February 9, 2009: Marriage To An American Citizen, Adjust Or Visa Process?

Marriage To An American Citizen, Adjust Or Visa Process?

I’m an American citizen and my boyfriend is a Canadian citizen and we want to get married. I want him to live here in the United States with me. How long after we marry will he be able to live with me and work here and eventually become an American citizen (dual citizenship?) And does it make a difference whether we marry here or Canada?
— Anonymous

Since you are not married yet, you have a few options. If your boyfriend is presently located in the United States and you now decide you want to get married, then you can get married in the United States and do all of the immigration paperwork while he remains in the United States. This process is called adjustment of status. Assuming he is otherwise eligible and all of the forms and supporting documentation are properly filed, it takes approximately six months from the date of filing to be scheduled for an adjustment of status interview at your local district office.

Several things may happen:

* If your boyfriend becomes your fiancé and assuming he is otherwise qualified, you may file a K-1 petition on his behalf to have him enter the United States to marry you within 90 days after his admission.
* If you get married and your husband is in Canada, you may file either a K-3 nonimmigrant visa petition or obtain an immigrant visa through consular processing. In some instances, it takes nearly the same amount of time to obtain a K visas as it does the immigrant visa through consular processing.
* If your marriage occurred less than two years before your husband obtains his permanent resident status, then he will receive a two year conditional resident card. He will have to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence within the 90 day period immediately preceding the two year anniversary that his permanent resident status was granted. If you remain married and continue to reside together and he is otherwise eligible, your husband may file for citizenship two years and nine months from the date he was granted his lawful permanent resident status. In a perfect world where processing times remained consistent and all of his filings were perfect, your husband would become a United States citizen approximately 4 years from the date of the initial filing for adjustment of status.

It would be wise for you to consult with an immigration attorney with extensive experience in family-based immigration law before filing any paperwork with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys