Ask the Consul Archives
Fiancé and Spouse Visas
We’re Getting Married: What’s Next?
So you’ve recently gotten married or engaged – congratulations! When one person lives in the United States as a U.S. citizen and the other lives in Pakistan, there are many immigration factors to consider. For instance, do you want to have your wedding in the United States or Pakistan? If you want to officially marry in the United States (and live there), you should apply for a fiancé (e) visa (K-1 visa). If you decide to marry in Pakistan, do you want to live in the U.S. or Pakistan? If you decide to live in the United States after the wedding, the U.S. citizen will need to petition for his or her partner (CR-1 or IR-1 visa) to immigrate to the United States. Here is some useful information that can assist you in bringing your fiancé (e) or spouse to the United States.
If your spouse or fiancé (e) is an American citizen, you may be eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States under one of the following categories:
- A Spouse Visa - IR-1 Visa or CR-1 Visa
- Merely living together does not qualify as a marriage for immigration.
- In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration (and polygamy is illegal in the U.S.).
- Individuals married and divorced in Pakistan must properly register a divorce from a previous spouse according to Pakistani law (see the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, S.7, N.9) in order for U.S. immigration law to recognize a marriage with a second spouse.
- A visa for your fiancé (e) (K-1 visa)
Who is eligible?
As a U.S. citizen, under U.S. law, you have the right to petition for your spouse. But remember:
If you have been married for less than two years when your spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, the permanent resident status is considered “conditional” (CR-1). This means that you and your spouse must apply together to remove the conditional status after you have been married for two years. Only then will you have a permanent right to remain in the U.S. If you have already been married for more than two years when you enter the United States, you will be granted full Legal Permanent Residence status (IR-1 visa). But don’t worry – your status will adjust automatically, so the petition process is the same regardless of the amount of time you have been married.
Who is not eligible?
First, you must be in a “legitimate” relationship. Marriages entered into simply for immigration purposes are not legal and will not be approved. As for all categories of visas, involvement in illegal activities makes you ineligible for a visa. For example, if you engaged in drug trafficking; if you overstayed on a previous visa in the United States; or if you submitted fraudulent documents, you could be ineligible for a visa.
How long does this typically take?
The length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances and cannot be predicted for individual cases. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions or supply incomplete information. It is very important to give us correct postal addresses and telephone numbers. After the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer, some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time (six months or longer). This process can neither be waived nor expedited.
Who is eligible?
A Pakistani fiancé (e) of a U.S. citizen who will be married in the U.S. is eligible. The U.S. citizen and the visa applicant must be legally free to marry (i.e. not already married to anyone else) when they apply for the visa and must remain so until after they go to the U.S. The marriage must be legally possible according to the laws of the U.S. state in which the marriage will take place (States have different age requirements for marriage, and in certain states, first cousins cannot marry). To be eligible for the visa, you must have met your fiancé (e) in-person within the past two years. If you enter the U.S. on a fiancé (e) visa, you must marry within 90 days.
Who is not eligible?
In Pakistan, if you have already signed your Nikkah Nama (the marriage contract), under U.S. law, you cannot apply for a fiancé (e) visa. In the Pakistani culture, weddings are important events that are celebrated by many relatives and friends. Therefore, we find that most people get married in Pakistan. After marriage, they may not apply for a fiancé (e) visa, but they may apply for an IR-1/CR-1 visa to move to the U.S. with their husband or wife.
How long does this typically take?
The length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances (see IR-1 section for more details). Some people incorrectly believe that fiancé (e) visas (K-1 visas) are issued more quickly than spouse visas (CR-1, IR-1 visa). This is not true – circumstances other than the category of visa concerning each individual case affect the time period of visa issuance.
Dispelling Myths about Applying for Spouse and Fiancé (e) Visas:
Myth 1: Applying for a fiancé (e) visa, even though we are already married, is quicker and easier.
Reality: Many years ago, the processing time for a fiancé (e) visa was shorter than a CR-1 visa. This is no longer true. If you are already legally married in Pakistan, you must apply for the correct visa category (a CR-1 or IR-1 visa). If you attempt to apply for the wrong visa category, you can: 1) jeopardize your right to immigrate to the United States and 2) further delay the processing of your case.
Myth 2: I should just go to the United States on a tourist visa and get married there to circumvent the immigration process.
Reality: A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. You should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The immigration officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the U.S. If they suspect that you are attempting to immigrate to the United States on a tourist visa, they have the authority to deny you admission. If you do enter the United States on a tourist visa and get married, you may still encounter difficulties when you attempt to adjust your status to become a legal permanent resident and you risk deportation.
Myth 3: Once I enter the U.S. on a fiancé (e) visa, I am a Legal Permanent Resident.
Reality: If you enter the U.S. on a fiancé (e) visa, you must marry within 90 days. If you do not, you must leave the United States. Otherwise, you will be in violation of U.S. Immigration Law and subject to deportation. After your marriage, you may apply for Legal Permanent Residence. However, before that time, you are not a Legal Permanent Resident.
Myth 4: The processing time for an LPR (Legal Permanent Resident) spouse visa (F2A) is about the same as the spouse visa for an American citizen (IR-1 or CR-1).
Reality: Each month, the US Embassy is informed by U.S. colleagues in Washington, DC of how many F2A visas may be issued, based on a case’s priority date (the date when the petition is filed). Currently (as of April 2011), only F2A petitions filed before 1-Apr-2007 are permitted to be processed. While this number changes month to month, this means that more recently filed petitions are on hold. Even if you already completed your interview, your visa cannot be issued until your case becomes “current” – (permission is granted to process visa with your petition’s priority date).
No matter which visa category you apply for, the best way to ensure that your application is processed in a timely matter is by providing all requested information in a timely manner. Advice that we give to all petitioners and applicants is:
- Be prepared – submit all requested documents and reply in a timely manner to all requests.
- Be honest – it will take longer and may be ineligible for a visa if you try to hide something from your past (i.e. divorces, previous visits to the U.S., deportation, arrests, etc.).
- Be patient – this is a timely process that takes more than one year in even the fastest cases.