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Can we go ahead and get married?
March 18, 2008 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I am a US citizen. My fiance is a UK citizen. We want to live in the US. In fact, we already own a home together, and he is making trips back and forth. We don't want to wait the 6+ months it will take for a K-1 visa to be approved before we get married. Can we legally marry while he is here on a tourist visa? If we do, does he have to return to the UK if we file for a change of status? What problems might this cause with immigration?
posted by sapphirebbw to Law & Government (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Spending a few hours with a lawyer will more than pay for itself. (e.g. compare a few hundred bucks to waiting 6 months, or messing up his immigration status)
posted by winston at 7:21 PM on March 18, 2008


VisaJourney.com, as ever, is your friend.

Yes, you can get married while he's in the US on a tourist visa. Yes, he then has to go back and apply for a K-3. Yes, that takes about six months too. No, he won't be able to visit the US in the meantime unless he has a very good reason. Unless he's got large amounts of money to invest, a world-class talent, or some other visa claim, the options are limited. (That you co-own a home might already be taken as intent to remain...)
posted by holgate at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2008


Worst case scenario? Your fiance is determined to have committed visa fraud and is banned from entry for X number of years.

Just do the K1 paperwork. It's not that hard and it's better to wait six months for the K1 than to get rejected when filing for AOS.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:45 PM on March 18, 2008


Yes. I agree that we should talk to an immigration lawyer and am in the process of trying to find one here in Tennessee. Any suggestions? I just thought this wonderful hive might have some insights for us in the meantime.
posted by sapphirebbw at 7:49 PM on March 18, 2008


I'm a Canadian citizen who married an American. I did this on a tourist visa, we filed an adjustment of status (through a lawyer) and I was a permanent resident 5 months later. According to our lawyer, we did this "the best way", since I was genuinely a tourist at the time and we didn't get married until months after I was here.

The lawyer was definitely worth it, looking at all the questions we had and sheer amount of paperwork involved. I'd worry in your case that having a house together would actually look bad for coming on a tourist visa -- if anything says "we're planning on getting married" it'd be having a house.

Also seconding visajourney.com
posted by stephthegeek at 8:18 PM on March 18, 2008


Alternatively you could do what we did - seperate your marriage out into the legal formality (to be carried out in the UK) and the actual cremeony and public event (to be held in the UK). Admittedly this will only work if you are fairly non traditional.
posted by Artw at 8:45 PM on March 18, 2008


That should be "public event (to be held in the US)", of course.
posted by Artw at 8:46 PM on March 18, 2008


Do not let him come to the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intent of getting married and remaining here. He's not supposed to do that, and if the immigration authorities find out, they will not be happy.

If the immigration authorities ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
posted by oaf at 8:47 PM on March 18, 2008


I agree that we should talk to an immigration lawyer and am in the process of trying to find one here in Tennessee. Any suggestions?

You really don't need an immigration lawyer unless your case is complicated -- and you're actively complicating your case.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:23 PM on March 18, 2008


stephthegeek: I'm not sure when you got married, but the USCIS has taken an increasingly dim view on 'oh, we just decided to get married on the spur of the moment while he/she was here visiting' applications to adjust status over the past handful of years. This is in part because visa waivers or visitor visas are now generally valid for shorter periods than pre-2001. (Canadians get special treatment because of NAFTA: they get 180 days on visa waiver, Yurpeans get 90.)

It's not something to consider without a very good immigration lawyer, particularly if you have property in your fiancé's name. I'd imagine that there's a special red alarm bell at USCIS dedicated for things like that.

Like I said, if you want an alternative, look at other visa classes.
posted by holgate at 9:31 PM on March 18, 2008


yes it is legal to come and get married in the US on a tourist visa. many UK/US couples get married in the US because it's cheaper and quicker than getting married in the UK.

no, it's *not* legal to come and get married in the US on a tourist visa with the intent to settle. if the immigration officers believe this is likely to be the case, they may not allow you entry.

if you wish to come to the US, get married, then have your UK spouse return to the UK to await the proper visas, this is legal - but make sure it's crystal clear that this is your intention. letters from employers (stating an expected return to work at the UK job), mortgage statements and such can be good supporting proof in this case.
posted by wayward vagabond at 2:15 AM on March 19, 2008


Do not let him come to the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intent of getting married and remaining here.

Who said he was? He just came here on a tourist visa with the intent of getting married. Getting married is not automatically immigrant intent and therefore wouldn't violate the "dual intent" restrictions on a B visa. This is especially true if he then proves it by departing the country before his time expires.

Do as wayward vagabond says. Go ahead and get married. He may run into trouble trying to come and go during the period he awaits his K-3 as he would be demonstrating both immigrant and nonimmigrant intent.

A lawyer is not going to speed up the process, nor is a lawyer going to guarantee success. Any lawyer who claims this is lying. All the lawyer is good for in this case is making sure that you filled in all the boxes correctly, and frankly, you can save a lot of money by getting an immigration law for dummies type book, the same book the lawyer will be using in your case and charging you several hundred dollars.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:56 AM on March 19, 2008


Be aware that:

*Getting married first and then bringing him over the reasonable way will cost more. IIRC, you'll be filing and paying for an I-130, waiting for the NOA on that, and then filing and paying for a K-3, and then filing and paying for the AOS paperwork. If you bring him in as your fiancee, you don't have to file and pay for the 130.

*It might well also take longer than bringing him in as a fiancee, because of the extra step.

*Once you are married, that might affect your ability to travel to Britain as well. So you might find that by marrying first, you are apart longer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:15 AM on March 19, 2008


What you are planning on doing is exactly what my (Canadian) wife and I did - on accident.

It was because of this accident (she stated she was moving here, the border guard asked if she planned to leave...her response was "If I have to.") He shouldn't have let her in, but he did - and that mistake kept her from having to leave.

Had you not asked any questions, or known the rules, often times there's some types of exception for that. You know the rules, though - and you're trying to short circuit them. This is, perhaps, the worst thing you can do with USCIS; they will forgive a multitude of sins against them, but lying is almost unforgivable. Its the rule you keep above all others, and the one that can muck things up the easiest.

While it worked out for us, it could have very easily gone the other way - and, if you haven't figured out yet, the immigration process in the US is no walk in the park on the best of terms. Be prepared for a lot of questions from other citizens (Most common refrain: "But you got married! That fixes everything, right?" You'll hear that one until it comes out your ears.)

Do yourself a serious favor and get the Visa - I know it sucks, but after having to pay for an attorney (!!!) to deal with our snafu, I wished we'd just done things by the book.

(BTW - our excuse for not doing stuff by the book is that, in the couple of years after 9/11, the book was being rewritten. You shouldn't have such a huge problem, as things have settled down by leaps and bounds at USCIS.)
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:32 AM on March 19, 2008


Oh, and Pollomacho could not be more wrong - the immigration system is more complex than you think - doubly so if you screw up. Having someone check all the boxes will take quite a bit of pressure off of you and your fiancee/spouse, and prevent more severe problems in the future.

It took us 4 years of reasearch - two college graduates, of (what we think) is above average intelligence - for us to ultimately almost fuck things up. This is not something you want to do yourself from a "For Dummies" book. This rules are not written for laymen to interpret - if you can afford it, get an attorney.
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:37 AM on March 19, 2008


You really shouldn't need a lawyer if:

(1) Your case is normal. No convictions / arrests in the foreigner's past, American hasn't petitioned for 3 other foreigners, relationship is real and formed naturally (ie, not an arranged marriage or mail-order marriage where the two haven't met, etc.

(2) You make liberal use of visajourney and the usenet group alt.visa.us.marriage-based . Both have many posters who've been around the block to provide advice. Including practicing immigration lawyers who, last I checked, did an excellent job of offering general descriptions of how things work and what should be done without giving actionable legal advice.

(3) You can keep your cool through at least one weird fuckup on their part.

That's need. There's nothing wrong with hiring a lawyer to help you, if you want to spend the money. The only thing is, if you do, hire an immigration lawyer and not some general-purpose lawyer.

We went through this without legal assistance and it was for the most part smooth sailing. On the other hand, I admit that I have a PhD in political science, so I'm not the most common petitioner, and it was still confusing.

The most fun part: we get mail, finally, from USCIS. It says "You didn't turn up for your fingerprinting appointment, so fuck you. You can appeal if you want." At this point I realize that I regularly teach graduate and undergraduate classes on Congress, and I keep mentioning this casework thing... Anyway, the time elapsed between opening the envelope and opening a case with the local Representative was, no shit, five minutes or less. Turned out to be a Post Office fuckup; they'd returned the appointment letter unmailed for no obvious reason.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:01 AM on March 19, 2008


I agree that we should talk to an immigration lawyer and am in the process of trying to find one here in Tennessee. Any suggestions?

People here are correct about what a lawyer can actually achieve, but Mrs ob and I hired an immigration attorney anyway. My case was not complicated, but we decided to spend the money, I'm sure it would have been fine without the attorney, but ours was great so it smoothed everything along. We found our attorney by asking my wife's friend's step-father (who's a judge) if he could recommend anyone. If you want to find a reputable immigration attorney, then maybe you could ask someone you know who's in a related field if they know of anyone. I think that we definitely would not have hired an attorney if we had had to pick a name out of the phonebook.
posted by ob at 8:18 AM on March 19, 2008


I agree that we should talk to an immigration lawyer and am in the process of trying to find one here in Tennessee. Any suggestions?

aila.com has a find-a-lawyer section. That'll get you names. Then you can google the names to try to find testimonials and warnings.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 AM on March 19, 2008


First, I want to thank everyone so far for your imput. I really appreciate your views and experiences.

Second, I want to assure everyone that we are not trying to break any laws, lie to or pull anything over on the government, or short circuit the system. I'm very concerned that we do things legally and in a manner that doesn't cause us problems later on.

I've been to various immigration sites, including the USCIS and visajourney and have found conflicting information, even within the same site. One place I read says it's ok to go ahead and marry , another place says it may not be such a good idea. There's just so much information to sift through. I totally agree that the process is very confusing and frustrating and that getting a lawyer is the way to go.

I really hope that buying the house doesn't complicate things. Of course, we bought it with the intention that eventually we would be married and that he would be living here, not just visiting. I don't see the problem with that and I hope they don't either.

Thanks again!
posted by sapphirebbw at 9:27 AM on March 19, 2008


One place I read says it's ok to go ahead and marry , another place says it may not be such a good idea.

These are both true.

It's perfectly legal for you to marry in the US, for him to go back to the UK, and for you to file the I-130 and K-3. He should bring LOTS of documentation proving his intent to return to the UK with him on that trip, and there will be a nonzero chance that he will be turned away at the "border" in the airport if the agents don't believe him.

But doing it this way will waste time and money. You can do it if you want to, and if being legally married ASAP is important to you, but really it's not the smart way to do this. The smart way would be to just file the K-1 paperwork, marry here, and then do the AOS shuffle. If anything, owning a house together should help the K1 and AOS paperwork go through faster, since entanglement of your financial lives is one thing they look for.

The really not smart thing would be to enter on the visa waiver with the intent to immediately marry and reside in the US. THAT is the big no-no.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2008


Yes, the joint ownership of the house is a huge plus.

Oh, and Pollomacho could not be more wrong - the immigration system is more complex than you think - doubly so if you screw up. Having someone check all the boxes will take quite a bit of pressure off of you and your fiancee/spouse, and prevent more severe problems in the future.

I couldn't agree more with your second sentence, but placing yourselves in the hand of someone who does not have experience with your particular type of case and particular type of filings is going to mean that you and your "for dummies" book are going to be just as qualified to go over the files as your $1000 lawyer. To be honest, lawyers don't even do these cases, their paralegals do them, but you still get the joy that comes from paying attorney's fees.

CIS is more navigable at this point, but is still a bitch. You can get status reports on filings now, but that is a bitch too. That is a real advantage of a qualified lawyer, you at least have people that know when to start looking for mailings and when you should just relax.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2008


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