Everyone seems to think that as soon as a non-US citizen gets married to a US citizen, they are suddenly allowed all the rights of the US citizen. I am here to say that is not true. I wish.
Let's start at the beginning of this process.
First, you have to petition with the government that your fiance should be allowed to come to the US to marry you. This is where you pay your first chunk of money, which is currently $455. This petition is a huge packet of confusing forms to fill out which most people screw up and get a notice that they need to re-do something. Luckily, we were able to figure it out with the help of this website (which is the best website EVARR!)
Next, you wait to get a notice that they actually approved it. If they suspect that you are trying to get them to the US for the wrong reasons, they can deny it. And yes, they keep that money. Jerks.
After it is approved, you fill out more confusing forms. This is also where you prove that you have enough money to bring them in or know someone who does that is willing to co-sponsor. What is "enough money"? 125% over the poverty line. I am not even close but luckily I have parents that kind of are. They also look into your assets so it helps if they own a house or something.
The non-US citizen then sets up a medical and an interview. The medical can't be done by just any doctor, it is chosen for them. Sometimes people have to travel by plane to get to where their medical and interview is done (equaling MORE MONEY!) but if they are lucky, they can get there easier. The interview may be difficult or easy, depending on what country it is in. They may hound you with questions or just ask basic ones.
At this stage, they can deny them the visa. Wouldn't that be fun?
If things go well, they are approved and will get their visa.
The k-1 fiance visa allows for 3 months from their arrival to the US to marry the US citizen. If they do not marry before the 3 months is up, they will be kicked out of the US and not allowed in for quite some time. So just get married, dang it!
Ok, you're married. It's over.
Now you have to apply for the Adjustment of Status (AoS) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If you do the EAD first, you have to pay something like $325 but if you apply with or after the AoS, they drop the fees for that but you still have to pay the $1,010 (!!!!!!!!!!!!) for the AoS. What is the AoS? Basically a green card, I believe. If you need to leave the US before getting the AoS, you may not be allowed back in. You are pretty much in a limbo state before having this. The AoS can take anywhere from a few months to a COUPLE YEARS to process. And yes, it's another huge packet of forms to fill out. And yes, they can deny you can keep your money.
It's pretty much a never ending process. We are not allowed to have a "normal" marriage, we have to worry about all of this on top of every thing else. But I never question whether it's worth it. It's totally worth it.