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I am a US citizen who lives and works in the US. My fiance is a Greek citizen who currently lives in Greece. We intend to get married in Greece later this year and then she will join me as a permanent resident in the US. We want her to move to the US with me immediately after the wedding celebrations are over. I have looked into the K-1 fiance visa but it appears that the marriage must take place inside US borders for that to take effect. Our wedding will be in Greece.

I've also checked out this guide on bringing spouses to the US. It looks like I would have to fill out the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative just to establish the relationship and then fill out an I-485, Application for Permanent Status. However, I get the impression that we need to be married before applying for this and there would be a significant waiting period after our marriage before she would be allowed to immigrate to the US.

Is there any type of petition/form/visa that we can apply for before we are married? We would love to start on immigration now and have it more or less ready to go so that we can get married and just both move the US together. However, I've had difficulty finding any information on this.

  • Have you looked at the K-3 spouse visa? – phoog Jan 21 '17 at 2:22
  • @phoog: K-3 is obsolete – user102008 Jan 21 '17 at 2:56
  • @user102008 do you have more information about that? The state department certainly didn't mention it at travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/…. – phoog Jan 21 '17 at 4:13
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    @phoog: K-3s were for when I-130s were really slow many years ago, which is no longer the case. From what I've heard, currently USCIS processes the I-130 and I-129F together, and thus they will be approved at the same time, and a I-130 approval leads to the I-129F to be cancelled as they are no longer eligible for a K-3 if the I-130 is no longer pending. That's why it's basically impossible to get a K-3 visa. – user102008 Jan 21 '17 at 4:50
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    @phoog: And even in the highly unlikely chance that the I-129F is approved before the I-130 and is sent to the consulate and you can get a K-3, it is more likely to be a disadvantage than an advantage because the I-130 approval (and immigrant visa processing) is likely to be not too far behind, and with an immigrant visa, you immediately become a permanent resident upon entering the US, whereas for K-3, you have to apply for Adjustment of Status after entering the US, which costs $1225, and takes months to a year, before you become a permanent resident. – user102008 Jan 21 '17 at 4:50
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There is no way to have a spouse move to the US immediately after marrying a US citizen abroad. The way to apply for immigration for a spouse who is abroad is to file the I-130 petition, wait for it to be approved, and then it goes to NVC and the consulate for processing, at the end of which the foreigner spouse gets an immigrant visa from the US consulate in their home country. The whole process from I-130 filing to getting the immigrant visa takes around a year (the timeframe varies somewhat depending on consulate).

Note: I-485 is not involved in the above process. I-485 is to apply for Adjustment of Status, which is the process to apply to immigrant from within the US. Since she is not in the US, she would be doing Consular Processing abroad which does not involve I-485. If she somehow makes it into the US, then she could file I-485 and stay in the US while it is pending; however, she has no way of entering the US for the purpose of doing this -- except for H-1 and L-1 work visas (which I am guessing she does not have as she is not working in the US), and K-1 fiance visa, she cannot use other nonimmigrant visas to enter the US with intent to file I-485 during that trip.

One thing maybe you could perhaps do is go the K-1 fiance visa route, and hold a reception or ceremony in Greece for the relatives and friends but don't actually get legally married so she can still come on K-1, and then actually get legally married in the US after entering.

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    I am pretty sure you can use A and G visas (but probably not A-3 or G-5) to enter the US while intending to file for adjustment of status, so getting a job at the Greek embassy or at the UN or a similar organization would be another option, albeit an obscure and unlikely one for most people. – phoog Jan 21 '17 at 5:09
  • Thank you for the information and advice! I had no idea that the waiting time for 1-130 could be that long. We will consider what you said about the K-1 and getting legally married here while holding the ceremony in Greece - that sounds like the fastest way to do what we want. – Andy Noelker Jan 21 '17 at 19:54
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    @AndyNoelker: Well the I-130 takes a few months to be approved. And then after that it has to go through the consular processing process which takes a few more months. The K-1 process (I-129 and K-1 consular processing) takes a few months too, but is usually faster than the spousal immigrant visa. – user102008 Jan 21 '17 at 21:36
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The only petition/form/visa you can apply for before marriage, excluding the K-1 fiance visa, is one in which she files under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This, however, is strictly up for grabs as a "lottery" and there really isn't much of a guarantee that her petition will be approved.

There are, of course, other potential avenues to pursue, but they typically fall under very special categories, such as "refugee," "informant," etc...

The waiting period is different for everyone. I was a member of the military when we did my wife's paperwork overseas. I remember being told that I wasn't going to receive any sort of special treatment as a result of this, but I do recall that within a few weeks we got permission for her to immigrate. It actually surprised me.

That being said, we had our ducks in a row for the entire process. Her background check, vaccinations, all necessary translated documents, etc... were ready to go before we even applied. So, it may have just been a matter of making things easy.

One difficult thing is if you haven't physically met your wife for more than 2 years on the date of your application. For this, stricter criteria is required to prove that you're not attempting some form of human trafficking or that YOU aren't being paid by her or some other nefarious character to get her to the United States. The process for this may or may not have changed, and since it wasn't specifically asked about in the original question, I won't go into further details.

Some other recommendations... When you get to the US and continue your paperwork, I would HIGHLY recommend performing all correspondence through a registered P.O. Box. USCIS does not offer specialized shipping of Green Cards or other important documents that you think should require signatures upon delivery. You can track the package (to a degree), but if the Post Office stuffs the Green Card in the wrong mailbox, you have to start the whole process over again if your neighbor tosses it in the trash. I know because I just had to redo the entire I-90 process over with my wife (including the $450 fee) because of this. We were advised by USCIS to do everything via PO Box at that point.

You may also want to scope out the U.S. Embassy in your area on your scheduled appointment dates. I know we arrived an hour early at the gates one day in the country we were in. It happened to be the day the U.S. invaded Iraq (in 2003) and there were massive protests, people yelling at us, etc...

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    Luckily we have pretty good proof of our relationship as we used to study together, have been dating for 4 years, and travel to see each other several times a year. In fact, she just left the US last week on a trip to see me. You're right that the Diversity Immigrant Program is a gamble, but we're not crossing off any options. Thanks for the information and sharing your own experience! – Andy Noelker Jan 21 '17 at 19:55
  • @AndyNoelker The green card lottery is a gamble with a fairly low ante, except for time: the process is probably too slow for your schedule. It would almost certainly make more sense to apply for consular processing. Another little-publicized option: the US accepts AOS applications from immediate family members of US citizens who entered on the VWP. So you could get married, come to the US on VWP, and then apply to stay. It seems though that your wife might nonetheless be refused entry on the VWP because of "immigrant intent," so you should probably consult a lawyer if you want to try this. – phoog Jan 23 '17 at 18:51

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