law marriages are not considered valid under the U.S. immigration laws unless they are recognized as legal in the jurisdiction of residence or last residence.
Marriages performed according to local customs are not valid under the U.S. immigration laws, if they are considered invalid by the law of the place where the marriage was performed.
Polygamous marriages are not recognized under the U.S. immigration laws even if they were legally contracted in countries where polygamy is accepted.
Marriages between close family members are not recognized under the U.S. immigration laws even if they were legally contracted in countries where such marriages are accepted.
A proxy marriage is a marriage performed with one or both parties to the marriage not physically present in the ceremony. These are held invalid under U.S. immigration laws unless the marriage was subsequently consummated under the laws of the land.
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Marriage within the U.S.
If your intended spouse is in the U.S., you may marry and file the USCIS Form I-130
and for adjustment of status
at the same time. If your intended spouse is outside the U.S., you may file for a K-1 visa for him/her.
Eligibility for the K-1 Visa
You must remain unmarried until the arrival of your fiancee in the U.S., and the wedding must take place within 90 days of your fiancee's arrival if he/she is to remain in status. You and your foreign fiancee must have met personally at least once in the two years before the petition was filed.