In our global community, relationships can develop in many situations, and often span time and distance. In some cases, romantic connections can happen across borders, between people of different nationalities. Many Americans travel for pleasure, study abroad or work for globally-connected companies. Thus, meeting someone and falling in love is not at all uncommon.
Of course, taking the relationship to the next level may involve some unexpected legal issues. Certainly, most world citizens can freely travel to the United States for pleasure, but to remain for an extended period of time – or indefinitely – a visa is required. There are many types of visas, but if the goal is to have a fiancée come prior to marriage, then the applicable visa is the Fiancé(e) Visa.
To start the process, an application must be submitted for review. There are a number of eligibility requirements that must be met for the fiancée to qualify for this particular visa. For example, the petitioner – the person sponsoring the application – must be a U.S. citizen. Both the petitioner and the fiancée must also be free and clear of any previous marriages; this means those marriages are legally ended through annulment, divorce or the death of the previous spouse.
There is also the requirement that the two parties have met in person at least once within 2 years of the application process. However, there are exceptions for hardship or cultural practices, but the petitioner will need to be prepared with evidence to support this.
Importantly, a successful application and granting of the visa provides 90 days for the fiancée and petitioner to marry – it will expire, without an opportunity to extend, after that period. Additional applications, for a different visa or permanent resident status, will likely be required. Navigating the U.S. Immigration system for immigration matters for families can sometimes be confusing and difficult, so seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney can help avoid pratfalls and put forth a strong application.