Contemplating Living in the US after a Marriage to a US Citizen? Possible Paths to US Permanent Residence for a Foreign National Spouse

A personal life change like marriage effects foreign nationals who live and work in the US, on temporary visas. Marriage to a US citizen can create a need for (or opportunity to) obtain permanent residence in the US.

Type of Visa Path Best for those Living… Costly government fees?* Can Travel In & Out of US Easily? Marry First?
Fiancé Visa (K-1 visa) and Adjustment of Status Beneficiary Abroad & Petitioner (US Citizen) in US Yes, government fees: $2025

  • $535, I-129F
  • $265, embassy fees
  • $1225, I-485/biometrics
No, can enter US on a K-1 visa only one time. Can leave and enter possibly on a non-immigrant visa, if it allows intent to stay permanently in the US (e.g., L, H, TN, not B!) No
Marry, file I-130, then come here “Soon” on a K-3 visa and Adjust Status Beneficiary Abroad & Petitioner (US Citizen) in US Yes, government fees: $2085

  • $535, I-130
  • no fee, I-129F
  • $325, embassy fees
  • $1225 I-485/biometrics
Yes, even after the I-485 is filed. Note: overstay of a previous visa make an applicant ineligible for a K-3 without a waiver. Yes
Adjustment of Status (concurrent filing of I-130 & I-485 with the USCIS). No embassy interview. Both Beneficiary & Petitioner (US Citizen) in US Yes, government fees: $1760

  • $535, I-130
  • $1225, I-485/biometrics
No, it commonly takes 2-2 1/2 months after any entry to the US on a non-immigrant intent visa to make a decision to stay permanently. Need to wait 3 more months in the US for travel permission after filing I-485. Yes
Immigrant Visa from US Embassy (file I-130 in US or at US Embassy)  Interview at US Embassy only. Beneficiary, mostly abroad, & Petitioner (US citizen) resident abroad but headed to US soon Least expensive government fees: $1080

  • $535, I-130
  • $325, embassy fees, including Affidavit of Support (I-864)
  • $220, USCIS Immigrant Fee
Yes, on a temporary visa (e.g., B or TN) or Visa Waiver Program. Yes

* Government filing fees as of September 8, 2017, subject to change by the US government. Marriage visa fiance visa chart by immigration lawyer

This chart is for general use in discussions with an immigration attorney on common paths to US permanent residence for a foreign national who is considering marrying or who has married a US citizen. It takes into consideration only some of the factors that lead to a decision on how to or whether to obtain a US “green card.” It should not be taken as legal advice of any kind for a particular purpose or individual.

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