If you are the fiancé of a U.S. lawful permanent resident (someone who is not a citizen, but holds a green card) and you currently live outside the United States, your options for gaining U.S. entry and joining your U.S. fiancé are limited. That is true whether you want to stay in the United States for a short time or permanently.
Don't lose hope, however. There are ways to get yourself into the United States if you are the fiancé of a permanent resident, although they could take a long time, as discussed in this article.
Can U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents Petition Someone for a K-1 Visa?
There are no fiancé visas (K-1) available for foreign nationals wishing to marry U.S. permanent residents. Fiancé visas are available only to people coming to the U.S. to marry U.S. citizens.
Strategies for Foreign Fiancé to Join Lawful Permanent Resident in the U.S.
The main ways a U.S. permanent resident and their overseas fiancé could unite in the United States are:
- Marry first, after which the foreign-born fiancé would begin the entry process as a spouse of a permanent resident. This method involves the U.S. spouse submitting a petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-130, with documents including a copy of the marriage certificate; then waiting (sometimes for up to around two years) for a visa to become available in this category (called "F2A"), based on your Priority Date. During this time you have no right to live in the United States. If the U.S. spouse becomes a citizen during this time, the foreign-born spouse automatically becomes an "immediate relative," and can apply for your immigrant visa/green card right away. Also, as of mid-2023, there has actually been no wait in category F2A at all, for several months.
- Wait until U.S. fiancé becomes a U.S. citizen, and begin entry process as the fiancé of a citizen. This method involves the U.S. spouse submitting a petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-129F, together with supporting documents, then you applying for a K-1 fiancé visa and entering the U.S., then getting married within 90 days and presumably applying for adjustment of status (a green card).
- Come to the U.S. on a B-2 visitor visa and get married here (with the intention of returning home afterward). This is legal, but risky—the officials at the U.S. border might not believe that you truly plan to leave after the wedding, and may refuse you entry. And you definitely wouldn't want to come on a visitor visa with the actual plan of getting married, which is considered visa fraud. (See Risks of Entering the U.S. as a Tourist, Then Applying for Marriage-Based Green Card.)
Each of the above options obviously has advantages as well as drawbacks.
Advantages to U.S. Petitioner Applying for Naturalized Citizenship
As you can see from the above discussion, the quicker your U.S. fiancé or spouse becomes a citizen, the quicker you might be able to enter the United States. A permanent resident can apply for U.S. citizenship five years after getting a green card (with a few exceptions allowing for an earlier submission of the N-400 application).
Getting Legal Help
For personalized assistance with applying for lawful permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. green card holder or citizen, consult an experienced attorney.
Talk to an immigration attorney for a full analysis of your options.