Marrying a foreign national is a completely different experience than marrying a resident of the United States. The United States government must be petitioned to permit your spouse to live with you in the United States.

If you want to marry a Thai, first look to the laws of the jurisdiction to see under what conditions the foreign country will allow the marriage and to see if there is a residency requirement for the United States spouse to fulfill. The United States consulate in Thailand can assist you with information but please do not ask us as our Law office cannot help you. 

If a foreign marriage occurs, the American spouse must file a Petition for Alien Relative and endure many months or even years of separation from his new spouse while the petition is approved and then finally processed at the foreign consulate abroad.



Fiancée visa

A USA citizen  has an option available to him/her: the fiancée visa. The U. S. citizen can petition for a visa for his alien fiancé to allow her admission to the United States for a period of 90 days to allow for them to prepare for their marriage and life together. The fiancée process can be completed in a much shorter time period than a spousal petition.

The Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is approved in the United States by the Immigration Naturalization Service (INS) service center with jurisdiction over the residence of the US citizen petitioner. To qualify for a fiancée visa, the citizen petitioner must provide proof that he is a citizen by birth or by naturalization, that he is legally able to marry his fiancée and intends to do so, and that his fiancé beneficiary is legally able to marry him. In addition, the citizen petitioner must provide proof that he has met his fiancée in person within the last two years. It is recommended that such proof consist of photographs of the petitioner and beneficiary together, copies of the petitioner’s passport showing entry and exit stamps to the beneficiary’s home country and other similar items. The requirement for a personal meeting can be waived under certain limited grounds, such as a custom in the fiancée's culture allowing for arranged marriages or extreme hardship ( eg. severe health restrictions ) to the petitioner. 



Visa process

The Congress passed the L.I.F.E. act which should speed up the process ofbringing your wife to the U.S. It gets rid of the long wait for those wife's who must get immigrant status before joining their husbands in the US . She can go as a non-immigrant instead . You must file I-129F ( Fiancee petition ) as proof of marriage , I-130 and wait until the non-immigrant Visa gets to the Embassy .



To begin the process, the petitioner will file Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé with the INS service center for his region. This is NOT the local district INS office near your home. Must submit a signed Form G-325 Biographic Data sheet for himself and for his fiancée, copies of proof of the termination of all prior marriages for himself and for his fiancée, "green card" type photographs of both the petitioner and beneficiary, and an Affidavit of Support showing the willingness of the Petitioner to provide support for his fiancé if she is allowed to be admitted to the United States. All documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified English translation of the document. ( It is advisable for you to assist your fiancée in gathering the information, documents, and photos while you are here with her rather than than collect materials later via the mails )

If the fiancée has unmarried children, they should be included in the petition and may be able to accompany her to the United States. The children may also follow to join their parent within one year of the initial visa approval. However, unless the marriage to the alien fiancée occurs before a child’s 18th birthday, the child will not be able to receive residency based on the marriage to a US citizen. He would be able to be petitioned by his mother based on her new residency status but, under current waiting lists for that category, he would not receive a "green card" for over seven years.

The Affidavit of Support (currently INS Form I-134) requires supporting documents such as employment letters, bank letters, and a list of stocks held by the petitioner. A new form, INS Form I-864 is due to go into effect in December 1997 and will require the submission of the Petitioner’s last three tax returns with proof that the petitioner meets minimal income requirements to support his alien fiancé. The purpose of the Affidavit of Support is to show the government that the alien fiancé will not be a burden ( or "public charge") on the people of the United States. The burden in all INS matters is on the petitioner and beneficiary to show their eligibility for the benefit requested.

Approval of the petition by the Service can take between just a few days to several weeks. The approved petition is then sent to the U. S. consulate with Immigrant Visa jurisdiction over the beneficiary’s place of residence. For example, for the former Soviet Union, the IV consulate is in Moscow. Selection of another consulate other than the consulate with jurisdiction does not guarantee that the selected consulate will accept the case. Upon receipt of the approved petition packet at the consulate abroad, the alien fiancé is contacted and scheduled for interview. The consulate will mail a packet of materials to the fiancée to allow her to complete the application process for receiving the K-1 visa. The consulate will include an itemized list of required documentation for the beneficiary to bring to the interview. This list will be in the beneficiary’s native language.


Some of the items that will be required for your fiancé’s appointment at the consulate will be her birth certificate and English translation, the results of a physical examination performed by a doctor approved by the consulate, a valid passport, a police letter documenting lack of criminal history, verification of any name changes and original copies of proof of termination of all prior marriages of the beneficiary. If the fiancé's child or children are to accompany her, then the same documents will be required for the child(ren).


US Consulate in Vietnam

The consulate will make an initial determination of admissibility ( excludability ) to the United States. Some grounds of excludability include criminal arrests, terrorist activities, trafficking in narcotics, habitual drunkenness, and insanity. If there are grounds for exclusion, there may be waivers available. The consulate will also make serious inquiry into the intentions of the parties and as to whether the marriage may be a marriage of convenience to gain an immigration benefit for the beneficiary. A marriage of convenience, or "sham marriage" can have serious consequences for both the petitioner and beneficiary if detected.


Entering the United States

Upon approval of the K-1 Visa, the consulate will place the visa into the beneficiary’s passport.  Children receive K-2 visas. This visa permits the fiancée to enter the United States within six months of the date of approval by the consulate. Upon entry into the United States, the fiancée is only permitted to remain for a period of ninety days. There are no extensions allowed. During the admission to the United States, the fiancé will receive employment authorization from the INS.

The petitioner and beneficiary must marry within that ninety day window or the beneficiary must leave the United States. If marriage to the petitioner occurs, the married couple will then apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident at the INS district office in their area. If the marriage does not occur and the fiancée returns to her home country within the ninety day period, then the parties retain eligibility to pursue this option with other potential spouses in the future.

This article is intended to provide general information on the visa process. There are many other factors in this complex and ever changing area of the law. If you have any questions or need more specific advice on this or any other immigration matter, contact an attorney who practices immigration law.

Our thanks to PJ Sumner for providing us with this info.

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