The fiance visa is a single-entry Visa. It allows your fiance to enter the USA one time only. And officially your fiance is granted only a short 90 day visit.
The expectation is your foreign fiance arrives, spends more time with you, sees where you live, experiences your lifestyle, meets your friends and the future in-laws and providing all goes well, marries you within 90 days of arrival.
But getting the visa, arriving to the USA, and marrying is not quite enough. In order to remain in the USA, there is one more step. That is to apply to US immigration to remain as a Lawful permanent resident.
This is called applying for "adjustment of status", adjusting from a temporary 90 day visitor, to a permanent resident. The process usually takes about 9 months to a year later. The final proof that permanent residency has been approved is the driver's licence sized id card that comes in the mail. This is the so called "green card".
Once permanent residency is granted, your spouse is officially permitted to live in the USA, to work here, and to cross into and out of the USA.
While the case with immigration is pending (remember it takes about 9 to 12 months) your spouse is automatically allowed to remain and live in the USA.
But what if your spouse doesn't want to wait a whole year? Perhaps she or he wants to travel outside the USA sooner. Maybe wants to take a second honeymoon in the Caribbean, or return to the home country to attend a family reunion?
Well, US immigration understands that an applicant may want to travel, and that their deliberations take a long time. During or after applying for "adjustment of status", your spouse can opt, to also submit an application for what is called "Advance Parole".
Advance Parole is like a "get out of jail free" card. Though in this case it is "get out of (and also return to) USA" card. Once granted it allows your spouse to come and go, to and from, the USA while waiting on permanent residency to be granted. Once permanent residency IS granted and the green card arrives, the Advance Parole card can be discarded.
The normal process is one applies for Adjustment of Status plus Advance Parole at the same time. While Adjustment of Status is expected to take 9 to 12 months, Advance Parole only takes 3 months. Once approved Advanced Parole is demonstrated by a id sized card.
It looks very much like the green card which will come later.
Once granted Advance parole your spouse can start the trip, and leave the USA. On return, at the US border, presenting the Advance Parole card, and passport will be allowed to enter the USA.
In normal practice, most couples need time to organize themselves after arrival on the Fiance visa and before the wedding, and then need time after the wedding to open joint accounts, assign beneficiaries, and so on, that create the evidences needed for a smooth adjustment of status application.
In most cases, I advise couples to anticipate a minimum of 5 months before Advance Parole is granted and travel outside the USA can begin. This breaks down to a month before the wedding, plus a month after the wedding, then 3 more months after Adjustment of Status and Advance Parole has been submitted for the Advance Parole card to arrive.
It is possible to shorten the process. The couple could marry immediately upon arrival, then immediately afterwards apply for Adjustment of Status. Which should result in the Advance Parole issued the earliest possible, and for the fiance to leave the USA the soonest. About 3 months total. This kind of rush would not be that comfortable but is possible.
What if there is an Emergency in the Home Country?
US immigration has that possibility covered.
The application for Adjustment of Status must be already submitted and underway.
If the marriage has not occurred yet, or the application for permanent residency not submitted, then there is nothing USCIS can do. And if your fiance leaves the country, you'll have to redo the entire visa process again.
Providing the AOS application HAS been submitted, in case an emergency occurs. It is possible to get Advance Parole very fast, usually the same day. You and your new spouse visit the nearest USCIS office with proof of the emergency. In such cases USCIS has been very helpful.
Bottom line. Under normal circumstances, expect to wait about 5 months before traveling outside the USA. But with a rush wedding and rush AOS application the time needed could be shaved to about 3 months. Finally, if an emergency happens, while AOS is pending, it is possible to get permission to travel the same day.
By Fred Wahl