Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

Romance and Marriage – Part 3

The stress of not being able to be with the one you love, or the stress of trying to time the processing of your immigration case with your wedding plans can be quite overwhelming. We make it our business to advise clients on all of their options so they can make informed decisions. As a rule of thumb we advise our clients to start their immigration applications as early as possible, even if it means we’ve finished our initial immigration package 3 months early. The last three months leading up to a wedding or preparing to relocate is not the best time to be bombarded with immigration issues.

K1 Visas:
The purpose of a K1 visa is to allow a fiancée to come to the US in order to get married within three months of arrival. The K1 visa can take approximately nine months to process. However, during peak case times, US Immigration can take a lot longer. With the variation in processing times throughout the year you can begin to appreciate how tricky it can be to plan a wedding around an uncertain processing time frame. There are several reasons for the lengthy processing times. The first reason is sheer case volumes as there are hundreds of thousands of applications being filed every month. The second reason is fraud detection and the third reason is background checks. With regards to background checks, US Immigration have to make sure that the alien wishing to marry their US citizen is not a criminal with a long history of criminal activity or that the alien is not carrying some kind of virulent disease. The interesting point to make here is that every day thousands of aliens enter the US under the visa waiver program without any criminal or medical background checks. However, with the recent introduction of ESTA US Immigration is now actioning more background checks before visitors are allowed to travel to the US.

K3 Visas and Consular Green Card Processing

The purpose of the K3 visa is almost identical to that of the K1, the only difference is that the alien is already married to the American citizen. The K3 visa is designed to get the alien in the US while the alien continues to wait for their green card to be processed. The processing times for a K1 and K3 can sometimes be very similar. Consular green card processing is where the married couple process their green card at their home US Embassy. Consular processing can take longer than a year in some cases and therefore the K3 option was created to shorten this wait from around 12-18 months to 9-12 months. It is important to check the processing times to determine which option is best. Consular green card processing is better for some people since it by-passes the need for AOS (see below) upon arrival. Please note that K1 and K3 applicants will need to go through the AOS process upon arrival.

Adjustment of Status (AOS):

An option that you will never find advertised on a government website is the Adjustment of Status (AOS) option. In this context how this works is that if an alien legally arrives in the US for a holiday and then decides to marry an American (or stay for their US citizen parent/child over 21) , providing they file all the right paperwork they can apply for their work permit and green card while in the US and not have to leave. In these AOS cases if the alien does not have a criminal record or medical difficulties their adjustment will be just as smooth as if they did the application in their home country. Attempting to do this yourself could result in you being deported and being barred from re-entry if you mess it up. The only reason why this option is not advertised at all is because US Immigration does not want criminals and carriers of contagious diseases coming into the US in large numbers with the intention to stay; such aliens would not successfully get through the AOS process anyway and would then need to be deported.

The AOS option is a quite popular one with our clients as it removes the long wait of the K1 and K3 and enables them to get to the US accordingly in their own time frame with certainty. The key is to make sure that before the alien enters the US all their immigration papers are fully prepared in advance so there is the minimum of delay between arriving in the US and filing their AOS paperwork. Again, getting all of this in place as early as possible will lead to a lot less stress down the line.

The AOS option should not be entered into lightly and one certainly could not broadcast this intention upon arrival under the Visa Waiver Program as to do so would most likely result in immediate deportation.

Working in the US:

Whether you arrive on a K1, K3 or as an AOS alien, once in the US you will need to apply for a work permit. Typically, K1 aliens should be married before they apply for their work permit, although some states allow prior application, whilst some allow application after marriage only. A work permit can take around eight weeks to process and again remember with US Immigration anything can take a longer or shorter time, so never set your plans too closely to a US Immigration time frame.

Traveling Back and Forth from the US:

Once an alien has arrived in the US and has filed papers for their work permit and green card, US Immigration would like them to stay put in the US until they have their green card which would take six months or more. If an alien were to just jump on a plane and leave then US immigration would assume the alien was not coming back and then close the file as abandoned. However, US Immigration does appreciate that there are situations such as family emergencies or work commitments where an alien cannot stay put in the US and will need to travel. Where this case arises the alien, through their attorney, can file for a ‘travel document’. An official travel document enables US Immigration to authorize that alien’s right to travel in and out of the US whilst their case is being processed. AOS aliens should avoid seeking a travel document bearing in mind they would have already jumped the queue to begin with.

If you know in advance that you may need to travel outside the US, it is sometimes advisable to make the application as soon as you enter as a ‘just in case’.


Some US citizens may be on a low wage or not working at all when they fall in love and want to marry an alien. In such circumstances the US citizen may need to find a co-sponsor to financially back up the application. US Immigration wants to make sure that any alien coming into the US does not become a public charge claiming various government benefits and so forth. The co-sponsor’s role is to reimburse the State should the entering alien begin claiming such benefits within the first five years of their arrival. A sponsor can be any US citizen, they do not have to be related to the primary sponsoring US citizen.



Be Successful Get Your US Immigration Professionally Taken Care Of

The secret to our success is the amount of documentation we prepare for our clients so that US Immigration, even on their worse day, will look at our clients’ cases as the standard to aim for and thus push it through the system faster. We do cases like these every week and therefore have a wealth of experience and expertise in knowing what makes a great case and how best to deal with any bumps in the road. I cannot stress enough how important it is to hire a fully-qualified and licensed US attorney to do this. There are many non-attorney and attorney services out there after your business with all kinds of agendas, it does make picking the right one very difficult indeed. All I can say is that our commitment to you is that once we get started we’ll work the case from beginning to end until you get that green card in your hand. Our service is all about providing constant legal representation, advice and support throughout the process.

I trust this outline provides some further understanding for you. This overview is not intended to be comprehensive in any way but rather to help de-mystify, in general terms, what options could be available for you.

Fiance(e) and Marriage Home Page

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K3 Marriage Visas
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US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire, 12th Floor
Santa Monica,
California 90401
Tel: 310 496 4292

Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.

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