Love Abroad: Marrying Non-U.S. Citizens

By: John Whitbeck


Love knows no bounds, and it’s not surprising that many people are finding love abroad and marrying non-U.S. citizens. Whether it’s a holiday romance or finding your significant other while on a military assignment in a foreign country, many United States citizens want to bring their new fiancé to live with them in the United States. To do this, you must start by obtaining what’s known as a fiancé, or K-1, visa. This process can be complicated, which is why it can be beneficial to have a family law attorney by your side as you navigate the road ahead. 

If you are already married outside of the United States, you would need to look into the requirements to bring your spouse to live in the country. And, what happens if the marriage doesn’t work out? What does that mean for divorce and their ability to stay in the country?  

Eligibility for K-1 Visa   

The following requirements must be met to obtain a fiancé K-1 visa: 

    1. You must intend to be married within 90 days of your fiancé’s arrival in the United States.  
    2. The relationship must be valid, and the marriage cannot solely be for obtaining residency. 
    3. Both parties must be free to marry, which means that any prior marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, annulment, or death. 
    4. You must have met your fiancé in person at least once within the two years before filing for the visa.  

Divorce When You Have a Green Card   

Depending on the circumstances, divorcing a non-U.S. citizen can have consequences for that person. If the immigrant spouse is still covered under conditional permanent resident status, then a divorce would affect their immigration status. Conditional green cards are for individuals who have been married for less than two years. Once the two years have passed as a conditional permanent resident, the spouses can file a joint petition to have those conditions removed. In the event you have separated, there may be an option to get a waiver. Waivers are an option in situations where the immigrant spouse can prove the marriage was entered into in good faith and the immigrant spouse was not at fault for the separation. Every divorce isn’t the same, which is why it can be beneficial to hire a divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about your specific circumstances.

Prenuptial Agreements and Immigrant Visas   

There is no requirement to have a prenuptial agreement; however, if you plan to have one drafted, it must be disclosed during the visa process, or the immigrant spouse could be accused of misrepresentation, and both parties might be subjected to financial penalties and/or criminal charges. A prenuptial agreement may or may not help with your case as it could look bad if you have no commingled assets, while others may use it as a weapon during a divorce to allege their spouse only married for a green card.

If you need assistance with drafting marital agreements or initiating divorce proceedings with a non-U.S. citizen spouse, it’s important to retain a skilled Virginia family law attorney. You need an attorney who understands the nuances of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and can apply them to a marriage’s intricacies involving at least one green card holder. Contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing clientservices@wblaws.com.

Related: Family Law

John Whitbeck

John Whitbeck


John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.