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What happens if I marry my foreign partner abroad?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2021 | Family Immigration Visas

You spent two years working for the Peace Corps in Colombia. While you were there, you fell in love. You and your partner got married in Bogotá, and now you want to move back to the U.S. Will your marriage allow your partner to skip all of the usual immigration hurdles?

Not exactly. There is a common misconception that if you – an American – marry a foreigner, they automatically become a U.S. citizen. In actuality, the process is not so straightforward. While marriage can be one path towards citizenship, it’s important to understand that it’s only one step on that path. In today’s post, we examine the basics about what to expect when you marry your partner abroad.

When you marry abroad

First things first, if you marry your partner in another country, you want to make sure that your marriage there is legitimate. There are certain things you’ll want to investigate:

  • Are you required to have a particular visa or any other documents?
  • Are there any marriage certificates that are not officially recognized in that country?
  • Are you required to reside in that country for a certain amount of time?
  • If you’re marrying a same-sex partner, are same-sex marriages recognized in that country?

Immigration requirements

Once married, you can apply for your spouse to become a permanent U.S. resident. Send Form I-130 along with your marriage certificate to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS will validate your marriage certificate with the government of the country where the marriage took place, so it’s important that you did your homework in the previous step.

Financial requirements

You can’t bring your partner to the U.S. without showing that you have a means of supporting them. To prove this qualification, you’ll have to submit an Affidavit of Support to the USCIS. In it, you’ll have to prove that you earn at least 125% of the HHS Poverty Guidelines. For a two-person household in California in 2021, you’d have to have an annual income of at least $21,775.

In addition, it’s important to understand that you can only submit the Affidavit of Support if you intend to reside in the U.S. long term. You’ll have to demonstrate proof of residence – such as mortgage documentation. You may not return to the U.S. only for the duration required to get your partner a green card.

If you want to marry your foreign partner – in the U.S. or abroad – there are many options to consider. It’s wise to discuss your situation with an experienced immigration attorney to help you make the best possible decision.