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Marriage and Family

Certain American citizens (USCs) and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may sponsor close relatives for immigration to the United States. Family-based immigration involves a two- or three-step procedure. In some cases, the steps are consolidated. However, there are always two decisions – the “petition” to verify the relationship qualifies under the law; and the relative’s personal eligibility to immigrate. Here is a basic discussion of the rules and procedures for family-based visas:

Spousal Green Card Flowchart
  • Fiancé/fiancée visas (K-1)

    A K-1 is a temporary visa available only to the fiancé/fiancée of a U.S. citizen. A K-1 petition is filed with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the U.S. citizen’s residence. The petition is usually decided in five to seven months. If approved, the petition and supporting documents are then sent to the designated American consulate.

    The foreign national fiancé/fiancée is then invited to the consulate for an interview and, hopefully, issuance of the K-1 visa. The fiancé/fiancée must come to the U.S. within six months. The parties must then marry within 90 days. Then the foreign national applies for permanent resident status (adjustment of status) with USCIS.

    For a K-1, the sponsor must have physically met the foreign national fiancé/fiancée within the preceding two years and prove it. Usually a photograph and other documents are required. Many consuls quickly process fiancé/fiancée petitions. Others view them as a high fraud situation and investigate closely, looking for other marriages and past visa fraud.

    Lawler & Lawler processes fiancé/fiancée visas quickly. We also intervene with the consul to try to expedite fiancé/fiancée visas when there is a good reason to do so.

  • Temporary Visa After Marriage to a U.S. Citizen (K-3)

    This is a relatively new visa class. A K-3 visa permits the foreign national spouse (including those in same-sex marriages) of a USC to immigrate quickly by first obtaining a temporary visa similar to a K-1 fiancé/fiancée visa. The parties may marry in the U.S. or overseas. Both a temporary visa petition and an immediate relative green card petition are filed to secure this visa.

    Once the temporary visa petition is approved and forwarded to the American Consulate, the foreign national applies for the K-3 visa. Once the K-3 visa is issued, the foreign national can come to the U.S., apply for a work permit and then take steps to acquire permanent residence either through the USCIS or the American Consulate.

    Unfortunately, the USCIS has just been granting the green card petition, killing the K-3 visa program.


    Opposite and same sex spouses may be sponsored for green cards. Those married to a US citizen (USC) may immigrate as soon as the paperwork is processed. Others married to a green card holder (LPR) must wait for the case’s priority date to be current for the second stage of the case to proceed.

    For couples married less than two years, the foreign national receives a “conditional” green card valid for 24 months. Then, 21 to 24 months later the couple must file another application to show they are still together and that the marriage was entered into in good faith and did not involve fraud.

    Note: there are a number of complexities not discussed here. For example, most foreign nationals who entered illegally cannot apply for adjustment of status in the United States. Please contact us for a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.