Hot tip: hire a lawyer ASAP.

By Alyssa Brown
October 22, 2018
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Marrying someone who's from a foreign country can seem like a daunting undertaking, especially when you consider the fact that immigration laws are constantly changing and there's lots of confusing legal jargon floating around. With careful planning, though, it's certainly not impossible. Here, one lawyer and one wedding planner share everything you need to know if you're engaged to a foreigner. Their tips will make tying the knot and living stateside that much easier.

Hire a lawyer ASAP.

California-based lawyer Carmen Casado of Casado Law says, "First and foremost, talk to an immigration attorney to find out the various options before even deciding on a date for the wedding. There's really no other way to get the information in a clear manner." Every case is different and every couple will have a different set of hoops to jump through, so leaning on a professional to help you make decisions quickly and get the paperwork done efficiently is crucial.

Delays and denials are not uncommon. If you want to avoid repeating the process, find and hire an immigration lawyer as soon as you're able. Not sure where to look for a lawyer? Ask around and check online reviews. You want to be sure you're hiring a lawyer who deals with family-based immigration.

Your visa type makes a difference.

Wedding planner Alison Rinderknecht of Alison Events says, "There's no one-size-fits-all approach as the rules are different for every visa type." Many partners come to the U.S. on a spousal or fiancé visa prior to the marriage, which can be the easiest way. If your partner is in the country on a visitor, education, work, or another type of visa, the marriage process will vary and may require your fiancé to return home for a period.

"Timelines can vary a lot based on current visa status," Casado says, "and not every country allows people to come to the U.S. on a visa waiver." She notes that some timelines can vary anywhere from a few months to waiting outside the U.S. for up to a year and a half in some cases.

Marriages are universally recognized.

If you're unsure whether to get married stateside or in your fiancé's home country, it's worth noting that your marriage should be recognized internationally, regardless of which location you choose.

Divorce documentation is necessary.

If your fiancé has previously been married, Casado says that they'll need to get their original divorce decree from their home country as soon as possible. This paperwork will need to be submitted with the immigration documents.

Remember that laws change often.

"The rules are always changing, and everything depends on the situation and the timing," Casado says. The best way to stay on top of the latest rules and regulations when it comes to marrying a foreigner is to work with a lawyer who's constantly on the pulse of these changes. "The process is really complicated and there are a lot of pitfalls. If you don't file through a lawyer, there's a good chance something can get denied or delayed. It really pays off to hire a lawyer who is competent and experienced with family-based immigration."


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