Coming to America
June 20, 2006 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I am an American citizen; my fiance is a British citizen. He is here in America right now as a tourist and will return to Britain in about 10 days. I'm sure I want to marry him and he's sure he wants to live here. Would it be better to marry him now and have him immigrate as a spouse (K3 or CR1?), or to bring him in on a K1 fiance visa?

We don't have much money and our goal is to be together and have him work-eligible as soon as possible. What's the best way to do this? How long do these processes take?
posted by thirteenkiller to Law & Government (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My husband and I were married a year and a half ago using the K-1 visa. I think there are pros and cons to doing it either way. As far as we learned, going the tourist visa to marriage route is not exactly kosher (i.e. you aren't supposed to do it). I've heard quite a few people say, though, that as long as you can show that your fiance didn't come to this country with the intent to marry (left behind job/bank accounts/etc) that it isn't usually much of a problem. The obvious pro here is that you get to spend the entire process together. He won't be allowed to work during the adjustment time. Also, once his tourist visa expires and you get married, he CANNOT leave the country. They will not let him back in, and you'll need to follow a much longer process of bringing an immediate family member to the usa.

We felt K-1 was the better solution for us because we wanted the peace of mind of knowing we did things exactly according to law. For a western european country (my husband is Dutch) like Britain, the wait should not be excruciatingly long. Ours was much quicker than we projected. We filed in December of 2004 and he came here on the K-1 visa March 31, 2005. Everything depends upon how quickly the service centers are processing applications. Once he comes you'll need to be married within 90 days. Because you don't know when exactly the visa will be approved, it makes wedding planning kinda tough. Overall, I think we're pretty pleased with the time and ease of doing the K-1, though neither way is a walk in the park. Tons of paperwork and fees. If you're not already saving evidence of your relationship (photos/boarding passes or itineraries from trips youve taken together/cards and other correspondence/even phone bills and personal emails (!)) you should start now.

Finally, this link is invaluable:

It has timelines "guides" for every possible way of doing this, and example filled out forms so you know you're doing everything right. Plus there are very knowledgeable posters i their forum. They were always able to answer any freaked out questions I had. Good luck, and feel free to email me if you have other questions.
posted by theantikitty at 8:40 AM on June 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your response, theantikitty. Does your husband have permission to work yet? I know he can get some kinda provisional work permit once he applies for AOS or something like that, but how long does that take to go through?
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2006

Can I suggest getting yourselves an immigration attorney? I'm currently filing for a green card application (I'm British and my wife is American) and we decided that the whole process was complicated enough to warrant getting an attorney. I can't comment on fiance visas as I'm here on a visa anyway (which doesn't expire for a while, so we're taking our time applying hence why I can't comment on how quickly this can be taken care of) but I think you would be wise to at least talk to an immigration attorney.
posted by ob at 9:10 AM on June 20, 2006

A friend married an Australian a few years back and found the newsgroup to be a valuable source of info. It was a long and occasionally Kafkaesque process.
posted by hattifattener at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: My husband and I did all the paperwork ourselves and did not use an attorney. As long as you have a straightforward case (no previous overstays, nothing in his background or criminal record that would warrant special consideration) I would suggest doing it yourself. Visajourney was a great resource for this. I can't even do my own taxes without help but I could do this. Just do lots of research and ask questions of people who have successfully done this before. To me, the expense wasn't worth it and it can actually make your process take LONGER. They file your paperwork on their schedule, not yours. If you're anything like my husband and me, you don't want to wait one extra day.

The work bit was the most annoying part of this process. Your husband will be eligible for an EAD (employment authorization) even on K-1 status, which means when he first enters the country. However, that work authorization is only good for 90 days...because that's when your K-1 expires. To us, it seemed pointless to do this. There's ineveitably going to be a gap between the K-1 EAD and the post marriage EAD. No legitimate job hires someone with a 90 day work authorization, right? Plus, you have to file an application and pay a fee! You can file for an EAD after you marry as well, which should take you through your adjustment period. It lasts one year. Again, an application and a fee. He won't get a permanent work authorization until you successfully adjust status. Your wait time for the permanent resident card will vary with your location. Some places have longer waits for interviews. You can file for this immediately after you're married, so if you go this route, i suggest preparing the entire Adjustment of Status package (with EAD if you like) before you marry. Just pop it in the mail as soon as you have your official marriage certificate. No matter what you do, you're going to have to wait on the work authorization. Even adjusting right from the USA on a tourist visa means a work authorization wait.
posted by theantikitty at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2006

Geesh. On second read, I think I may have misread your original question. I thought you meant you wanted to marry him here on the tourist visa and adjust status, not K3. I recommend K-1 hands down over K-3. Obviously, I've never done K-3, but in seeing the wait times for application processing during the K-1, I can reasonably say K-1 is much faster. I've heard the service centers put K-1 ahead of K-3 on priority too. (?)
posted by theantikitty at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: You have two additional options here:

(1) Marry now and file for AOS. Downsides: this is frowned upon, but not illegal. You should expect to have to show that Mr. X did not have the intent to marry and stay when he arrived. Also, he won't be able to leave the US and settle his affairs in the UK until he gets advance parole, which might take two months or so. Upside: it's done, and no/minimal separation.

(2) You *might* have the option to technically immigrate to the UK and then use "direct consular filing" of the I-130 to come back to the US. DCF is by far the fastest way to get someone a green card. I don't know the ins and outs of DCF through London, and they might not let you use them if you aren't an actual resident of the UK in their eyes.

Otherwise, K1 is better than I-130 & K3. It's quicker and cheaper.

An initial EAD usually takes 60--90 days.

AOS can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. But, being in AOS is almost as good as having a green card. You have to file for an EAD every year, and you need advance parole to leave the US, but these are extremely routine.

If you're broke-ish, you might need someone to file as co-sponsors during AOS.

Unless Mr. X's case is difficult in some way (misspent youth, etc), you shouldn't need a lawyer, --BUT-- you'll need to be very detail-oriented and pedantic about the whole thing (ie, know when you mean NONE and when you mean N/A). Check out . There is much wisdom there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2006

Get a lawyer. I don't care how smart you are; you're going to make some tiny mistake on a form that will cause you weeks of grief, even if it doesn't ruin the case completely. And even if you get through the forms portion correctly, do you know the dos and don'ts of the interview process? An attorney will be able to ease the process immensely.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: As a paralegal, it seems obvious why Faint of Butt would recommend obtaining a lawyer. By all means, please do what you and your fiance are most comfortable with. However, I do want to respectfully reiterate that if your case is straightforward (no criminal history/terrorist ties/serious US overstays/etc) you do not need a lawyer for the K-1 or K-3 process. I know dozens of couples in addition to ourselves that have done this successfully without legal aid. Similarly, I know couples who wish they hadn't sent 2-3k down the tube for something they could have easily done themselves. Even worse, I know couples who have had to deal with lawyers dragging their feet to send in a simple form. Smart has nothing to do with this. If you can do moderate research and follow step by step directions, you can certainly file for a visa. I've never heard of someone's case being "ruined" by incorrectly filling out a form. It is possible you'll need to fill out the form again and send it in. If you follow the example forms, this shouldn't be an issue at all. I know many people who have recovered from an incorrectly filled out form just fine.

Our interview process was beyond easy. In fact, in some places, they're eliminating the interview altogether. We brought in items from our wedding and trips, all our previous uscis documents, answered all questions honestly, and received a green card 7 days later. I think many attorneys are relying on fear tactics to make this process seem harder than it is. The reality is, it's not HARD! It's just long and involved. Will it take significant time investment? Yes. Will you need to double check what you're doing? Yes. Is it hard to do? Not at all.
posted by theantikitty at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: Get a lawyer. I don't care how smart you are; you're going to make some tiny mistake on a form that will cause you weeks of grief, even if it doesn't ruin the case completely. . Many. many people who've faced the same forms successfully and who are happy to help describe What To Do. Visajourney and similar sites are *very* helpful and can even contain sample filled-out forms.

The only thing to remember WRT internet stuff is that information more than a couple-few years old might be no longer valid.

And even if you get through the forms portion correctly, do you know the dos and don'ts of the interview process?

They might not, but everyone on who's passed their interview knows all about it.

An attorney will be able to ease the process immensely.

If your case is uncomplicated, a lawyer will be an expensive way to hire someone to fill out forms for you. And, as theantikitty notes, lawyers fuck up too, or just move slowly. You will still have to do all of the annoying legwork of gathering the required information.

If you really want to hire a lawyer, hire only an immigration lawyer. They should be at least less likely to fuck up at you. Frankly, I would trust the word of any number of regulars on more than I would the advice of a lawyer who didn't specialize in immigration.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: Info below is from one of my immigration newsgroups - I went through the visa process twice with my husband, once via K1 and once via consular processing (sort of like the K3, but you apply in the alien's home country, and they get their green card immediately) - anyway, you don't need a lawyer, normally. Just keep copies of everything, check your forms before you send them in, etc...

FYI, RFE = Request for Further Evidence - has created a massive bottleneck of K1s having to send in additional info.

"On June 15, 2006, the USCIS posted a NEW edition of
the petition I-129F (Fiancee visa petition) on their
website. The old form is still acceptable and will be
accepted until July 14, 2006. However, all who filed
the old version of I-129F should expect to get a RFE
from the

New forms can be seen here:

Hopefully this means anyone in the K1 process can
avoid any problems or delays if they follow the

posted by Liosliath at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2006

When I said get a lawyer, I meant specifically an immigration attorney. I have no previous overstays and no criminal record, but I am already on a visa and so things are a little more complicated. Of course it's possible to do all this on your own and you should only get an immigration attorney that is personally, or even better, professionally recommended to you.
posted by ob at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: I recommend a lawyer (and am not in the legal profession). We got one (I'm a Canadian married to an American) and it saved us a lot of headaches. It did lengthen our application by about a month because our paralegal had a heart attack, but I presume that's unusual... in any case, they have been extremely prompt about getting things done in a timely way. It was worth every penny to us. I think the lost income from being unable to work was far more significant than the cost of the attorney.

If you're poor-ish, find somebody now who will cosign with you to take responsibility for your new spouse. You have to promise he won't require government aid for a certain number of years and you have to be able to back that up.

It took us about three months from the date of application to receive the EAD. However, the application process itself took us I think five months. There's a bunch of things that slow you down, like the doctor's appointment, getting fingerprinted, etc. Wait times vary wildly from state to state and you may run into unexpected expenses.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2006

Best answer: I second everything that theantikitty already said.

My wife and I opted to go the K1 Visa route. We sort of thought the K3 was a bit silly, as we didn't want to get married and then be apart for a while. I think she was approved to work about a month or so after we got married.

We opted to go with an immigration attorney. Yes, the entire process cost us a small fortune, but in our case, it was worth it for a piece of mind. I was really worried we would mess something up. Our process ended up going amazingly smooth.

One bit of advice: be patient. Anytime you deal with US immigration, they seem to work on their own time, and that time is slower than molasses!

I would suggest you go the K1 route. It makes things a lot easier especially considering you love each other and obviously want to be with each other.

A few notes: My wife and I were married in March, 2003. She is from Canada, I'm a US citizen. The *entire* immigration process was just finished for us last month, when she finally received her final green card in the mail! (The first one is a "temporary" card that is only good for two years.)
posted by punkrockrat at 4:49 PM on June 20, 2006

I recommend a lawyer (and am not in the legal profession). We got one (I'm a Canadian married to an American) and it saved us a lot of headaches.

I don't mean this to be snarky, but: Unless you've also been imported through the K1 process without a lawyer, how could you know that?

There just aren't that many headaches in a normal K1/AOS process. It takes a long time, requires a bit of research, and is fussy, but there's nothing really difficult about it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks guys. There's a lot of great advice here.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:08 PM on June 20, 2006

I don't mean this to be snarky, but: Unless you've also been imported through the K1 process without a lawyer, how could you know that?

ROU_Xenophobe, we spent several years trying to do things without a lawyer and couldn't figure it out. Every time we talked to the USCIS, we got a different set of instructions, contradicting what we'd been told the month before. Once we got a lawyer, all of those problems went away. Your experience must have been different, and that's great.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:30 AM on June 21, 2006

Best answer: Ah. That is one of the first lessons that people who've been through the process can tell you: Never ask USCIS anything; that service is worse than useless.

Sorry it was so bleah for you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:37 AM on June 21, 2006

Best answer: I'm late, but here's another take, for what it's worth...

I immigrated to the US several years ago using a K-1 visa. I agree with what ROU_Xenophobe has said.

My wife and I did not use an immigration lawyer. The process is laborious, time-consuming, fussy, and requires some reading and research and careful attention to detail. It isn't intellectually demanding if you can follow specific instructions to the letter, can neatly complete long and boring forms, provide all the documentation required, and can turn up to appointments at the right time and place.

In our case, we were an immigration official's dream applicants. No previous marriages, no children involved, spotless criminal records, I'm from a uncontroversial, friendly country (the UK), and we were following the prescribed procedures precisely and willing to do a little research to make sure we were. If this isn't the case for your situation, an initial consultation with an immigration lawyer might be worthwhile. If you have uncomplicated circumstances, however, all the information you need to navigate the process is publicly available.

To start, have a long look at K Visa FAQ - for K1, K2, K3, K4 and all Marriage Based Immigration Questions. The information in there is thorough and, in my experience, well maintained and accurate. Especially relevant to your initial questions is this page. If what you read there looks like something you feel you can cope with and understand, I'd suggest that an immigration lawyer might not be essential for you. Remember that you don't have to use a lawyer for the entire process. If things get difficult or confusing for you later, you can always employ one then.

Also, begin exploring the newsgroup. This is an excellent resource with many intelligent and helpful participants, even immigration lawyers have been known to contribute to it. A rare gem among newsgroups for its high signal-to-noise ratio. Unless your situation is very unusual, chances are you can find intelligent answers to your questions in its archives and by asking its regulars.

General advice: Complete every section of every form thoroughly and truthfully. Provide all documentation requested. File everything well within the required time. Always get to any in-person appointments with USCIS officials on time. Do not rely upon USCIS for advice about their own rules and processes.

However you decide to proceed, probably the most important advice is to be scrupulously honest. If you believe that you need one, a good immigration lawyer can do a lot to help mitigate any factors in your situation and past that USCIS might consider problematic, as long as you're up-front about it. Never lie. They hate that and it will come back to haunt you.
posted by normy at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2006

late to the party also, but i've heard a few things. keep in mind, i've never done this myself, but have a family member who is rite now doing it from europe --> america.

follow the advice above, and please do find an immigration lawyer or agency to fill-out your paperwork and give you general council. the biggest reason is that if you make a single mistake on any of the forms (which is apparently easy to do), your application gets bumped and moved to the back of the queue and you have to refile...wasting time and energy.

he needs to have a clean criminal record. but this is a little sketchy for me: i could have sworn that the person cannot have any viruses/AIDS, and must show proof of education. if he cannot furnish proof of these, they are valid reasons for him to be rejected. (maybe i'm imagining this).

>>We don't have much money and our goal is to be together and have him work-eligible as soon as possible. What's the best way to do this? How long do these processes take?

is immigration even feasible then? I've heard that the person sponsoring needs to be strongly and independantly financial (make sure your tax returns are in order). you will need to prove that you can support said person (i don't know what the actual $$ figure is) so if you actually dont have $$, you probably need to have parents or guardians bankroll the person to get this to happen.

if anything, make sure you have at least $500 to put towards the process (in paperwork fees, pictures, etc...) and then, of course, much, much more for the immigration lawyer fees; my understanding is that it's a rather expensive process.
posted by naxosaxur at 11:41 PM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: Update: It's been about a month since I applied for his K1 visa. We didn't use a lawyer because we found has really everything we need.

USCIS is a bit backed up at the moment so we are still waiting for statesite approval, but everything's good so far. Thanks for all your help, people. Maybe I'll update again when it comes through!
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:56 PM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: And I am employed and make enough money to meet their requirements, but since I just finished school and don't have a strong income history I also have a co-sponsor.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2006

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