Affordable way to get legal advice for immigration by marriage?
November 6, 2019 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American looking to marry a Chinese citizen, with the aim to move to America together (we are currently in China). It seems pretty straightforward, but I have two questions...within!

I'll put the questions here if anyone has any experience. I'm willing to pay for professional advice, but I'm trying to avoid exorbitant legal fees...

Question 1: our target to move is a little under a year. Should we apply for a fiance visa and get married in the US, or get married in China then apply for a visa for my then spouse? It seems the former is faster but more expensive. I should note I currently have no income, but I have ample savings, if that influences things. I'm not worried about cost, I am more worried about timing and being able to move to the US together without having to wait an eternity for immigration stuff to clear.

Question 2: this one is stickier, as the first I think I could figure out without a lawyer. My spouse to be is a communist party member. In China this is quite common. They aren't a politician, they're a school teacher. AFAIK, being a party member disqualifies you from permanent residence. She is fine to quit the party, but what I'm not sure of is...when does she need to leave the party? Furthermore, some sites make it seem like having ever been a party member is potentially disqualifying. I know party members currently in the US who just, well, lied about it. But I'd really really prefer to do this all above board, as I'm afraid that if things ever deteriorated between the US and China, China would be more than happy to out a bunch of party members who technically committed fraud on their visa applications. Chinese people always tell me I worry too much and to just lie about it, heh.

So yeah, looking for any guidance on the above, or pointers to places to get (relatively) affordable professional legal advice. I've done some googling. The former I've found information on though no super clear comparison, but the latter I struggled to find analysis of. I've seen breakdowns of the law itself, but nothing applying it directly to a desired marriage.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I had an immigration question, other MeFites suggested I check out Visa Journey for a community with more expertise in immigration issues.
posted by metahawk at 8:28 PM on November 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

The MeFi Wiki Get a Lawyer page has a list of links to resources related to Immigration, including free and low-cost legal services: is a searchable online directory of over 940 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states. Users can search by state, county, or detention facility, and refine searches by types and areas of legal assistance provided, populations served, languages spoken, other areas of legal assistance, and non-legal services provided.

The Immigration Advocates Network offers a National Immigration Legal Services Directory that is a searchable directory of immigration legal services providers by state, county, or detention facility. Only nonprofit organizations that provide free or low-cost immigration legal services are included. If you have questions, please consult the list of frequently asked questions or email
posted by katra at 8:29 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Really seconding VisaJourney. It's really your gateway to really helpful information. All the resources you can gather through the guides and forum archives, and helpful responses if you reach out. Most you can do on your own, and if you can't you can probably get decent lawyer information there.

Most likely the easiest and straightforward path is to go through the K-1 fiance visa. It does require your partner to stay in China for a bit while you sort through the process in the US first before they can enter through the visa (and get married in the US within the 90 days period).

You can get married outside the US and attempt to come back in, but from what I've gathered it does complicate things a bit. Not sure if the party stuff prevents the former, but I'd really encourage it if you can. And I'm of course continuing the advice in looking through VisaJourney archives about your situation (which I doubt is unique and will have resources and other recorded similar situations), to which they would point you to resources or the advice to talk to a lawyer before proceeding any further.
posted by xtine at 9:15 PM on November 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

3rding VJ. Also things are so fucked up with immigration right now, you need to chat with people that have done things recently. Things that used to take 6 months are taking 3 years.
posted by k8t at 9:24 PM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm an American looking to marry a Chinese citizen, with the aim to move to America together (we are currently in China). It seems pretty straightforward,

Nothing involving the INS is straightforward. Doing your research is good, but definitely spend the money to consult an immigration lawyer before you commit to a path.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:36 PM on November 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

I just got a visa for my husband and will memail you later this evening.

Wait times for the K-3 visa are the same as for the I-130 so it’s sort of useless right now.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:06 AM on November 7, 2019

My spouse (Australian) and I (American citizen) got married while living in Australia and he immigrated using an I-130 visa. It was quick (a few months) but we were able to get our application processed in Australia due to special circumstances (me moving back to start a new job in the US on short notice).
From my understanding, they are really looking for two things. Firstly, is the marriage (or relationship for a fiance visa) legitimate? Basically, you need to prove that you're an actual couple and that it's not fraud. Secondly, can you afford to support your spouse financially? My spouse was never asked about political affiliation and I doubt this came up in the background check. Granted, we were not coming from China. You will need China-specific advice on the communist party question, but regardless of that you will need to compile evidence of your relationship and figure out how you can best show financial stability - in your case this might limit your eligibty for an I-130 and make a fiance visa your only real option, with you going to the US first and getting a job there.
posted by emd3737 at 2:11 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check out this organization too for advice. They are great.
posted by EllaEm at 5:31 AM on November 7, 2019

(As a correction to emd3737, there is a question on the form that asks whether you have ever been a member of the communist party specifically, and asks you to list ALL organizations, political or otherwise, you have ever been a member of.)
posted by EllaEm at 5:32 AM on November 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I did all the immigration paperwork for my wife when we moved from China to the US, and I usually tell people it's not that difficult if you can follow bureaucratic instructions and your situation is ideal. Your situation is not ideal, so if you can afford an immigration lawyer, you really should talk to one.

It's my understanding that disclosing CCP membership results in automatic "administrative processing," which can take several months. Whether they need to officially terminate their membership before applying is a question for a lawyer. The lawyer may also suggest that your fiance write a letter explaining that party membership was a requirement for their job (or for a promotion, or whatever is applicable in their situation).
posted by bradf at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing the general advice about VisaJourney. My wife came to the US on a K-1 and we did everything ourselves mostly following advice/guides on there. K-1 is a little more expensive mostly because you first have to do K-1, then Adjustment of Status as opposed to CR-130 which I think is a single step. But since you don't have to get married first then apply, it can be faster. Processing times vary, so which one is faster in that sense changes and you can check on the USCIS webpage.

Our case was simpler, however, as she was from a much less scrutinized country (especially under the current administration). So on the Communist Party question / China in general, you might want to at least do a consult with a lawyer with experience with Chinese/US immigration. Given the large number of people moving from China to the US, this should definitely be possible to find.

The general rule with USCIS is that as long as everything doesn't trip any flags, it's relatively straightforward but LONG (K-1 took 9 months, AoS took 6 months, and flipping from temp to permanent green card took almost 2 years after we filed that! So around 5 years from start of K-1 to "permanent' green card [not actually permanent]).

But once you hit any RFE (request for evidence) or get pulled into special scrutiny / processing, all bets are off and it can take arbitrarily long or get denied.

Common flags include details about your relationship (the more you can establish a "bona fide" relationship, the better), country of origin for the immigrant (some countries have high rates of marriage fraud and are much more likely to get scrutiny, or are just generally scrutinized such as the majority-Muslim countries that Trump flagged), and special circumstances revealed during the process (such as potentially Communist Party membership, even though it is obviously ridiculous to do so).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:37 PM on November 7, 2019

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