Once your fiancé arrives in America, you have ninety days to get married in order to meet the terms of the fiancé visa.
I have heard of several cases where couples were married after the ninety-day period, but there were usually fines attached by the INS when they applied for adjustment of status.
In each of the above cases, they were married shortly after the ninety day period certainly before six months had elapsed.
Technically speaking the Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is supposed to be filed with the INS by the ninetieth day that your fiancé is in America.
Consequently, you need to be married about a week or so before that date so that you can get a certified copy of the marriage certificate to include in your application. Don't forget to allow time for the honeymoon if you are planning one out of town.
Depending on your local County Clerk's Office, it may take a few days to a few weeks in order to get your certified copy of the marriage certificate. Ask how long it will take to get your certified copy when you apply for a marriage license.
Completing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is similar to completing the K-1 Fiancé Visa in that all the same supporting documentation is required when filing.
The basic differences between the two applications are that you must now provide evidence that you are married. You will need to attach a certified copy of your marriage certificate. A letter or form supplied by the person marrying you is not sufficient.
In California, you must have a certified copy of the marriage certificate from the County Clerk's Office where you reside, not where you were married. Other states may have similar requirements or may differ. Find out when applying for your marriage license.
You will also need to provide evidence of cohabitation such as having both your names on the mortgage, phone bill, checking account, or other type of documentation that indicates that you are now living together.
This is to provide the INS officer with sufficient documentation that this is a real marriage as opposed to a 'green card marriage.'
You will also need to provide a copy of the Form I-94 Departure Record showing the date your fiancé entered the country, along with the relevant pages of her passport showing her entry into the US.
You will also be required to file an updated Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, with all updated supporting documentation.
The dates on all of these documents must be within the past ninety days of the date of your application, so you won't be able to use the letters that are dated from your fiancé visa application as supporting documentation for this Affidavit of Support.
You will need all new updated supporting documentation, i.e. letter from your bank, employer, pay stubs, bank statements, brokerage statements, as well as a newly notarized Affidavit of Support.
New visa pictures will be required for your wife for her Application for Adjustment of Status, Travel Document, and Employment Authorization.
Your fiancé must take all of her documents to the INS office that handles Applications for Permanent Residency. This is usually the main INS office in your local area. See the following website for information as to INS offices throughout the country:
Application For Permanent Residency Must Be In Person
Your fiancé must apply for the Application for Permanent Residency in person.
She takes the entire application package with her and goes to the closest INS service center listed above. It makes sense for you to accompany her to avoid any misunderstandings or problems she may have.
Don't forget to bring all of your supporting documentation. Do not forget to have copies to give to the INS. They will not return original documents.
If you feel comfortable with the process, you can complete the Application for Permanent Residency yourself. An attorney is probably going to charge you fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars to process all of your Permanent Residency and associated applications.
If you make a mistake on these forms, there might be a delay in the process. However, they are not going to refuse admission to the United States like they would with the Fiancé Visa.
Your wife is not going to be deported. So your down side risk is much smaller with the Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residency than it is with the Fiancé Visa.