Marriage and U.S. Immigration
Helpful resources for all things marriage and U.S. immigration
So you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with — congratulations on this important milestone! For couples from different countries, the marriage process can look a little different. You may be wondering what implications marriage has on your U.S. immigration goals, or how to start your lives together in the United States.
Whether you’ve just gotten engaged or you’ve started researching the marriage green card process, the U.S. immigration system can be difficult to navigate on your own. That’s why we’ve put together some resources on how to plan your wedding, how to apply for a marriage-based visa, and other helpful tips for immigrant couples.
Boundless offers unlimited support from our team of immigration experts, so you can apply with confidence and focus on what’s important, your married life in the U.S. Learn more.
Start planning your immigration journey today with Boundless.
Planning Your Wedding
Gathering Your Documents
Ready to make your marriage official? There are some important steps you must follow and key documents to obtain when getting legally married in the U.S.:
Marriage License: You and your partner need to obtain a marriage license from the local county clerk’s office in the state where you plan to marry. Requirements may vary by state, but typically both parties must appear in person, provide identification, and pay a fee. Learn more in Boundless’ guide on how to obtain a marriage license.
Marriage Certificate: Once you have the marriage license, you can proceed with your wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, the officiant and witnesses will sign the marriage license, and it must be returned to the county clerk’s office to be officially recorded as your marriage certificate. It’s important to note that certain states may have additional requirements or waiting periods, so it’s advisable to research the specific regulations of the state where you intend to marry.
Early in the marriage-based green card process, every couple must provide evidence of a valid marriage to the U.S. government, including an official copy of your marriage certificate.
Planning your big day and all of the logistics that come with it? Here are some helpful wedding guides we’ve put together that also address the specific needs of immigrant couples:
- Affordable and Free Wedding Venues
- 5 Ways to Create the Perfect Wedding Album
- How to Change Your Name After Your Wedding
Ready to celebrate your marriage with a honeymoon vacation? Check out Boundless’ “Guide to Planning a Honeymoon for Couples of Different Nationalities.” Staying stateside for your trip? Plan a dream honeymoon at one of these romantic destinations in the U.S.
Marriage-Based Immigration — The Basics
Marriage-based immigration in the U.S. allows foreign nationals to obtain legal permanent residency (otherwise known as a “green card”) through marriage to a U.S. citizen or U.S. green card holder. The process involves filing an application with the U.S. government, providing evidence of a genuine marital relationship, and meeting specific eligibility requirements under U.S. immigration law.
Overall, marriage-based immigration plays a crucial role in uniting families and supporting the cultural diversity of the U.S. It offers an opportunity for couples to build their lives together in the U.S., and allows the foreign-born spouse to pursue educational and professional opportunities in the country.
Proving an Authentic Marriage
One of the most important aspects of marriage-based immigration is proving to the U.S. government that your marriage is authentic or “bona fide.” Although this requirement can feel obvious or even invasive, it ensures that the marriage between a foreign national and a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is genuine and entered into for legitimate reasons rather than solely for immigration benefits. Immigration authorities carefully scrutinize the authenticity of the marital relationship to prevent fraud or abuse of the immigration system. To meet this requirement, couples must provide substantial evidence that their relationship is legitimate, such as joint financial accounts, shared assets, cohabitation, photographs together, and testimonies from family and friends. You can learn more about this important step in the marriage immigration process here.
Getting the Support You Need
Navigating the marriage green card process can be stressful and challenging. Completing complicated paperwork, potentially spending months apart while you wait for your application to be approved, and going through the stress of the immigration interview can all take a toll. We want you to know you’re not alone! Here are some ways to find support during the process, and tips for maintaining a strong long-distance relationship while you wait to start your lives together in the U.S.
Marriage-Based Visa Options
It’s important to note that the marriage-based immigration process may look different depending on where you currently live and your marital status at the time of applying.
Unsure about which immigration path is best for you? Answer our 5-minute questionnaire to get started.
Here are the main immigration options available for couples looking to live together permanently in the U.S.:
K-1 Fiancé Visas (For Engaged Couples) *For unmarried couples when the foreign-born partner lives abroad
A K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa, allows a foreign national who is engaged to a U.S. citizen to enter the country for the purpose of getting married. The K-1 visa serves as a preliminary step to bring the foreign fiancé(e) to the United States so that the couple can marry within 90 days of the fiance’s arrival. After the marriage takes place, the foreign fiancé can apply for adjustment of status and obtain a green card.
Interested in pursuing a K-1 visa? Learn more about the process, including cost, processing time, and eligibility requirements, in Boundless’ detailed K-1 guide.
Marriage-Based Green Cards (Adjustment of Status) *For married couples living in the U.S.
The marriage-based green card (adjustment of status) process is specifically designed for foreign-born individuals who are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder and are currently residing in the U.S. This process allows them to apply for permanent residency without the need to return to their home country.
You can learn more about the general marriage green card process, including cost, processing time, and eligibility requirements, in Boundless’ detailed guide.
CR-1/IR-1 Spousal Visas (Consular Processing) *For married couples when the foreign-born spouse lives abroad
The CR1/IR1 spousal visa process (consular processing) is designed for U.S. citizens or U.S. green card holders who are married to foreign nationals living abroad. The spousal visa allows the foreign-born spouse to enter the U.S. as an immigrant and obtain lawful permanent residency (a green card) upon arrival.
Learn more about the CR1 spousal visa process, including cost, processing time, and eligibility requirements, in Boundless’ detailed guide.