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General Information about Visas and Immigration

If you have found a woman on and you’re both ready to take the next step, congratulations! Whether you plan to co-habit or get married, there is a lot to learn about visas and immigration. To avoid mistakes and extra costs, we recommend that you consider hiring an immigration attorney or consultant to guide you through the process.

Because marrying a citizen to achieve an alternate objective is commonly used to circumvent immigration laws, immigration officials tend to scrutinize couples who purport to have a bona fide romantic relationship. So you will need to have extensive documented proof that your relationship is genuine. Be sure to save all records of your correspondence (i.e., letters, emails, phone bills), travel receipts, ticket stubs to events you attend together, hotel invoices and photos or videos of your time together.

You will need to know the immigration laws in your country of citizenship and in the country in which you marry. Here we provide general immigration information for the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. You’ll need to know much more to complete the process within a reasonable amount of time, which is why you should consider hiring an immigration attorney.


In the United States, the process for applying for a “green card” due to marriage varies depending on whether you marry the foreign national inside or outside the U.S.

Marrying inside the U.S.

The K-1 fiancée visa is required if you marry inside the U.S. Both parties must be eligible to be lawfully married in your state of residence, i.e., at the time the visa petition is filed and at issuance, you both must be of legal age and not already married to each other or anyone else. Once issued, the K-1 visa allows your fiancée to enter the U.S. for 90 days during which time your marriage ceremony will take place. The K-1 process takes about eight months.

Getting a K-1 fiancée visa is generally quicker than a marriage visa; with it your fiancée can apply for a work permit. Children of your foreign fiancé can come to the U.S. on the K-2 dependent visa; be sure to include the names of your fiancée’s children on all relevant paperwork.

Marrying outside the U.S.

If you marry outside the U.S., find out the legal requirements for marriage in that country and if your marriage certificate will be valid in the U.S. The K-3 spouse visa allows spouses of U.S. citizens to enter the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa category. To apply for a K-3 visa you must be married and your foreign wife must want to enter the U.S. and wait for the immigrant petition to be approved.

Children under 21 of your non-citizen spouse can apply for a K-4 nonimmigrant visa; be sure they are listed on all relevant paperwork. Approval of a K-3 petition generally takes three to six months; after approval, it must be processed at the consulate, which can take an additional two to four months.

With a K-3 visa your spouse can apply for a work permit. Children under 21 can accompany your spouse to the U.S. on the K-4 dependent visa so long as they are listed in the visa petition. You will also need to file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status) and Form I-765 (Employment Authorization) if your wife plans to look for a job.

If your wife’s conditional permanent residence status is approved, after two years you will be interviewed for issuance of the green card. Be sure to apply for a change in your wife’s conditional residency status to avoid the risk of her being deported. For more information, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site.


A foreign national in a relationship with a Canadian citizen has three ways to immigrate to Canada:

  • As a spouse – To get a spouse visa your marriage must be recognized by Canada and the country in which the marriage took place.
  • As a common-law partner – To get a common-law visa you must be in a committed relationship and have lived together for at least one year. (This is commonly referred to as domestic partner or civil partner in other countries.)
  • As a conjugal partner – To get a conjugal partner visa you must have been together for at least one year without the requirement of living together. (The foreign partner cannot be from a visitor visa exemption country; this often applies to same-sex couples who are legally unable to marry in the country one of them is from.) You must provide evidence of a committed and mutually dependent relationship of some permanence and have combined your affairs to the extent possible. If you are dating or thinking of marrying or living together and establishing a common-law relationship, you are NOT in a conjugal relationship, nor are people who want to live together to “try out” their relationship.

For more information about immigrating to Canada, please visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Web site.


Nationals of the European Union (EU) and Swiss nationals and their families can come to the U.K. to visit, live or work without a visa. EU countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU) but their citizens have the same rights to enter, live in and work in the U.K. as EU citizens.

A foreign national in a relationship with a person settled in the U.K. or applying to settle in the U.K. can apply for permission to enter or remain in the U.K. with a view to settlement as a:

Husband, wife or civil partner

The husband, wife or civil partner must be at least 21 years old (or 18 years old if a serving member of HM Forces) and must be:

  • currently living and settled in the U.K., or
  • returning to the U.K. with a foreign national to live here permanently.

Fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner

A foreign national applies in this category to settle permanently in the U.K. after a marriage or civil partnership. If a foreign national marries in the U.K. or registers a civil partnership and leaves the U.K., (s)he should apply as a visitor for marriage or civil partnership.

If the foreign national is subject to immigration control and wants to come to the U.K. in this category, (s)he can apply if his/her fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner is:

  • currently living in the U.K. and settled here; or
  • returning to the U.K. with a foreign national to live here permanently.

Unmarried/same-sex partner

A foreign national who is subject to immigration control who is the unmarried/same-sex partner of a British citizen or person settled in the U.K. can apply for entry in this category. The relationship may be a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, but you cannot be related by blood.

If the foreign national is outside the U.K., the settled partner must be:

  • currently living and settled in the U.K. or
  • returning to the U.K. with the foreign national to live here permanently.

Additional requirements:

  • both parties must be at least 21 years old (or 18 years old if a serving member of HM Forces) on the date you are given leave to remain;
  • any previous marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship must have permanently broken down;
  • the foreign national is not in breach of U.K. immigration laws;
  • you and your partner are not related by blood;
  • you have met your partner;
  • you have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership that has been existing and genuine (not a 'marriage of convenience') for at least two years;
  • your relationship did not begin after a decision was made to deport or remove the foreign national from the U.K.;
  • you and your husband, wife or civil partner intend to live together permanently;
  • you have adequate accommodation where you and your dependents can live exclusively and will be able to maintain yourselves and dependents adequately without the help of public funds.

If the application is approved, the foreign national will receive permission to live and work in the U.K. for a two-year probationary period. After two years the foreign national may be eligible to apply for permission to settle permanently in the U.K. (known as 'indefinite leave to remain') as the settled person's unmarried/same-sex partner.

For more information about immigrating to the U.K., please visit the U.K. Border Agency Web site.

Please note: has provided this information as a courtesy to our members. We do not update this information and do not take responsibility for its accuracy. For the most up-to-date information, please check the official Web sites of the governments in question.