Photo: Getty Images
People from all over the world are meeting and falling in love thanks to Internet dating websites and social media. There are reality television shows that feature the struggle those couples go through to come together in the United States and actually get married. What they don't show you a whole lot of, though, is the actual process of obtaining a fiancé visa to bring your beloved into the country legally.
Where to Start
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services provides a fairly extensive how-to on their website, along with FAQs and all of the forms you could ever need to complete the process. While it seems difficult on its face, if you follow the instructions to the letter and don't put off getting any of the paperwork you need to submit, it's not that painful. There's a step-by-step guide online. If you're not organized enough to handle it all yourself, there are a whole bunch of professional services (mostly immigration law specialists) who can take care of it for you for a flat rate.
To be eligible to apply, you only have to show that you are a U.S. citizen, you and your fiancé are both single, and you've met in person at least once in the last two years. However, if your religion forbids it or it was literally impossible, they'll grant a waiver. Once your petition is approved, they do a background check — on both of you — and paperwork is sent to the consulate in the country where your fiancé is a citizen.
The Final Steps
Your fiancé must submit the same sort of paperwork to their local U.S. consulate, as well as proof of the relationship, and have a medical exam by an approved physician. The U.S. consulate actually determines whether or not the fiancé K-1 visa is granted, based on their findings. Then your fiancé must travel to the United States via an approved "entry port," where they will again undergo even more rigorous screening prior to the entry into the country. Once entry is granted, you have 90 days to marry, and continue on to the green card process. The K-1 visa expires after six months.
Jason Hitch and Cassia Tavares were married on TLC's 90 Day Fiancé, but Jason said they had to do all the immigration paperwork on their own to bring Cassia from Brazil to Florida. They opted to do the legwork themselves instead of hiring a professional. Jason offers the following advice to future K-1 visa-seeking couples:
"Take baby steps. Read the paperwork. Consult several K-1 couples from similar countries with similar stories. If you are single and your fiancé has no kids, don't consult a K-1 couple WITH kids. That makes for less possible errors. Be thorough. Have a good presentation when you meet with officials. Make your packet look sharp — don't be messy. Remember, you're trying to convince a stranger how much in love you are with your best friend. It should be easy."
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.