British Citizen Marrying US Citizen in USA: Visa Options
The following guide is for British citizens who are planning to marry a US citizen in the USA. We look at what type of visa you will need and the process you to follow in order to apply.
Your options will depend on your circumstances, such as where you plan to marry and what your US immigration status is. For example, are you already living in the USA or are you planning to travel to the US just for the wedding?
Importantly, you do not attain any rights automatically under US immigration law by marrying a US citizen. You will have to identify an appropriate immigration route and make an application to the authorities for permission to travel to the US and remain there lawfully to be with your spouse.
Coming to the USA
If you are the British fiancé(e) of a US citizen planning to marry your partner in the USA, but you are still in the UK, your partner will need to petition for what’s known as a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa.
The K-1 visa is a temporary 90-day visa with which to enter the USA to get married, and that will subsequently allow you, as the new spouse of a US citizen to apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident. In other words, you can apply for a green card once you are legally wed.
Please note, in the event that your wedding is delayed beyond 90 days, your K-1 visa will automatically expire and cannot be extended. Equally, if you decide not to get married at all once you are in the United States, you will again be required to leave the country.
To be eligible for a K-1 visa, your US spouse must first file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with US Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS). Assuming USCIS approves the I-129F, it will transfer the case to the US Embassy in London, where you can apply for your K-1 visa using Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
Subject to the successful grant of a visa, and having travelled to the United States to tie the knot, you can then apply to adjust status using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.
The application process for a marriage-based green card involves multiple steps, most notably submitting the necessary documentation in support and attending an interview with US immigration authorities to prove the following:
- Your partner is a US citizen or permanent resident
- You have entered into a legally valid marriage
- The marriage is bona fide, rather than for the sole purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit.
Please note, if you have already married, plan to marry outside the United States, or you are already residing legally in the United States, you will not be eligible for a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa.
Marrying in the USA
If you are already residing legally in the USA but originally entered the country for a reason other than to get married, you may still be able to adjust your status under your existing visa. Non US-nationals may be in the United States for all sorts of different reasons, for example, as a tourist, a student or to work.
If you want to change the purpose of your visit while in the United States, prior to the expiry of your authorised stay your new US spouse must first File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, as well as Form I-485.
In broad terms, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status in the following circumstances:
- You were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant status remains valid
- You have not violated the conditions of your status, and
- You have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible.
You must also be able to demonstrate that you only made plans to marry after you entered the United States. Needless to say, it may be more difficult to prove your intentions where your relationship with your US fiancé(e) pre-dates you coming to the USA.
As a general rule, USCIS will assume that an applicant entered with a “preconceived intent” to remain in the US if an immigrant petition or adjustment of status application is filed within 90 days of entering the United States. However, the assumption may be disproved with evidence to show a change of circumstances that led to the desire to obtain a green card.
Where you originally entered the USA under a visa for a specific reason other than getting married, you must continue to abide by the terms of that visa until your application to adjust status is approved by USCIS. In the event that you fail to maintain your nonimmigrant status, you may be removed from, and even barred from returning to, the United States.
You will not usually be eligible to apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident, not even as the newly wed spouse of a US citizen, where your original intent was to get married and apply for a green card. This is likely to be construed as fraudulent.
If you attempt to adjust status in the USA where you had the intention to marry all along, you will be in violation of the law and could face criminal action, including but not limited to deportation and a permanent ban from the USA.
As such, in the event that you came to the USA under a visa permitting a specific activity other than to get married, in most cases you will need to return home with a view to coming back to the USA under either a K-3 Marriage Visa or a CR-1 Spousal Visa.
Marrying in the UK
If you are looking to get married in the UK, with a view to emigrating to the United States after the wedding, your US fiancé(e) will first need to apply for what’s known as a UK Fiancé(e) Visa.
A Fiancé(e) Visa will allow a British citizen to bring their fiancé(e) to join them in the UK with the intention of getting married within the 6 month period of the visa.
After the marriage, if you are looking to relocate to the US with your spouse, you will have the choice between obtaining a nonimmigrant (K-3) visa to enter the USA and applying to adjust status to become a permanent resident, or obtaining an immigrant visa (CR-1) to enter the USA as a lawful permanent resident.
A CR-1 visa is an immigrant visa that allows a spouse of a US citizen to enter the United States as a conditional permanent resident, whereby CR stands for “Conditional Residency” for marriages less than 2 years old. Within 90 days before the 2-year anniversary of your entry into the United States on your immigrant visa you and your spouse must apply together to USCIS to remove the conditional status.
The K-3 visa category, on the other hand, is intended to shorten the physical separation between you, as a British citizen, and your US spouse, by giving you the option to obtain a nonimmigrant K-3 visa overseas and enter the United States to await approval of your immigrant visa petition.
In most cases, however, the K-3 will not prove necessary as USCIS will generally approve the immigrant visa petition as quickly as a K-3 visa. Take advice on your circumstances to understand the best option for you.
Do you have a question about a US spouse visa?
If you have a question about your immigration status and options when marrying a US citizen, speak to one of our US immigration attorneys. We offer a fixed fee telephone consultation where you can put your questions to our specialists.