When Your Loved One is Abroad, getting them to the United States
Hello. Hello, everyone. This is Ifeoma Odunlami for those that don't know me. I am an immigration attorney in New Jersey. My firm serves clients from all 50 states of the United States and, today, I have a really, really great topic and I want to talk about this because I get people asking me this question all the time so I figure I might as well do a broadcast on it so that you guys can get some answers, okay? If you have any questions, put your questions in the comments section and I will get to it once I'm done with this overview, okay?
Let me introduce myself again, Ifeoma Odunlami, immigration attorney from Odunlami Law Firm, where we fight to assist fellow immigrants in getting their American dream. Today, I am going to talk about getting your loved one into the United States, your spouse or your fiance. I get this question a lot, I get people asking me what's the best solution, whether to file for their fiance or to marry them and then bring them over and the answer is it depends. It depends on your situation. What I'm going to do today is I'm going to go over the process of both the fiance visa, which is also known as a K-1 Visa, and the marriage based petition, which is the consulate processing.
And then you can decide what might work for you but I need to caution you that nothing that I'm saying here takes the place of a proper consultation and I'm not giving you legal advice, I'm simply giving you information because people who are informed are empowered and at the Odunlami Law Firm, we're all for empowered immigrants. That's the purpose of our shows, we want you to get knowledge so that you know what's right for you so that you can get your Green Card and ultimately become a US citizen.
Let's start with a K-1 Visa. The K-1 Visa, also known as the fiance Visa, is a non immigrant visa so it's not an immigrant visa, it's not immigrant, just like the other visas that allow you to come in here, B-1, B-2, whatever. It's not immigrant visa, right? Now, if you want to apply for a K-1 Visa, you must be a US citizen. A K-1 Visa is not available to legal permanent residents, you have to be a US citizen and you must have seen your fiance in the past two years in person. Not the online dating, that does not work for the fiance visa except in very, very few circumstances and these exceptions are so exceptional that I'm not even going to discuss it. Let's just agree that you have to see them in the past two years in person.
And number three, when you file your petition, you file the I-29f. You have to include a statement of intention to marry, both of you, and you have to marry within 90 days of your partner coming to the United States. You have to marry within 90 days of that and then you can adjust your status. And when you get your fiance stamp, you need to come to United States within six months of that. Now, what is the process for getting the fiance visa? It's really a seven step process and so I'm going to compare that to the marriage based, which is a four step process. The fiance petition, you file the form I-29. Once that's approved, then you've completed DS-160 through the NVC, National Visa Center, and once they approve that with all the documents that you're required to submit, they move it to the country where your fiance's from and they schedule an interview, a consular interview.
Once your fiance does a consular interview and they get the K-1, they can come into the United States but, like I said, you have to get married within 90 days and then you have to file your Adjustment of Status and when you file the Adjustment of Status, you get your work permits, the [inaudible 00:04:26], which allows you to travel while your case is pending. The process of getting the work permits, typically, could take up to four to eight months because it's taking a while, right? And then, once you do that, you're called for another interview, for the adjustment of status interview, where you're approved for the Green Card itself and then you get your Green Card. It's like a seven step process and I have to tell you, with the fiance visa, you must marry the person who filed your petition.
If for some reason, you guys no longer get along and you on the out, you cannot adjust your status in the United States, even if you marry a US citizen later on. You would have to leave the United States and come back again to a consulate processing. You cannot adjust your status unless you marry that person who filed for you, right? That's something that ... Now you can see straight away that the fiance visa now requires you to have two interviews. You have to have the consular interview in your country, you have to have the adjustment of status interview when you come here and you still haven't gotten the Green Card because it's a process. It takes much longer to get the Green Card from when you come in here. But for some people who just want to come into the United States as soon as possible, that might be the visa for them because then they're like, "You know what? We just want to get in and then we'll deal with that."
Also, for some people who don't mind not working, really getting a work permit while they're waiting for their papers, that might be something they want to do. Now, the other people who do not want to sit in the United States just not able to work are waiting until they get their work permits. For those people who don't want to do that, it might be better for them to marry the person who's filing for them and the process takes place while they're in their country, while they're working, and then when they come in here, they come in with a Green Card. Having said that, I'm going to segway into the marriage based consulate processing Green Card, right? That's a four step, right?
You file the form I-130. First of all, of course, you get married, that's the fun part. You get married to your US citizen Green Card holder. For the marriage based, it doesn't have to be just a US citizen, it can be a Green Card holder as well. However, with the Green Card holder, you have to wait for your priority dates to be reached before moving to the next step but if you're married to a US citizen, there's no waiting, there are no lines. You file that form, I-130, and when that is approved, the cases moves to NVC, National Visa Center, where you complete a DS-260 and complete all the requirements that you need to and then the NVC will send the case to your country where they'll schedule a consular interview so that's the third step. Consular interview, you go for the interview, you meet all the requirements, whatever you're supposed to do, you do your medicals and all that stuff, and then they stamp your Green Card, which allows you to travel to the United States. When you get to United States, you pay your LS fee and get your Green Card but as soon as you come in, you're able to work, okay?
Now, Gomez, Gomez says, "How long is it taking these days for petition for spouse outside the US with a US citizen?" You know, I have to tell you it really depends because in the past, the last administration, it took a long time. It was taking a while, well over a year, 18 months, right? But in the past few months, my office has filed ... I went through the petitions that had been approved, and this is just the first step, right? But they have been approved within, I feel like, two months, I've gotten approvals in Nigeria, in Columbia. Less than two months, I've gotten the I-130 approved. That's the first step, I'm not talking about the whole petition but if you remember that in the past years, even the I-130 would take one year to get approved, then you know that this is a big deal. Now, this administration is new so we're not sure how that's going to go over with the rest of the process but we're noting that the first stage, which is the I-130 approval, is going much faster so that means, hopefully, the other stages will go much faster.
And of course, it helps that coronavirus is somewhat under control in a lot of countries now because a lot of countries were closed down, the embassies were closed down, because of coronavirus. The answer is I really can't tell you how long it's taking but I would say that maybe less than a year, hopefully, okay? Fingers crossed. Going back to the marriage based petition, the consulate process and the fiance visa, people keep asking me all the time, "Which way should I go? What is better?" In the past, it was really quicker to get the fiance visa, right? But this days, after coronavirus, I'm more of the opinion that a marriage based is actually faster just because during the coronavirus, a lot of embassies were not processing K-1 visas at all and even until now, some of them are still having ... Things are still up in the air. If you remember that a K-1 Visa is a non immigrant visa whereas a marriage based petition is a Green Card, I would say that you want to get your Green Card as soon as possible.
Tameika, I will deal with you, let me just finish up this and then I'll come answer questions. Now, let's talk about advantages and disadvantages with the consulate durations. Now, while there's financial, it's a little more expensive for the fiance visa because, ultimately, you have to do the Adjustment of Status and the whole nine yards. It comes to about maybe $2025 maybe and the marriage based petition comes to about $1200 so if finances are an issue, that might be something you want to look at. But for a lot of my clients, a lot of things that are the deciding factor is children. If you have children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 and you file for a fiance visa, they can be included as part of your petition as derivatives. You can come in with a K-1 and your children, under the age of 21 and unmarried, can come in with a K-2 Visa. That's really, really helpful.
Now, if you're a US citizen filing for your spouse in the marriage based petition, their children cannot be beneficiaries because you have to file for your spouse and you have to file for the children separately, separate petitions. And I think the reason is because the marriage based Green Card petition, with a US citizen, has no waiting lines, right? You pretty much can get it right away, you don't have to wait to get a visa so your children cannot be beneficiaries if you're a US citizen spouses filing for you. They have to file for each of your spouse and each of the children. Now, with a Green Card holder, funnily enough, if your spouse is a Green Card holder, your children, under the age of 21 and unmarried, can be beneficiaries to the Green Card petition. Those are the things you kind of think about when you're deciding whether you want to file for a K-1 Visa, a marriage based visa, either as a US citizen or a Green Card holder.
Now, another thing you need to know is if you're a US citizen filing for a stepchild, the marriage that created the step relationship must've taken place before the child turned 18. If your partner, assuming you're not married, your partner has children who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 21, you might want to do a K-1 Visa so you can get everybody in here at the same time and then as long as you file your adjustment status before that child turns 21, that child can get a Green Card without you having to file a separate petition. Those are the kind of situations you need to be aware of, right? Let me go and answer some questions.
Tameika, you said, let me put this up here, "So, if you're not a citizen for the USA but a Green Card holder and have your finance you want to take with you ..." Okay, I'm trying to understand this question. You're not a citizen of the US but a Green Card holder so if you're a Green Card holder and you have your fiance you want to take with you, what is the best option? Okay, I'm trying to understand, I think what you're trying to ask is that if you're a Green Card holder and you're engaged and have a fiance, what's the best option? Well, as a Green Card holder, you cannot file for fiance. The K-1 Visa, that's only for US citizens. I would say you have to marry ... If you're a Green Card holder, you should marry your fiance and file for them and they can come in here through the consular process. All right? I hope that answers your question.
Hey, Trevia. How are you? I know, we're really excited with this timeline and it's about time. People have been waiting forever, waiting for their spouses to join them and this administration has promised that they're really going to make that a priority, working on the timeline, so that's really exciting. All right. Let's see, let me go through my notes and see if there's anything else left. Let's see. Hi, Tameika, you're welcome. I don't see any questions here and that was pretty much the presentation I wanted to make but I'm going to just hang around for anymore questions and ...
Okay, Debola Omo Oye says, let me highlight this, "If you married a Green Card holder of 10 years and have been married for the three years, when can he file for the spouse?" Well, your Green Card holder spouse can file for their spouse. As a Green Card holder, you can file for your spouse and, of course, it depends, the only difference which to a Green Card holder filing for their spouse and a US citizen is the priority dates and that depends on what country you're from. Debola, you have a Nigerian name so I'm going to assume you're Nigerian. I'm going to tell you that the priority dates for Nigeria is current so if you're married to a Green Card holder, they can file for their spouse, if they're spouse is outside Nigeria, they can file for the spouse to come in. However, if your spouse ... If the Green Card holder spouse is in the United States and they're out of status, that spouse cannot adjust their status within the United States because they're out of status. In that case, I would advise a Green Card holder to naturalize because when they naturalize, it would not matter that their spouse is out of status, okay? Debola, I hope that answered your question.
Trevia says, "What is your thought on third country consular processing?" Trevia, I always recommend that ... That actually gets a little complicated. I always recommend that people do their consular processing in the country that they are in because there's lots of requirements on that third country consular processing and so it would depend. Most of my clients, where you live is where you're going to be interviewed so you might just want to do that unless you have some kind of permanent, some kind of residency in another country, okay? All right.
Let's see. Hi, Dawn, how are you? "Greetings." How are you? I think that's pretty much it so if you or anyone you know is looking to file for their spouse or their fiance who is abroad, I hope this information has been helpful but, like I said, it really depends on your particular situation. I know people, I have a couple who one of them, the intending immigrant, did not want to come to the United States and just be here for six, seven months without being able to work because sometimes that can create stress in the relationship. You come home and you see this person home just watching TV all day while you're working and they can't do anything, they can't help you with anything, with the bills, nothing. For those people, if you're one of those people that you know that you do not want to see somebody home all day for eight months, eating your food and not helping out, you might want to get married and when they come into the United States, they are able to hit the ground running, they're able to start looking for a job while they're acclimatizing to a different country and all of that.
Dawn, where in Florida are you? My brother lives in Florida so I'm just wondering what part of Florida you are in. Florida, the weather there is always lovely. And Trevia says, "Thank you for providing this and answering questions, especially for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. It is much appreciated." Trevia, you're welcome and I always have to tell you that the questions I'm answering is a guide, right? It doesn't take the place of hiring a lawyer, at least for a consultation, so that you know that you need to be doing and as long as I ... If your case is complicated, I say maybe go talk to a couple of lawyers because sometimes two lawyers might have a different solution but it's important for you to know, to be empowered with knowledge because a lot of immigrants spend a lot of times anxious about things that there's a solution to so it's always a good idea to go to a lawyer.
Please don't go to [inaudible 00:20:09], they are not keeping up with the law. Immigration law is more than forms, okay? And a lot of clients are coming here, they've had their cases screwed up by going to [inaudible 00:20:21] or some "paralegal" that they thought was a lawyer and then we have to start cleaning the case up and it costs more money, it takes more time and not to mention the anxiety because that anxiety can be off the charts when you're worried about whether you're going to be deported, whether you're going to stay here, if you've done something that's going to make you inadmissible. It's always a good idea to talk to a lawyer, even if it's for a consultation, just know what you need to do and the law keeps changing. I keep telling people that when I was trying to adjust my status, if not for the new law that Bill Clinton put in place, I wouldn't have been able to adjust my status here, I would've had to leave the country and the laws then for coming back, the way that process was so complicated, I would've had to be outside the country for a while.
The new law that Bill Clinton put in made it easy for me to adjust my status, I only had to pay $1000. And so, the laws are always changing and for those who feel that there's no hope for it, I want you not to engage in that mind process, there's always hope that people who have been in this country for 20 years, didn't have papers and finally got their papers. The important thing is to listen when you hear attorneys giving these kind of Facebook lives, go in there, ask a question and get a consultation because things change and with this administration, things have changed so much that even people who have been deported now have a chance of having their deportation reopened because of a change in the law. These are things you need to do and you need to be aware of. When I was an intended immigrant, we didn't have lawyers doing Facebook and I wish there were lawyers doing Facebook, Instagram, YouTubes, because you get information, you're up to date with the changes in the law, you have an idea of what you need to be doing, that kind of stuff.
I cannot say it enough, you need to be informed so that you're empowered, okay? And, Trevia ... Ngozi says, "Thank you for giving us hope." You're welcome, Ngozi. And Trevia says, "I can confirm Ifeoma Odunlami is well qualified and experienced. Good vibes." Good vibes back to you, Trevia, thank you so much. Much love. I think that's pretty much it so I will go back to work, working to make a difference in somebody's life, many peoples lives, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do that. If you have any questions or you want to get a consultation, feel free to call my office, 973-993-1900. I can assure you that the people that work in this office, they're warriors, they fight for you. You can ask my clients. They fight for you, they come to you, we get those documents from you. Even when you think you don't have it, we'll find a way to think outside the box to get the information we need to help you with your case, okay? Well, take care, everybody, and I will be signing out.
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Immigrant Relative Petitions
Fiancé Visa Applications
Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing
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Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Application
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
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Temporary Protected Status
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals