As a US citizen or lawful permanent resident of the US, you are free to marry your Canadian bride and bring her home to live with you in the United States providing you fulfil the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) basic criteria:
- You must be an American citizen or legal permanent resident aged 18 years or over
- You must be able to prove that you are financially independent and able to support your Canadian spouse and any dependent children
- You must be able to prove that you a residence where you, your Canadian spouse and any dependants can live
When you get married to your Canadian fiance you can legalize your Canadian marriage in the US.
Getting Ready for Marriage Immigration
Before you leave the US, you need to prepare for your marriage immigration. You should go in person to your local Registrar of Marriages to obtain a Single Status Affidavit. This certificate can be prepared by a notary in the US.
You will also need an original or certified copy your Birth Certificate.
If you have been married before you must produce one of the following documents to support the Affidavit of Single Status:
• If divorced, you will need your Divorce Decree
• If widowed you will need your Certificate of Marriage and Death Certificate of your previous spouse
Changing Your US Documents
When official documents issued in the USA are to be used in Canada, they need to be “authenticated” and “legalized “in order for them to be valid there.
The first thing you need to do is get your documents “authenticated” by the Secretary of State in the US state they were issued in. The purpose of the authentication process is to prove the validity of the documents issued in the US. Documents in Need of Legalization for Marriage in Canada:
- Affidavit of Single Status
- Divorce Decree (if relevant)
- Former spouse’s Death Certificate and previous marriage certificate (if relevant)
- Your Birth Certificate
- Name change certificate (if relevant)
- Your US passport cannot be legalized as it is already an internationally recognized document. You must however have photocopies of the ID and bio page translated and notarized as true copies of the original.
Canada Visa Requirements
As a US citizen you do not need a visa to visit Canada providing your stay there does not exceed 3 months. You must however have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity prior to its expiration date. You may also cross into Canada without a passport if you hold a document, which is recognized under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). WHTI documents include the following:
Getting Married in Canada
Getting married in Canada is an option to any US citizen who wants to marry their Canadian spouse. Unlike the US, no medical tests are required to marry in Canada. Waiting periods between issuing the license and performing then ceremony varies between the provinces. In Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Northwest Territory, Nunavut, Ontario and Prince Edward Island there is no waiting period. In Quebec there is a 20 day waiting period for the publication of the banns.
There are three basic steps to getting married in Canada: you need a marriage license, two witnesses and a person authorized to perform the ceremony. You also have to pay a fee for the marriage license, the person performing the ceremony and the marriage certificate. Fees vary widely from $20 to $250 according to the province.
The first thing to do if you are planning to marry your Canadian spouse in Canada is to apply for a marriage license in the province where you intend to marry. You can apply at any Registry Services office or in some cities like Toronto it can be done online.
If you or your Canadian fiance has been widowed, divorced or are under age for a legal marriage in Canada, you will have to take additional steps before the marriage.
If either of you have been widowed you must provide the death certificate of your former spouse and the marriage certificate.
If you have been divorced and your divorce took place in Canada, you should provide the original or a court certified copy of your final divorce decree, judgment or certificate of divorce.
If your American fiance is divorced, you must get an endorsement from the Minister of Government Services before the Registrar will issue the marriage license. Each province has its own office. You need to submit a Statement of Sole Responsibility signed by both of you, which states that you both understand that receipt of a marriage license does not mean that the courts will recognize your previous divorce. You will also need to visit a lawyer in your province to get a written legal opinion, which is addressed to both of you, explaining why the divorce should be recognized in the province.
In the case that your US spouse is under 18 years of age he/she will need to provide written parental consent, which must be signed in front of the Registrar by the parents. Parental consent may not be necessary if a judge decrees so.
A Canadian marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date of issue – you must state the date you plan to marry on the license. In the province of Ontario, you and your Canadian fiancee should fill out and sign the application to marry together. Either partner can go to the city hall to submit it.
Documents Required for US and Canadian Spouse
- Birth Certificate or Passport
- Written parental consent if under 18
- Proof of marital status.
In some provinces you will also have to supply the full names of your future American wife/husband’s parents as well as your own parents. This information must include the mothers’ maiden names and all parents place of birth. It is wise to consult your province or territory’s Web site for province specific information.
If all documents are correct, the marriage license will be issued the same day.
Once you get your Marriage License, you can arrange your marriage ceremony. Couples getting married in Canada can have either a civil or a religious ceremony.
If you decide on a religious ceremony you may have to allow for banns to be published; your religious minister will advise on this procedure. Any religious representative, recognized by a religious body to perform marriages, and is registered to perform marriages under the Marriage Act in the region where you want to get married can perform religious ceremonies.
If you opt for a civil ceremony, you should contact a civil official when you apply for your marriage license. Different civil officials are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in different provinces. In some provinces they are called Marriage Commissioners, and in others they can be called clerks of the service or ‘prothonotaries.’
Wherever you marry you will need two witnesses aged 18 or over. At your marriage ceremony, the minister or marriage commissioner presiding over the wedding will fill out the marriage registration forms, which are then recorded at the Division of Vital Statistics. You may be given a Statement of Marriage after the ceremony; this is a temporary document to prove you are married until the marriage certificate is issued. You must apply for your marriage certificate from the Division of Vital Statistics.
Sponsoring your Canadian Spouse to Live in the US
It is the responsibility of the American husband or permanent resident to file an immigration petition as the sponsor of his Canadian wife to come to live in the United States as a legal permanent resident.
The first step in the visa process is for you to establish that the relationship between you and your spouse qualifies her for a green card with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is done by submitting the application ‘Petition for Alien Relative’ known as Form I-130. This form notifies USCIS that you have a foreign spouse and you want to apply for her green card; if you are applying for your wife’s dependent children you must fill out a separate I-130 for each child.
If you are a US citizen your application will be given priority over all other sponsorship applications because there is no waiting period for foreign spouses and their children (under 21 years of age) in the US immigration system. Spouses and dependents of lawful Permanent Residents are next in line. You must provide documentary evidence of your status as a US citizen or permanent resident and of your relationship to your wife such as a Canadian marriage certificate.
Form I-130 should be submitted to the Chicago Lockbox relevant to the state they live in unless you are submitting it with an application for permanent residence. USCIS then directs your I-130 petition to the appropriate USCIS Service Center (the USCIS location depends on where you reside in the US). If you send your I-130 to the wrong Chicago Lockbox, or to another USCIS address, it will be rejected. The fee for filing Form I-130 is $355.
Once your I-130 is received, USCIS send you Form I-797 known as a ‘Notice of Action,’ to acknowledge receipt of your application.
If your application is incomplete or does not contain relevant supporting documents it will be rejected and the sponsorship process will be further delayed. You must keep copies of all immigration documentation in a safe place in case your wife’s visa petition gets lost or mislaid.
Applying for a Green Card if your Canadian Wife resides legally in the USA
If your Canadian wife is resident in the USA e.g., if she has a non-immigrant visa permitting her to live and work or study there, or in some cases, if she entered as a visitor and has been present for an extend period of time, she can apply for an ‘Adjustment of Status’ by filing Form I-485 at the same time as you file Form I-130. Form I-485 will adjust her status to that of permanent resident, more commonly known as a green card holder. Both forms should be submitted to a single Chicago Lockbox. The fee for filing Form I-485 is $1,010 (includes the $80 fingerprint fee).
You will also receive Form I-864 ‘Affidavit of Support’ which you must fill out to prove that you can financially support your Canadian wife and any children. You must attach supporting documents to this form e.g. a letter on company letterhead detailing your employment status, where you live and photocopies of your Internal Revenue Service-issued transcript of your federal income tax return for the most recent tax year. You should also include your W-2s and/or 1099 forms.
If you are unable to prove that you can support your Canadian spouse and any dependent children your application will be denied.
Around a month after your Canadian spouse’s green card application is received; he/she will be required to attend a fingerprint interview where ink-free digital scans of his/her fingerprints will be taken.
Whilst your spouse’s green card is being processed, she may be able to travel and work freely according to the terms of her non-immigrant visa (limited to H-1, L-1, E, O-1 and P-1 visas) or she can apply for ‘Advanced Parole’ and ‘Employment Authorization’ using Form I-131 and I-765. There are no fees for filing for Advanced Parole and Employment Authorization if you submit this form with your I-485 application for adjustment of status.
Applying for a Fiancee Visa if your Fiancee is still Living in Canada
If you are not yet married to your Canadian fiancee and she lives in Canada she cannot simply cross the border and come to permanently live with you legally. You can apply for a K-1 (fiancee visa) at the US Embassy or Consulate nearest to where she lives. Your fiancee will not be able to live with you permanently in the US until this visa is processed and this may take up to a year. To get a fiancee visa (K-1) you must file Form I-129F, ‘Petition for Alien Fiancée,’ once you have received Form I-797. The filing fee is $455.
If your fiancee has dependent children under21 years of age he/she must file a K-2 visa petition and include their names on your fiancee’s K-1 Form I-129F. When filing for a Fiancee Visa, your partner must attend a visa interview at the US Consulate in Montreal before the visa is granted.
If the K1 visa is granted, your fiancee will have 90 days in which to use it. When he/she enters the US he/she may stay for 90 days in which time you should get married. Once you marry your fiancee can remain in the USA and apply for a green card.
Applying for a Green Card if your spouse is still living in Canada
If you are married to your Canadian fiancee you can apply for a spouse visa to bring him/her to the US. You must file the I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
When your petition is approved, USCIS send it to the National Visa Center (NVC) who assign a case number for the petition. NVC will send Form DS-3032 ‘Choice of Address and Agent’ to the your spouse along with instructions about how to pay the visa fees. Once the fees are paid the NVC will ask both you and your spouse to submit the relevant immigrant visa documentation along with the Affidavit of Support.
When all of the documents, fees and application have been submitted to the NVC, your spouse will be able to schedule an interview appointment at the US Consulate in Montreal. NVC sends your spouse’s file to the Consulate where the interview will take place. Your spouse is required to obtain a medical before her interview; instructions on how to do this will be forwarded by NVC to the spouse.
At the interview your spouse should bring his/her valid passport, and documentation to prove that your relationship is valid e.g. phone bills, evidence of joint bank accounts and property in joint names etc. During the interview ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.
Applications are refused if any documentation provided is false.