Because it’s St. Valentine’s Day, we wanted to remind you of the immigration options available to married and engaged couples.

Foreign Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Close family ties, such as a spousal relationship, are the most common way to obtain permanent residence in the United States. Foreign spouses of U.S. citizens are able to obtain permanent resident status, symbolized to many people by the “green card,” which gives foreign spouses the right to live and work in the United States without time limitations and qualifies them as “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens. They are also highly preferred as candidates for immigration with no numerical limitation placed on the number of immediate relatives of citizens who may become permanent residents in any one year. Eligibility is simple: The marriage must not be a “sham.” Rather, (a) it must have been legally entered into, and (b) it must still exist. Same sex couples are afforded equal protection for purposes of spousal immigration cases and may access spousal immigration benefits just like heterosexual couples.

Fiancé Visas

Visas are also issued when U.S. citizens wish to bring a foreign national fiancé living abroad to the United States to marry. In foreign fiancé cases, the U.S. citizen must show he or she is (a) a U.S. citizen, (b) intending to marry within 90 days of their foreign fiancé entering the United States, and (c) free to marry, such that any previous marriages have been legally terminated. After admission to the United States, a foreign fiancé may immediately apply for permission to work. Any work authorization would be valid for only 90 days after entry, but is eligible for extension through the green card process. As to the processing timelines and wedding planning, each foreign fiancé visa case varies. Timelines will differ depending on the procedures in place at the various consulates across the globe.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day.