Acquiring citizenship through marriage is a decision that has to be carefully made. With so many categories of visas available, you need to methodically review the eligibility requirements of each one to determine the best option. Two visas in particular, fiance visa and spouse visa, both have their individual characteristics.
Fiance Visa vs Spouse Visa
As a U.S. citizen, you can bring your Fiancé(e) to the United States with the intention to marry and live here with a Fiancé(e) K1 Visa. With the K1 visa, the foreign fiance will be able to travel to the U.S. and marry their sponsor within the 90 days window. Afterwards, the foreign citizen can apply for an adjustment of status to become a legal permanent resident (LPR) with USCIS. One advantage of the K1 visa is that the process is relatively fast and typically speedier than a K3 or CR-1 visa (for married individuals). The fiance visa process is about 6 months and becoming a permanent resident thereafter takes about 10.5 months.
Spouse visas on the other hand offer two possible options–IR-1 or CR-1 and K3 visas. You can bring your spouse to the U.S. by way of a Petition for Alien Relative, I-130 or nonimmigrant visa (K3). A “spouse” is defined as the legally wedded husband or wife, including same sex spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs. In some cases, common-law spouses may qualify for the same benefits. The CR-1 spousal visa is valid for 6 months and permits the holder to come to the U.S. and reside permanently. With this visa, no adjustment of status is necessary.
Spouse of Permanent Residents
In some cases, the spouse of a permanent resident will be on a wait list until the visa or green card becomes available but this waiting period is shorter than other family immigration categories.
Comparison of Fiance Visa vs Spouse Visa
With both visas, you must demonstrate proof that you have a bona fide relationship. With a fiance visa, you must get married in the United states whereas a K3 spouse visa is for those who were married outside the country. Individuals who are eligible for a K3 nonimmigrant visa include:
- An individual in marriage to a U.S. citizen
- An individual with a Petition for Alien Relative filed by the citizen spouse
- An individual with an approved I-129F, forwarded to the American consulate abroad with the intention of applying for a K-3 or K-4 visa.
A sponsor for a K-4 petition would need a number of documents when filing the petition including:
- Signed Petition for Alien Relative
- Evidence of citizenship in the form of a birth certificate, U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, etc.
- Completed G-325A forms for the sponsor and the fiance
- Any prior marriage nullification documents
- Passport style color photos of the sponsor and spouse
It’s important to keep in mind that the consular officer may request additional information or documentation so it’s best to consult an spouse visa attorney to learn more.
Which is Faster–Fiance Versus Spousal Visa
We often get posed which visa is faster, spouse visa or fiance visa? While the process is very similar, the benefit of a fiance visa is that they can join you in the country much faster than with a spouse visa. With that being said, however, the cost is significantly higher for a K1 fiance visa.
K1 Government Filing Fees
Fiance Visa Process–There are three major costs associated with a K1 fiance visa. Form I-129F is $340 (as of this year), plus $265 paid to the consulate, $1,070 for the adjustment of status fee, and the biometric fee. That totals $1,675 strictly to the government.
For the immigrant visa, there’s a filing fee of $340 for Form I-130, $325 to the consulate and a USCIS immigrant fee of $165. Total government fees (not including attorney) therefore come out to $830.
Income Requirement Differences–Marriage Visas
Regardless of whether you opt for a fiance or spouse visa, your income (petitioners) income level will be taken into consideration. If you first get married then petition for your spouse to enter the U.S., you need to demonstrate that your income isn’t below 125% of the poverty level. Afterwards, when you spouse is applying for a green card through an adjustment of status, you’ll have to meet the higher 125% requirement.
Marriage-Based Green Cards
Getting a spouse visa is often a step along the road to a marriage-based green card. The only requirement for this green card is to have a legitimate marriage to a U.S. citizen and to be eligible for adjustment of status (meaning that you have not violated your status). Marrying a U.S. citizen is one of the best ways to get a green card due to the fact that you will be considered an “immediate relative” of the citizen, which holds benefits in that there is no annual limit for green cards for immediate relatives and you will not have to wait for a priority date to be current.
In fact, you can file the I-485 application to register permanent residence or adjust status at the same time that you file your I-130 for your nonimmigrant visa. It usually takes about six months for your I-485 to be processed, so filing them concurrently is the fastest method. During this time, you will likely receive a notice to come in for an interview. If you are outside the U.S. when you apply for your marriage-based green card, the interview will be mandatory.
Many people grow concerned about their interview, but the interviewing officer is only trying to ferret out fraudulent marriages. If your relationship is legitimate, then you only need to speak confidently, clearly, and truthfully. Some questions you might be asked include:
- What do you and your spouse have in common?
- When is your anniversary?
- How are chores divied up around the house?
Remember to be honest. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is better to say “I don’t know” than to lie. Being denied your green card is a temporary inconvenience. Being caught in a lie can result in far more serious consequences.
If you have children that you would like to accompany you through your status, you can take advantage of the follow-to-join benefits, which will allow them to come with you without having to file a new petition for each child. You can apply for follow-to-join benefits by providing a copy of your green card, your approval notice, your I-130, and the I-797 notice of action.
If your application to adjust your status is approved or the consular officer approves your case, you will be issued your green card. However, if you marriage was less than two years old when approved, you will be issued a conditional 2-year green card. In order to remove the conditions and enjoy all of the benefits of the typical ten-year green card, you must file an I-751 form within 90 days before the end of that initial 2-year period. If you and your spouse divorce before that time, you may still be able to qualify to have your conditions removed by submitting a “good faith marriage waiver” to demonstrate that your marriage was not fraudulent and that the divorce was either necessary or out of your control.
How Our Marriage Green Card Attorneys Can Help
Our marriage green card lawyers can help identify the best course of action, whether it be through a K1 Fiance Visa or Spousal Visa. We have successfully handled dozens of cases and have assisted our clients through every step of the process.
From completing the application forms correctly to accompanying you and your spouse to the final immigration interview, we’ve handled it all. The process of sponsoring a relative or soon-to-be spouse can be burdensome but will the help of a qualified attorney, we can help you stay on the right track.
To get in touch with one of our expert attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation with our office today.