How To Marry A Non-U.S. Citizen | Explained

When you have a non-US citizen fiancé that you wish to get married to, there are different ways you could make that happen. As a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States, the marriage process that you choose depends on whether the foreign spouse lives abroad or in the United States.

If both of you are living abroad, there is also a different process on how to marry a non-U.S. citizen. This article guides you on the possible ways of marrying a non-U.S. citizen, and all the requirements and conditions that must be met, especially if they plan to settle in the U.S.

If Both The Foreign Fiancé And The US Citizen Fiancé Are In The United States

If your intended foreign national marriage partner already lives in the U.S., you may plan to get married and be registered with the relevant state or county officials. Your alien fiancé will then be required to apply for an adjustment of status.

This application changes the status of the foreign national from a non-immigrant to an immigrant. If the application to adjust status is accepted, the foreign national will then be granted a lawful permanent residence status that allows them to live and work in the United States.

Factors To Consider When Marrying A Foreign National Living In The U.S.

Foreign nationals living in the United States must adhere to the country’s immigration laws. The USCIS provides these guidelines under the 90-day rule.

Firstly, the foreign national must provide genuine reasons for their visit to the U.S. An immigration officer or a Customs and Border Protection agent (CBP) will interview the foreigner at their port of entry to determine whether they may be granted entry into the United States.

In most cases, the officials would like to determine whether the visitors have intentions of leaving the country before the expiry of their visa.

The 90-Day Rule

The 90-day rule is a guideline provided by the Department of State to evaluate the activities of a foreign national during the first 90 days after being admitted into the country. The following actions by a foreigner may be considered to have violated the rule.

  • Getting unauthorized unemployment within the first 90 days
  • Getting married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident within the first 90 days
  • Unlawfully enrolling into a school within the first 90 days

If your marriage to your foreign fiancé takes place within the first 90 days after their date of entry into the U.S., the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service may have reasons to believe that the foreigner lied about their initial intentions when seeking a travel visa.

Consequently, the immigrant’s adjustment of status application may be denied and their visa revoked.

If The Immigrant Observes The 90-Day Rule

If the immigrant abides by these guidelines, their application for adjustment of status may be considered. The U.S. citizen spouse will now be considered as the sponsoring spouse and may file Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative, which may be done concurrently with the spouse’s application for Form I-485 Adjustment Of Status.

Once these two applications have been received, the USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment for the foreign spouse, followed by a green card interview. At the interview, the interviewing officer will seek further information from the couple regarding their union, based on the details provided in their application, and others deemed necessary by the official.

The application procedure for a marriage-based green card varies according to the status of the sponsoring spouse. Here’s how:

The Sponsoring Spouse Is A Citizen Of the United States

The immigrant spouse does not need to maintain a valid immigration status if they are married to a U.S. citizen. The USCIS may forgive the status of the immigrant spouse as they await the approval of their green card application. A green card slot is often immediately available for immigrant spouses married to U.S. citizens.

The Sponsoring Spouse Is A U.S. Green Card Holder

The immigrant spouse who is married to a U.S. green card holder, also known as a permanent resident, will have to maintain legal immigration status before filing Form I-485 to adjust their status. This is because an immigrant spouse has to wait until a green card slot is available prior to submitting their application.

For example, if the green card number is expected to be available after 30 months, the non-U.S spouse must ensure that their immigration paperwork is valid and up to date.

If The Foreign Spouse To A U.S. Citizen Lives Abroad

In this situation, there are two ways to get married. The U.S. citizen spouse may decide to travel abroad to marry their foreign spouse. Alternatively, they may petition the U.S. government to allow their spouse to join them in the U.S. solely for marriage.

Getting Married Abroad

The first option is for the U.S. citizen to travel to the home country of their immigrant fiancé and get married there. The couple will then start the process of applying for the marriage-based green card for the non-U.S. citizen spouse. This green card is applied through the U.S. embassy or the consulate of the country where the wedding took place.

The sponsoring spouse must file Form I-130 to inform the U.S. government about the union. This petition will be followed by Form DS-160 Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application filed by the immigrant spouse. The process is commonly referred to as consular processing.

Fiancé Visa Application For The Non-U.S Citizen

A Fiancé visa is also referred to as a K-1 visa. This type of visa grants a foreign national entry into the United States on temporary non-immigrant status for the purposes of getting married to their engaged spouse.

The couple must get married within 90 days failure to which the visa and the foreigner’s stay in the U.S. become invalid. On the other hand, if the couple gets married within 90 days, the alien spouse will be required to file Form I-485 to adjust their status by obtaining a green card.

The application for the K-1 visa begins when the sponsoring spouse files Form I-129F Petition For Alien Fiancé with the USCIS. This petition is accompanied by the required supporting documents and fees. if successful, the National Visa Center will forward the case to the U.S. embassy or consulate where the foreign spouse is expected to attend their interview.

Before then, the foreign spouse must file DS-160 to apply for the visa. If the interview is successful, the foreign spouse will be granted a visa to allow them to travel to the United States.

Some eligibility requirements for the K-1 visa, as stipulated by the USCIS, include:

  • The sponsoring spouse must be a U.S. citizen. Green card holders (permanent residents) are not eligible to sponsor a foreign fiancé for a K-1 visa.
  • The petitioner must be legally free to marry. If they were married before, evidence of the termination of the previous marriage must be presented.
  • Both parties must intend to marry (each other) within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival in the United States.
  • The two must have met physically within the last two years. Online meetings are not considered under this category.
  • The U.S. citizen spouse must meet the income requirements stipulated by the U.S. government.

If Both The US Citizen And The Foreign National Are Outside The U.S.

In this case, there are several factors that may be considered for the marriage to take place. One of the factors is the place where the couple would like to have their marriage ceremony. The second factor that may be considered is the place where the couple would like to settle after their marriage.

Couple Intending To Get Married In The U.S.

The best option that favors this decision is for the foreign fiancé to apply for a K-1 visa that allows them to travel to the U.S. and marry their spouse. The U.S citizen will not need a visa to go back to their own country.

Once the foreign national enters the U.S., they must get married within the time stipulated in the visa. If the couple wishes to stay in the U.S. permanently, the foreign national will apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a green card.

Couple Intending To Get Married In The U.S. But Live Abroad

Some couples may wish to conduct their marriage in the U.S., but settle abroad after marriage. If that is your case, your foreign partner may not need to apply for a green card in the U.S. to adjust their status. Instead, they may need a temporary visa, such as a tourist visa to enter the U.S.

The foreign spouse must also observe the 90-day-rule guidelines from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. They may leave the country after the marriage instead of applying for a green card to adjust their status. Couples that settle for such an option may have considered their employment abroad or family ties such as children and parents.

Types of Marriages That Are Considered Legal In The United States

The United States laws consider many types of marriages legal. If a couple gets married abroad, they must issue a marriage certificate from the official authorities of that country. The United States laws state that a marriage is considered legal if the place of celebration is valid and the jurisdiction of the place of celebration allows it.

However, there are some exceptions to this. There are some types of marriages that are not legal in the U.S. These marriages include the following:

  • Civil unions
  • Child marriages
  • Domestic partnerships
  • Proxy marriages
  • Polygamous marriages
  • Marriages for immigration purposes

Even though some of these types of marriages may be recognized in the foreign national’s home country, they are not considered legal in the U.S.

Same-Sex Marriages

Marriage between two people of the same gender is considered legal in the U.S. However, if such a couple gets married abroad in a country that does not recognize this type of marriage, the U.S. will also not recognize it as legal for the purpose of immigration.

Marriage is bound by the laws of the place or jurisdiction where it occurred. If the place does not deem it legal, then the USCIS will also deem the marriage illegal.

Marriage Fraud

The USCIS carefully investigates the authenticity of marriages between a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, and a foreigner. People who use marriage as their tickets to enter the U.S. for their own reasons other than actually getting married are considered to have committed marriage visa fraud.

Such individuals may have their green card revoked, including their chances of ever obtaining a visa in the future.

The USCIS always requires sufficient evidence that proves the marriage is bona fide. If the information provided in the application is not sufficient, the immigration officer may request the applicant to provide it by sending them a request for evidence form (RFE).

If you ever receive such a request, it is important that you respond in time. A delayed response may further increase the time needed to process your application.

The officer may also decide to invite the immigrant spouse for an interview to prove the authenticity of the marriage. The interview is usually scheduled if the USCIS establishes the need to find out additional information about the applicant, based on the information they initially provided in their submissions. This does not necessarily mean that the provided information is questionable; in most cases, the officers seek further clarification in order to decide whether to approve the application.

Read more: How To Marry A U.S. Citizen


  • Commit To Citizenship Staff

    Commit To Citizenship‘s team consists of individuals who have successfully immigrated to the United States and have learned how to avoid common mistakes in filling out immigration applications. Our team works closely with immigration lawyers to ensure that all content provided on our website is up-to-date and accurate. We offer guidance on a range of immigration topics, including green cards, diversity visas, and DACA.