Is your fiancé a citizen of another country? Are you a citizen of the United States? Are you both free to marry (not married to anyone else)?
If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, you may be able to get a green card for your fiancé.
You should know, however, that applying for a green card for your fiancé can be a lengthy process. After you file your application, it can take several months, or even a whole year, before your significant other receives their green card in the mail.
Even more disheartening is the fact that processing times often vary. Officially, there is no standard time length for how long you’ll wait. You can, however, look up the current average processing time on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
In this article we’ll go over all the information you need to know when filing for your fiancé’s green card. Even though getting a green card for your fiancé can take quite some time, rest assured that the effort you spend on this process will be well worth it in the end.
Making the Process as Quick as Possible
USCIS acts as the central agency you’ll interact with throughout the green card process. You’ll send your forms to them, pay your fees to them, and in many cases even interview with them. However, USCIS also processes a large number of green card applications each year. Due to the extreme backlog of applications, you should expect long delays and changes in processing times.
To ensure your process goes as quickly as possible, you should make sure both you and your fiancé follow USCIS’s guidelines perfectly. You can find the general steps listed below.
However, you should at the very least have an experienced attorney look over your application. Even a single misstep can lengthen your waiting time by several months. Hiring an attorney is recommended is almost every green card case.
Step One: File the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé.
If you’re already a U.S. citizen, you should specifically petition on behalf of your significant other for a K-1 fiancé visa. This visa will allow your fiancé to enter the U.S. for 90 days to attend your wedding. Essentially, as a U.S. citizen you’re sponsoring their entry into the country.
Your fiancé will then file for an adjustment of status after your wedding. This is the process that actually ends with your fiancé receiving their green card. Remember, however, that if you don’t marry your fiancé within the 90 day time frame they must leave the country immediately. Otherwise they risk deportation, which can negatively affect any future applications.
To apply for a fiancé visa, you and your fiancé should fill out Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé and send it to USCIS. This application should also include the $535 filing fee.
After your fiancé enters the country on a K-1 visa, and you are married, you can file an application for an adjustment of status using Form I-485. This will change your fiancé’s immigration status from “entered the country temporarily to get married” to “permanent resident.”
What if we’re already married?
If you’re already married, you’ll instead file for your spouse as an “alien relative.” You can do this with an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Also, instead of filing for an adjustment of status, your spouse must instead file for a green card through their local U.S. consulate or embassy.
Step Two: File the Application for Adjustment of Status.
As mentioned earlier, you should marry your fiancé within 90 days of their entry into the U.S. Immediately after your wedding, you should file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence with USCIS and pay the $1,225 filing fee. You can do so on the USCIS website.
The application itself is pretty straightforward, however, often you’ll run into problems with the supplemental materials. Basically, USCIS will ask for additional evidence so they can make sure your marriage is legitimate.
If USCIS needs additional evidence for your application, they’ll send out what’s known as a “Request for Evidence” (RFE). You should always keep a copy of your application for your records so you can better understand what information USCIS is specifically asking for.
Remember, a RFE isn’t the end of the world. It just means that the officer in charge of your case wants extra assurance your relationship is real. There have been many cases of visa fraud over the past few years. Because of this, USCIS will send out an RFE if there’s even a shred of doubt.
Step Three: Go to your Biometrics Appointment and Interview.
After the Adjustment of Status application is in, USCIS will arrange a number of appointments. The general process goes as follows:
- First, USCIS will contact you both to schedule a “biometrics” appointment. Basically, this appointment creates a file for future criminal background checks. During this appointment, they will fingerprint your fiancé and take their picture.
- Second, USCIS will contact you both for an interview. These interviews normally take place somewhere around 4 months after USCIS received your original application.
If both of these appointments are a success, USCIS will begin the paperwork to send your fiancé their green card and visa. Note, however, that just this process alone can sometimes take several months depending on which office you filed with.
In addition, many applicants receive RFEs after their interview. This is normal, and basically a product of USCIS finishing up your paperwork.
Patience and Planning
As you can see, getting a green card for your fiancé is a long process. While it’s not impossible to do—about 30,000 aliens become U.S. permanent residents through this process each year—it can certainly be a challenge without preparation.
As with many immigration issues the fiancé visa process requires a lot of patience and planning on your part. In general, the process can last from as little as a few months to as long as several years.
For this reason, it’s generally recommended that you hire an experienced immigration attorney to help you with a process. Having an attorney by your side can make the entire process much easier to swallow. It can also allow you to enjoy your time with your significant other without the stress of dealing with USCIS yourself.