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Petitioning Your Spouse or Fiance Who Lives Outside the United States

As a law office dedicated full time to immigration representation, Lehigh Immigration assists clients every day with obtaining residency (aka obtaining a green card) for their loved ones.

Unfortunately, many of our clients come to us after they have attempted to complete the process on their own and after they have already made serious mistakes which lead to delays, deportation, and/or permanent bars to legal entry. The following guide explains the basic steps to obtaining residency for a fiance or spouse but the first step should always be consulting an attorney who specializes in immigration law:

Whether you are already married or engaged to be married makes a big difference in the green card process. If you are engaged to be married, you must determine whether you want to be married in the United States or in the country where your fiance lives.

If the marriage will take place in the United States, you must request a K-1 visa for your fiance. The benefit of the K-1 visa is that it will allow your fiance to enter the United States, marry within three months of entry, and then complete the paperwork to obtain a green card while your spouse remains in the United States. While the K-1 visa is the fastest way to bring your fiance into the United States, the K-1 visa comes with significantly more work and costs.

If you plan to marry your fiance outside the United States, you must request an appointment with the U.S. consulate in the country where your spouse resides after the marriage takes place. Although your spouse will spend his or her time waiting outside the United States for the National Visa Center to process the paperwork, the costs are significantly less than a K-1 visa AND your spouse will have time to prepare for his or her new life in the United States.

It is important to avoid cutting corners in this process. Non-attorneys sometimes recommend that a fiance or spouse enter the United States with a tourist visa and then request permanent residency without leaving the United States. This process is illegal and can be used against you when your spouse attempts to obtain his or her green card. Although consular processing or a K-1 visa take a little more time and money up front, taking the legal road with the assistance of a knowledgeable lawyer will save you immeasurable time and money in the long run.

If you are interested in obtaining a green card for your spouse or fiance, please give us a call at (610) 533-1947.

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