Love does not know borders, but governments do. As a U.S. citizen who is getting married, you and your fiancé(e) may be planning for your future life together here in Columbus. But before that can happen, you need to follow the rules to bring your future bride or groom to Ohio the right way.

The nonimmigrant visa that allows your fiancé(e) to come to this country to get married is called the K-1 visa. It permits them to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days. To be approved, you and your fiancé(e) must promise to get married during that time. In addition, you must get married in the U.S., and you cannot already be married. Your fiancé(e) must not already be residing legally in this country.

Bona fide relationship

Most importantly, you must show that your marriage plans are bona fide. You and your fiancé(e) must show legitimate intentions and plans to establish a life together. If the immigration official reviewing your K-1 visa application has reason to believe that your marriage will be solely so your fiancé(e) can gain legal status to live in this country.

One way immigration law combats fraud is through the rule requiring that an applicant for a K-1 must have met their fiancé(e) in person at least one time in the two years before applying. However, the rule does make exceptions for cases where meeting would violate “strict and long-established customs” of your fiancé(e)’s culture or social practice, or where meeting would result in extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen making the petition.

Getting permanent resident status

After your fiancé(e) receives their K-1 visa, arrives in the U.S. and marries you, they are eligible to apply for permanent resident status, also known as a green card. In the meantime, if your fiancé(e) has any unmarried children under age 21, you can petition for them to join you in this country using a K-2 visa. Once here, they too can pursue green cards.

To avoid mistakes, it is wise to get an immigration attorney’s help when you are planning to marry someone from another country.