Canadian Fiance Immigrating - Halp!

D’oh. Placeholder until I can flesh this out. Accidentally submitted. Delete if necessary.

Okay. As I was saying… :slight_smile:

Some of you may recall my “long distance” relationship thread about probably close to a year and a half ago. I am happy to report that my fiance and I are happily engaged and have been so for several months. We have told the news to her parents and they were overjoyed to hear it. Essentially, everything we thought would be a major roadblock was actually not much of one at all. We know the process itself will be difficult, expensive, and time consuming. We are prepared for that.

A bit of background. I am a U.S. citizen and she is a Canadian citizen. She is 28 and I am 24. Neither of us have children or a criminal record. I won’t really bother to divulge any additional details about us as I’ve heard they are mostly immaterial when it comes to the immigration.

I have spoken with an attorney per a co-worker’s referral. Our initial consultation has yet to happen, so I’m just looking for some preliminary advice to supplement my laborious re-hashing of over and over again… :stuck_out_tongue:

We are basically trying to get a feel for the K-1 (fiance) visa versus the IR-1/CR-1 (spousal) visa. The K-1 visa is significantly more expensive but seems to offer a lower wait period (on average). You are required to marry up to 90 days after the visa is approved. From there, she would need to file for permanent residency, which, if done through an attorney, is quite expensive. During this time, she cannot go visit her family unless she files for Advance Parole (AP). This is the primary reason why she does not want to pursue this route.

The IR-1/CR-1 (spousal) visa seems to be a better looking option. It looks to be significantly cheaper due to not requiring an application for permanent residency. We apply for this visa after marrying in EITHER country during one of our visits. The obvious downside of this is that her mother wants a wedding in a Catholic church (blech…). I am unsure if a wedding ceremony can be held separately from that of the State’s recognition of our marriage. I assume that this can happen. If this is true, the wedding would be more or less in the “eyes of God” as we would already be recognized as being a married couple by both States.

The processing time for the IR-1/CR-1 seems to be longer than that of the K-1, but a few months seems to be pretty unimportant considering the positive benefits of going that route.

I guess my question is as follows: Has anyone experienced this personally? What are the good things from your experience? Bad things? Which route did you take and why?

Any insight anyone can shed would be most welcome.

Ostensibly your MIL already has a specific Catholic church in mind. Is there a reason you can’t have a destination wedding there, where you travel to be with all of her family, then a reception party here where she travels to be with your family? I can’t possibly imagine, unless you’re a gay couple, that a marriage in Canada would not be viewed as legally binding in the US. But even if it weren’t, you can just hop down to a justice of the peace here to take care of the legality on both sides of the border.

That’s the issue, more or less. Her mom wants to have a wedding ceremony in a Catholic church. She has one picked out, and a priest picked out. Neither of us are wild about the idea, but we are going along with it because she didn’t have any other objections whatsoever. This was not expected, so we are doing what we can to appease her.

That said, we were planning on having some sort of reception here in the States after the fact. We definitely want to go the IR-1/CR-1 route if we can. It seems to be the best fit for us.

I was a K1 immigrant to the US back in 2005. Petition filed via Vermont SC in September 2004, interview at London in January 2005, entered US at Newark April 2005, married in PA in July.

We chose the K1 route because of the speed of processing, and because my fiancee had already had difficulty entering the UK so a wedding over here would have been tricky. Personal preference would have been for the IR1/CR1 route, as not being able to work or leave the US was a trial.

I would never advise anyone against getting an AILA affiliated lawyer to help with Adjustment of Status if they chose the K1 route, but plenty of people whose cases are uncomplicated do manage to do it themselves.

Thank you for the response. We plan to have an attorney see us through the process (whichever option we may choose). That said, your experience seems to line up with what I’ve read about the K-1. Speedier, but ultimately has more restrictions (and much more expensive).

No need to get remarried in the U.S. if the marriage is legally binding in Canada, or in any other country, for that matter. (Unless, as you say, it’s a marriage that doesn’t count under U.S. Federal law, such as same-sex or polygamous.)

Tons of people have religious ceremonies and civil ceremonies at different times for whatever reason. I see it most often with people who want a Catholic religious ceremony - I often have to get clients to clarify which wedding they are talking about when gathering info, the religious or the civil ceremony. For U.S. immigration purposes, if the religious ceremony isn’t itself legally binding in the country where it is conducted, the civil marriage is the one that counts.

Not sure whether the lawyer mentioned it, but to the OP: you should both be very careful to tell the truth if questioned by border officials about whether you intend to get married, stay in the country you are visiting, etc. A fraud determination would really suck if the Feds decide your fiancee is not being forthright about her intent. Good luck!

Eva Luna, U.S. immigraiton paralegal

Thank you.

I figured that the two events could be conducted separately from one another with no entanglements. This is good news to hear. I’m sure her Mom won’t mind us already being married if it means she gets to have her church wedding for her daughter.

We’re planning to have the civil marriage take place in Canada after Labor Day at some point in September. She is coming here on Labor Day weekend and we understand that she will no longer be permitted here while the CR-1 process is underway. Her mother will be out of the country until after that weekend, so we plan to do it then and then begin the filing process for the CR-1 with my attorney.

This is not to say that the K-1 has been ruled out yet, but it doesn’t seem like a practical option when you factor in our needs and flexibility. We can afford either path, but the advantages of the K-1 don’t seem to line up with us very much.

That depends on the laws of the country where the religious ceremony is taking place: in this case, Canada. You seem to be confused about the concept of “marriage valid for a specific religion” vs “marriage valid for a specific non-religious legal system”; if you’ll allow me, I’ll abreviate them by the terms used in Spain: religious marriage and civil marriage.

There are country/religion combinations where a wedding held for that particular religion in that specific country automatically confers both a religious marriage and a civil marriage.

There are others where a wedding held for that particular religion in that country can not confer a civil marriage, only a religious one.

There are others where it can confer the civil marriage or not, and it’s the spouses’ choice.

To find out whether having an RCC ceremony in Canada will make you legally wed in Canada or not, you need to ask either the branch of the Canadian government handling marriages or an RCC parish priest who’s working in Canada.

Some other apparent confusions:

If the RCC ceremony is not legally binding in Canada and you want to go the IR1/CR1 way, you will need to have a civil ceremony in Canada. If you want to have a non-legally-binding RCC ceremony in Canada and a legally-binding ceremony in the US, that’s the K1.

A reception is not a wedding. You can have a reception in the US whether you’re being married in the same day or were married three months before.

Thanks for the response.

I (guess?) I am confused, but I did assume that it would be up to the individual country on whether or not the marriage can be recognized in a church with a civil union already having been completed (likely) several months prior. The reason for this is that a wedding can take a long time to plan properly (even without a reception). We don’t want those months and months to be wasted when they could’ve been used for waiting for the process to complete.

Hence, we would like to have a civil union in a courtroom as soon as possible, but have the church wedding at some later date. I will have to get in touch with the proper Canadian parties should my attorney not be able to provide specific information on this. If it’s as individualized as being up to the priest himself, then that could cause an issue as well.

This could all be (mostly) avoided by combining both civil and religious unions during the religious wedding ceremony. I was up there for her cousin’s wedding and noticed that they actually did the paperwork and everything else right after the priest finished his spiel, so I know it’s possible. I just don’t know if it’s possible to split up the two events. We shall see.

Oh, OK, so what you want is to have the civil ceremony first, if it can’t be organized as soon as you’d like.

In that case the civil marriage is already recognized by the Canadian government if you’ve had it in Canada (or if you’ve had it in the US and filed the proper paperwork with the Canadian government); the religious ceremony can not create a civil marriage that already exists. You will have to talk with the priest about whether he wants to call the ceremony a “wedding” or a “renewal of the vows” (both names are valid, but have different meanings; what makes your religious marriage valid or not is not the ceremony but the commitment).

Understood. It sounds like it would have to be something that is up to the priest. I fear we might have to take a “renewal of vows” approach which might not be terribly kosher with her mother.

That said, there’s really no way to adequately plan a wedding in advance with ANY option. Both options give you a limited (or no) time for advanced planning. The CR-1 allows for this, but it is negated by that time being lost while waiting for the wedding. The K-1 only gives you 90 days after it’s approved (an unknown) to get married. Any way you slice it, we’re going to have to do a civil union

Shrug, the “renewal of vows” approach emphasizes that you are already married, in the eyes of God as well as those of the government. I’ve attended many “weddings” where the couple had been living together for a while or were already civilly married, one where their firstborn was being baptised at the same time: the priests always mention that “this is an announcement of something which already exists” and remind the congregation that “it’s not my presence that makes them married, it’s their commitment to each other”; the one with the baptism called it a renewal of vows even on the invitations. The few ones where the couple has been living apart until that point are less likely to come with a theology lesson.

I just might take this entire passage and forward it to the appropriate parties… :wink:


Just to clarify the part I bolded, the 90 day clock starts not on the date the K1 visa is approved, but on the date it is used to enter the USA. It is valid for a single entry to the United States for 6 months after the date of issue.

Edit: Source (US State Department)

I doubt if my experience would be relevant, since it was so many years ago (35 or so). I married a Canadian, and after a few years, we decided to move to the US. We packed our stuff, and stopped at the US consulate before arriving at the border, no appointment necessary, and it took about two hours to process everything and she was handed a green card. I don’t think there was any fee.

Mindless fear did not yet stalk the land.

Sadly, things have changed a lot since then.

Eva Luna has given the straight dope on the legal end? Check.
Theological questions have been discussed? Check.
It’s IMHO so I can give a stupid opinion? Check.

I’m against it. We have enough Canadians here already, wearing their toques and improving hockey’s TV ratings.

I hope you two have just enough trouble with this that it makes a good story for the kids, but not so much as to get you all stressed out. :smiley:

elninost0rm, what province are you planning on getting married in? the general rule in Canada is that a religious ceremony is both: it’s a religious marriage and is a civil marriage. You can have a purely civil marriage ceremony, later followed by a religious ceremony, but you may not be able to have a religious ceremony first that is not a civil ceremony - it depends what the law of the province in question says. It’s quite different from the approach to civil and religious ceremonies in European civil law countries.

If you want to nail this down, I’d suggest you find the government web-page of the province in question and see what it says on this issue.

This post is not intended as legal advice - I don’t know what province you’re thinking of getting married in, and I don’t know what the law of that province says. For something this important, I suggest you go to the source, the government in question. I wouldn’t rely on anonymous posters on the web (including me! :slight_smile: )

Marriage ceremonies are performed under provincial law in Canada, not under federal law, so it’s the province he should be consulting, not the federal government.