Can I Get A USA partner Visa?
Since US immigration does not recognise ‘common-law’ relationships, there is no specific USA partner visa. As an unmarried partner of either a US visa holder or a US national, regardless of whether you have been in a long-term relationship, to travel to the US you will need to qualify and apply for a visa in your own right.
A number of factors should be considered to assess which visa option is suitable for your circumstances. A critical question is what you intend to do once in the US; are you travelling to the US to visit your partner temporarily, or to study, work or even relocate permanently?
Importantly, you would not be able to apply to join your US visa holder partner as a dependant if you are unmarried. To rely on a family-based spouse visa, you would first need to be married.
USA partner visa for short term visiting
If you a national of a visa waiver country, you may be eligible to travel to the US for up to 90 days to visit your US-based partner. This is a quicker and cheaper process compared to visa applications.
To travel visa-free you must first have ESTA authorization.
To apply for visa-free travel you must obtain authorization to enter the U.S. using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). You will need to complete an online pre-registration form on the ESTA website. It is advised by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that you do this at least 72 hours before departure.
You will generally be granted authorisation if you are a citizen of one of the listed VWP partner countries and you hold a valid electronic passport with an electronic chip. However, you will not be eligible to travel visa-free under ESTA in the following circumstances:
- you have been arrested for certain crimes, even if the arrest did not result in criminal conviction, or you have a criminal record.
- you have been denied entry to or deported from the U.S, or you have previously overstayed on the VWP.
- you have a serious communicable illness.
Other travellers who are citizens of a VWP partner country may also be unable to travel to the U.S. visa-free, for example, if they are a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or they have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia or Yemen any time after 1 March 2011.
If your application for visa-free travel is denied, you will instead need to make an application for a B-2 visitor visa. In these circumstances, this is likely to significantly delay your travel plans.
If visa-free travel is not an option, for example you have been denied ESTA, or you are a national of a non-visa country, or you wish to stay for longer than 90 days, you would need to look at the B-2 visitor visa.
The B-2 visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons traveling to the United States temporarily for the purpose of tourism, pleasure or visiting. This includes the common-law spouse or unmarried partner of a principal visa holder.
If you are aged between 14 to 79 years old you will typically be required to apply for a visa in person through a pre-arranged interview at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate by appointment only. Applicants under 14 or over 80 may be eligible to apply by courier.
To apply you will need to create an online account, complete form DS-160, pay the application fee and schedule an interview. At your interview, in addition to any category-specific documentation to prove the purpose of your trip, you will be required to bring the following:
- a print-out of your appointment confirmation
- a print-out of the confirmation page for form DS-160
- a 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) colour photograph taken within the last 6 months
- a passport or other travel document.
In the event that you are not applying for a visa at the same time as your partner, you will also be required to furnish a copy of the visa endorsed in your partner’s passport in addition to the documents listed above.
Further, as your application for a B-2 visa is based on your relationship to your common-law spouse or unmarried partner, you will be required to furnish evidence of the relationship, for example, a copy of the joint mortgage, rent agreement or bank account.
You may also need to show that you have sufficient funds available on arrival to support yourself during your stay in the U.S, and the residence abroad to which you intend to return.
If your application is successful, this can take only a few short days to process. If additional processing is required, your application for a B-2 visitor visa could take several weeks, if not months.
The adjudicating officer will determine how long your visa will be valid for. This is generally up to 6 months. It may be possible to apply to extend this for a further 6 months while you are in the US, if you can show exceptional grounds.
Note however that while being granted the B-2 visa will permit you to travel to the US, it does not in itself guarantee you entry into the US. Entry will be determined by border officials at the port of entry. They are permitted to question you about your trip and reason for travel. Travellers visiting a US-based partner should prepare to face scrutinty as to their intentions to leave the US before their visa expires. As such, you should travel with supporting documentation.
USA partner visa to get married
If you are planning to marry your US fiancé(e) in the United States, you will need a K-1 visa. This is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the fiancé(e) of a US citizen to enter the US for up to 90 days for the purpose of getting married.
As the spouse of a US citizen, you can then apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident. In other words, you can apply for a Green Card.
In the event that your wedding does not go ahead within the permitted timeframe, your K-1 visa will automatically expire and cannot be extended, requiring you to leave the United States. Equally, if you decide not to get married, you will be required to leave the country.
If you are already married and the foreign spouse of a US citizen, there are two ways to seek permission to come to the United States to set up a new life, namely under an immigrant visa as a qualifying relative of a US Citizen (IR-1 or CR-1), and under a nonimmigrant visa for a spouse (K-3).
Under an IR-1 visa, where IR stands for “Immediate Relative”, this will allow you to immigrate to the US With the CR-1 visa, where CR stands for “Conditional Residency”, this will be given to you if your marriage is less than two years old, and thereafter will remain conditional for two years.
The K-3 visa category is intended to allow temporary permission to travel to the US and stay while the application for a Green Card is processed.
Do you have a question about your visa options?
Under US immigration rules, it is tricky for unmarried partners to ensure they are applying for the correct visa. Timing will be an importatn factor, as will your nationality and that of your partner. Whichever route you proceed with, remember that any application will see you assessed against the general grounds for admission, taking criminal convictions and immigration history and breaches into considertation.
Given what is at stake for your and your loved one, taking advice will ensure you have considered all options and that the process is followed as required, with complete submissions.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.