If you are intending on getting married to your loved one abroad and then filing immigration paperwork for his/her permanent residence so that the both of you can spend the rest of your married life here in the United States, the best thing that you can do is educate yourself before you actually book that plane ticket and get married. Once you get married, there are legal immigration consequences that extend beyond the normal ones already incurred by the actual act. Here are three things you need to know before you make those marriage plans:
1) You Will Not Be Able to File for Your Loved One as a Fiancé. As an alternative to a marriage visa, some individuals pursue a K-1 fiancé visa for their loved ones, which in some cases, may be faster in terms of getting the person physically here. However, should you get married, you will no longer be able to file for your loved one as a fiancé. You will have to file for your spouse using the I-130. Consular filing cases, on average, can sometimes take up to one year.
2) If you want to file, it is extremely important that you ensure that both parties are legally free to marry and that you follow the legal procedures in the foreign country to get married. USCIS will only recognize marriages that are valid, so if the foreign marriage is not valid due to some defect or failure to follow procedure, there will not be an underlying basis to support the marriage visa. Additionally, if, for example, either one of you is still technically married to someone else, those marriages must of course be dissolved.
3) He/she will probably not be able to accompany you back to the United States. In most cases, the petitioner needs to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS here in the United States. Unless your spouse already has some sort of visa, whether it be an H-1B (professional), F-1 (student), or B-2 (visitor for business or pleasure), it will usually be difficult for him or her to travel back with you right away if you plan on returning to the United States soon after the marriage. This is due to the fact that most consular officers will not issue non-immigrant visas to those that they suspect might have immigrant intent (there is an exception for H-1s, which allow for “dual intent”). In other words, a consular officer may find it difficult to believe that your spouse will only come to the US temporarily and then go back. It is more likely the case that he or she will enter the US and then try to stay, since the both of you are already married and presumably are not going to be living apart. Given this, your spouse will usually not be able to enter the US except through the immigrant spousal visa or perhaps, if you are lucky, the K-3 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa for a foreign spouse of a United States citizen who has already filed an I-130, which remains pending.