I came to the U.S. about 45 days ago from Australia on a fiancé visa. We’ve been planning a big wedding at the home of my U.S. fiancee’s cousins, but they’re getting a divorce, so that plan seems to be falling apart. It doesn’t look like we can find another venue on the same day, so we’re looking at all kinds of different possibilities, and I don’t know how soon we can pull it all together – not to mention the fact that I know I’m supposed to submit my green card application within the 90 days, too. I know tourist visas can be extended – why not my K-1 fiancé visa?
Unfortunately, one of the terms of the K-1 fiance visa is that it comes with no possibilities for extension, period. (See further explanation in Nolo’s article, “Can You Renew or Extend Your K-1 Fiance Visa Status?”)
But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your plans. Here are some possibilities for working within the rules.
First, this will all go most smoothly if you get married within the 90 days that your visa is valid, so even if it’s on day 89, that will be a good thing. It’s probably going to take you a few weeks after the wedding day to get an official copy of your marriage certificate, which you’ll need for your green card application.
Remember too that your friends aren’t likely to protest if they don’t attend the “real” wedding. Consider holding a brief civil ceremony as soon as you can, in order to get going on the green card application, and making the actual wedding day a more ceremonial event.
If you really, really can’t get married within the 90 days, do so as soon as possible after your permitted stay ends. The main consequence is likely to be that your U.S. spouse will have to fill out an additional application on your behalf along with the rest of your green card application – a visa petition on Form I-130 – and pay the fee associated with it, since your K-1 visa petition will no longer serve as the basis of your green card application.
Your status in the U.S. will, unfortunately, be unlawful after the 90 days on your K-1 visa runs out. But that is not a complete disaster. The immigration authorities aren’t likely to come looking for you. And, as long as you submit the green card application based on marriage to the same person as petitioned you for the K-1 visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept it for processing.
If worst comes to worst and you’re arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you will be placed in removal proceedings, where you can present your application for a marriage-based green card. The downside of this is that you will probably pay a lot of money in lawyer’s fees and the judge will (as a legal requirement) look much harder at whether you’re entering into a real marriage than USCIS would have.