Can a Canadian Legally Marry an American Citizen in America?

By Tom Streissguth

Federal immigration and visa law covers marriages to foreign nationals within the United States. As citizens of a foreign country, Canadians must follow these rules or risk denial of their visas and deportation from the country. If you are a U.S. citizen and considering a marriage to a Canadian, familiarize yourself with the basics of immigration law.


Foreign citizens may come to the United States after obtaining a visa. There are different visa classifications for tourists, guest workers, diplomats, refugees, family members and fiancées. A Canadian wishing to marry a U.S. citizen inside the United States, and then take up permanent residence in the United States, must first file a visa application in Canada. If the couple does not intend to stay in the United States, then the Canadian may arrive on any legal visa, participate in the wedding ceremony, and then leave before the expiration date of the visa. The U.S. citizen must follow the rules and procedure for immigration as the spouse of a Canadian to Canada.

K-1 Visas

The Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services process visa applications. To marry a foreigner in the United States, the U.S. citizen must first file Form I-129F with the USCIS. After this application is approved, the Canadian must file a K-1 visa application at the nearest U.S. consulate within four months. If successful, this will result in the issuance of a K-1 visa at the consulate. Immigration law bars foreigners from arriving in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa, then applying for permanent resident status. Therefore, the Canadian fiancée must wait until the K-1 visa is approved and issued, then come to the United States.

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Marriage Deadline

Once the Canadian fiancée arrives in the United States, the couple has 90 days to marry. The couple must obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate in order to obtain an adjustment of status for the Canadian. The USCIS will not extend the 90-day deadline; if the time expires and no marriage takes place, then the Canadian will be “out of status” -- without a valid visa -- and must leave the country. The K-1 permits a fiancée to obtain a work authorization in the United States before the wedding takes place.

Permanent Resident Status

After the marriage, the Canadian must apply for permanent resident status. As the spouse of a U.S. citizen, a foreign national has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. To achieve this, you must file an I-130 application for permanent resident status, which will result in the issuance of a green card, as well as Form I-485, an application to adjust status. While waiting for the issuance of a green card, an applicant may not leave the United States, except under special circumstances. Anyone holding a green card may leave and return to the United States freely.

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