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Stamford, CT immigration and visa lawyer

Obtaining an Immediate Relative (IR) visa for your foreign spouse can be a challenging process. Typically, the waiting time to receive an IR visa is very short, but there is the potential for something to go wrong. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) scrutinizes every spousal application, requiring both partners to provide a great deal of personal information. If the application or documents are not filled out correctly, this can put the visa application and your future happiness in jeopardy. To avoid any bumps in your road to marital bliss, be sure to follow these straightforward tips:

1. Provide Clear Proof That Your Marriage Is Legitimate.

Unfortunately, foreign nationals sometimes do use marriage as a pretense to gain entry to the United States. As such, the U.S. State Department sets a high standard for documents that authenticate your marriage. Among the most trusted documents to use as validation of your wedding is an official marriage certificate from the United States, Canada, the Commonwealth of countries that are former territories of the British Empire, or the European Union. Many couples, if they are married in a foreign country, will get a marriage license in the United States before beginning the application process for the visa.

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Fairfield County immigration lawyer

In most of the world, same-sex relationships are not given the same recognition and equality as heterosexual marriages. Only 21 countries have legalized gay marriage and offer refuge for homosexuals fleeing persecution in their own country. The United States is a mixed bag when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. While many states still have anti-sodomy laws, recent court decisions have ruled in support of the LGBT community. In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruling of The United States V. Windsor, SCOTUS ruled that the DOMA Act (The Defense of Marriage Act) was unconstitutional. President Obama directed then Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano to review all same-sex couple immigration and visa requests on the same grounds as opposite-sex couples.

With DOMA now unconstitutional, gay, lesbian, and transgender couples are given equal recognition as hetero-couples. The significance of this is that if a U.S. citizen marries, or wants to marry, a foreign national of the same sex, they can petition for them to come to live in the United States. 

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New Canaan immigration green card lawyerIf you are considering marriage as a way to obtain permanent resident status in the U.S., also known as getting a green card, you must be very careful to avoid being accused of fraud. Applications for marriage-based visas, which permit the immigration of fiancés and spouses of U.S. citizens, are closely examined by U.S. immigration officials because of the relatively high incidence of fraud. You would be wise to consult an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you do not make any mistakes in the application process.

Avoiding Marriage Fraud

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been involved in the investigation and prosecution of numerous marriage fraud schemes in the past few years. It is instructional to review a few of these cases to understand what was done wrong:

In 2017, eleven people were found guilty of immigration-related marriage fraud in two separate but related schemes in Texas. They had been paying U.S. citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with Nigerians who had entered the United States on tourist visas and then preparing fraudulent applications for the Nigerians to obtain permanent resident status. One of the ringleaders, an American citizen, was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised parole. Other defendants were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison or a term of probation. Several of the defendants are not U.S. citizens and will face deportation proceedings upon their release from custody.

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The Differences Between the K-1 Fiancé Visa and the IR-1 Spouse Visa

Darien spouse visa immigration lawyerAre you planning a wedding between an American citizen and a citizen of another country? If you intend to make your permanent home in the United States, the foreign citizen will need to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. There are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, then marry in the U.S.
  • Marry abroad, then sponsor the foreign spouse’s immigration through an IR-1/CR-1 visa. 

Before deciding which path to take, consider the following:

Bringing a Fiancé to the U.S. on a K-1 Visa 

  • A K-1 temporary (nonimmigrant) visa allows a foreign-citizen fiancé to enter and remain in the U.S. for 90 days, during which time they must get married. 
  • The U.S. citizen must first file a petition for the visa by mail. Later, the foreign citizen must complete an online application form and attend an in-person interview that is intended to prove that a bona fide relationship exists. 
  • You must also provide proof (such as travel and hotel receipts and date-stamped photographs) that you and your fiancé have met in person at least once. 
  • While there is no annual quota limit on K-1 visas, processing can take six or more months. 
  • Once married, the non-citizen spouse can remain in the U.S. but must apply for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. 

Bringing a Spouse Married Abroad to the U.S. on an IR-1 Visa

  • Before planning to marry in another country, check that country’s specific requirements for marriage. For example, you may need to establish residency in that country for a certain period of time. 
  • When a Connecticut citizen is married in a foreign country, the state will recognize the marriage as valid as long as both parties would be legally allowed to be married in Connecticut, and the marriage is legally valid in the country where the marriage occurs. 
  • When applying for a spouse immigration visa (IR-1/CR-1), you must provide a copy of your marriage certificate. You must also submit “clear and convincing evidence” that you have a bona fide marriage and that you “entered into the marriage in good faith and not for immigration purposes.”
  • If you have already been married for at least two years, the non-citizen spouse will receive an IR-1 (immediate relative) visa, which is good for ten years.
  • If you have been married for less than two years, the non-citizen spouse will receive a CR-1 (conditional residence) visa, which is good for two years. During the ninety days prior to the expiration of the CR-1 visa, you must apply jointly to remove the conditional status, converting the CR-1 to an IR-1. 
  • While there is no annual quota limit on IR-1/CR-1 visas, visa approval can take six to twelve months. Once the visa has been issued, the immigrant must enter the U.S. within six months.

Consult a Fairfield County Spouse Immigration Attorney

If you want to bring your foreign-citizen partner to the U.S., Gonzalez Law Office, LLC can help you decide which type of visa to apply for and work with you to navigate the complex immigration process. Attorney Hector Gonzalez,  a Stamford, CT family immigration lawyer, has been serving the immigration needs of families for over 15 years. Contact us at 203-323-1440.

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Fairfield County Bar Association Connecticut Bar Association American Immigration Lawyers Association Connecticut American Immigration Lawyers Association
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