Thanks for your question. You must be married. Unfortunately, immigration law is very tricky & it is always advisable that you consult with an attorney to make sure that you are eligible.
Enrique F Mesa Jr., Esq.
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Please consult with a good immigration attorney. Definitely consult and retain an attorney to assist you because there may be issues you would not be aware of. In addition an attorney can answer your questions to determine whether you will or will not be eligible to adjust depending on many factors, including prior immigration history, criminal history, if any, etc. Finally, in terms of fees you may be able to find attorneys who help you for free or low cost if you meet certain income requirements - need to investigate services in large cities near you. You can also search the ABA website and it has a list of pro bono services by state.
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Yes, you need to be married unless she will return home for a fiancée visa. See the article below comparing spouse vs. fiancée options. You'd be best advised to have an attorney work on your case. It's easier (and less costly) to have an immigration case done right from the start then to have to go back and fix it later.
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You will have to marry your US citizen fiancé in order to seek immigration benefits. Since you currently hold an F-1 visa, you may submit an application for adjustment of status to permanent resident. The USCIS application fee for the petition for alien relative is $420 and the application for adjustment of status is $1070. You may find that the filing process is complex, or there might be other legal issues in your particular case. With the advise of a good immigration attorney, your green card application can run smoothly, no head aches.
It will be more expensive for you to hire a lawyer to clean up your case after you filed the papers yourself with some errors or latent problems than to do it right in the first place by hiring a lawyer for the beginning. You are not going to get a quite for legal services on this forum. You actually have to select a lawyer (see avvo or aila.org for a lawyer in your area), call them up, set up an appointment, and get a quote after they get to see you paperwork and analyze all your problems (some of which you may not be aware of).
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Usually the green card status is obtained through marriage. However, you can enter the U.S. on a fiance' visa, which is also know as the K-1 visa, which allows you to stay for 90 days before you marry and adjust.
The legal information we provide is not a legal advise whatsoever. It only represents a general idea about the rule and immigration laws. Each immigration case is different based on the details of each case.