It’s not uncommon for U.S. military service members to meet the love of their life while serving overseas or simply while living at home in the U.S.
If you have married or plan to marry an American soldier and want to apply for permanent residence in the United States, it can be done despite complications that arise as a result of a service member’s hectic schedule and travel requirements.
Your U.S. citizen spouse or fiancé will need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Resident, or Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé. This will initiate the application process which usually includes an interview.
This process may require special planning if your significant other is deployed or his or her military service obligations create a scheduling conflict, but membership in the U.S. armed forces should not pose a burden to obtaining your fiancé or marriage visa.
Government Efforts to Help Military Members and Their Families
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) works with the Department of Defense to ensure the military community has accurate and up-to-date information about immigration services and benefits that service members may be eligible for, including expedited or overseas naturalization.
In 2010 the Secretary of Homeland Security identified several discretionary tools the Department uses “to help military dependents secure permanent immigration status in the United States as soon as possible.”
As a part of these efforts, in 2013 USCIS issued a policy statement aimed at making the process of immigration and naturalization easier for military family members.
In order to complete your application and gain legal residence as a fiancé or spouse of a member of the U.S. military, you should consult an immigration lawyer for help and advice. This is a complicated process and small mistakes can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
If you are already in the United States legally and seeking to adjust your status, you may need to file Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This will be in addition to Form I-130 or Form I-129F which your loved one will need to file as a legal citizen.
While these forms usually need the signature of your citizen spouse or fiancé, by including evidence of the military member’s assignment abroad along with the required evidence listed in the instructions on the form, his or her signature may not be required on your form(s).
USCIS usually holds an Adjustment of Status interview with applicants for marriage and fiancé visas which require the presence of the citizen petitioner. However, if he or she is currently deployed with the military they will likely be able to conduct your interview without him or her.
At the interview, you should bring evidence of your spouse’s military assignment abroad.
For example, evidence could be a photocopy of the official orders or a letter from your spouse’s commanding officer. You should bring this in addition to all other evidence requested by your interview notice.
Aliens in the United States Illegally
Historically, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires illegal residents to return to their home country for processing before being granted legal residence as a spouse or fiancé.
But Parole in Place allows aliens applying for admission to the United States to remain in the country despite the fact that he or she has not been legally admitted.
Parole in Place can be used at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security and in 2013 the USCIS announced it would allow dependents of U.S. military members to remain in the country while their applications for permanent residence are processed.
However, this is not a permanent change in the law and we cannot be certain how long the policy will be in place. Because this is used at the Department’s discretion, it’s equally important – if not more important – for you to consult an attorney if you think Parole in Place will apply to you.
If your spouse gave his or her life during honorable service in an active duty status in the U.S. armed forces, you may be eligible for naturalization.
The USCIS gives special consideration in processing their applications for permanent residence or classification as an immediate relative.
Additional Requirements and Special Circumstances
Remember that applying for permanent residence as a fiancé or spouse of an American citizen – including members of the military – can be a long process and likely involves rules and requirements from a variety of sources which you may not be aware of.
The United States government tries to help family members of military personnel, but the inherent complications accommodating a military schedule and deployments can make the process difficult.
There are specific procedures in place to help you and your military spouse complete the application process for a visa, and identifying how to use these procedures to your benefit is best done with legal counsel.
Given the complex nature of such proceedings, you should consult an immigration attorney to ensure that you navigate the application process effectively and receive the outcome you and your spouse or fiancé want.