European marrying a US citizen - US visa process?
May 27, 2012 4:41 AM   Subscribe

European marrying a US citizen - US visa process?

My partner is American, I'm Irish, we're living in South East Asia and plan to get married in the next 12 months. Can anyone give me a rundown on what my status will be in the US when we get married? Will I be entitled to wok immediately or is there a lengthy visa process. Roughly how long will it take for me to acquire citizenship/a green card? We're trying to figure out if it will be economically viable to live in the US when we're married. Thanks for any insights!
posted by LivinginYes to Law & Government (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You will need to get a visa to enter and work in the USA - the processing time will depend on which country you are both living in - but luckily if you're already married there is no waiting time once you're in the US - you can work straight away. Apply for your visa by filing a I-130 and since you both live outside the US you can do 'Direct Consular Filing'.

Visajourney is an excellent resource to learn more, ask questions, and get more accurate waiting times than USCIS provides.

Guide for DCF

Forum for DCF

That will give you a green card. For citizenship you must live continuously in the US while married to the same spouse for 3 years, or you can apply on your own after 5 years.
posted by atlantica at 5:12 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and are you military? Things change if your US spouse is military.
posted by atlantica at 5:22 AM on May 27, 2012

It's slightly tongue-in-cheek and may not be entirely up to date, but this flow chart that Reason did a while back is a good way to understand the totality of the process.

But for real detail and support, Visajourney is a great place to look.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:42 AM on May 27, 2012

Visajourney can be a very helpful site, there check lists etc are helpful. The forums can be helpful, but also brutal if they think you are even slightly trying to shortcut something, even by accident if you ask a stupid question.

I cannot recommend enough the Nolo book Immigration made Easy, there check lists and step by step guides where what I followed to file my own immigration paperwork. Did it all successfully with no problems without a lawyer with just this book and visajourney.

You apply for and get get a temporary green card/resident card first for 2 years, unless you have been married long enough before hand to convince everyone it is a legitimate marriage. Then you resubmit more paperwork and money to change that to permanent, so then you only have to renew every 10 years. You can apply for citizenship based on marriage 3 years from the date of your first permanent resident visa.

The thing no one tells you is how much all this costs, be prepared for sticker shock and to have to write very large checks for every single form you submit.

All info is based on my experiences moving to the US and may vary depending on your situation and any changes in rules in the past few years.
posted by wwax at 6:03 AM on May 27, 2012

Unless things have changed in the last few years, you might or might not be able to DCF depending onwhere you live. Some embassies or consulates allow it, others don't.

If you can't DCF your best options are to enter the US with a fiancee visa and marry there (legally anyway, you can have a chutch wedding wherever after your initial paperwork is sorted out), or to marry abroad and use a combination of marriage and fiancee visa forms to spwed things up.

Even in the worst reasonable case, the longest you'd be in the US but unable to work is two or three m'nths.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on May 27, 2012

Can anyone give me a rundown on what my status will be in the US when we get married?

Very simply, you will be eligible to go through the long bureaucratic process outlined above. (Definitely look into direct consular filing: the process varies from consulate to consulate.)

Getting married in and of itself grants you no status in the US. Also, you may have trouble travelling to the US as a visitor on the standard visa waiver, because entering the US while married to a US citizen is going to interpreted as immigrant intent.
posted by holgate at 8:15 AM on May 27, 2012

To be more detailed, if you can't DCF, you have three options.

(1) Your partner files an I-129 for a fiance(e) visa and some associated stuff before you marry or move to the US. This will take a few months to clear. Once you have the K-1 visa in hand, you can move the the US and marry. The (legal) marriage has to be in the US. Then you'd file forms for adjustment of status (to get the green card), employment authorization (so you can work while the green card is pending), and advance parole (so you can leave the US without abandoning your other applications). The wait for the green card could take as long as a couple of years, but as long as you have the EAD and AP paperwork you'll be fine.

(2) You marry abroad. Your partner files an I-130 to import you as a spouse rather than a fiance(e). After a certain point in the process, you'd also file the I-129 paperwork, but for a K-3 visa instead of the fiancee K1. You'd the enter under the K-3 and adjust status like for a K-1. This usually gets you into the US faster than waiting for the I-130 to be fully processed.

(3) You marry abroad, file the I-130, and wait for it to be processed. Could be years, could be quicker than the K-3 process depending on the country.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 AM on May 27, 2012

listen to holgate. We decided to get married in the US because the alternative would have been for my husband to move to my country and after a year (or more) we would be able to move to the US, and I would be a conditional resident.
If you get married out of the US and have time to complete the paperwork from overseas while living where you are, then it's a viable option. Otherwise consider getting married here!

About working, once you are married you can apply for a work permit (and a green card). My work permit took a couple of months to arrive, but I entered the country on a fiancee visa, which is known for being a little bit faster. In the end, I got my conditional green card and my work permit at almost the same time, so I didn't really get to use the permit much.
posted by Tarumba at 3:35 AM on May 28, 2012

(when I sais "we" I didn't mean holgate and I! I am married to another mefite!)
posted by Tarumba at 3:35 AM on May 28, 2012

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