Deciding between a fiancé(e) visa vs spouse visa can be confusing if you don’t know the legal intricacies between the two immigration paths.The two visas have their distinct advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into account before beginning the filing process. While they both have their individual characteristics and benefits, there are significant differences between the fiancé(e) visa vs spouse visa. If you are unsure of which one suits you best, then we can help you decide on the best course of action. Get started today!

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Difference between “Fiancé(e) Visa vs Spouse Visas

The most prominent difference between a fiancé(e) visa and a marriage visa is that the fiancé(e) visa permits you to get married within the U.S. while the marriage visa is more applicable if you were already wed outside of the country. The stipulation is that with the fiancé(e) visa, you must get married within 90 days; otherwise, the foreign partner will need to leave the U.S. Due to the fast nature of organizing all the wedding plans within that time frame, it can feel rushed. 

Civil Marriage Versus Religious Ceremony

There’s also a difference between a civil marriage and a religious ceremony. Due to time constraints, sometimes couples on a fiancé(e) visa opt to have a civil marriage due to the speed and efficiency. There’s nothing someone from having a ceremony outside of the U.S. that is not legally recognized in the U.S. as a marriage. If you are considering this it’s best to discuss the path with an immigration attorney. 

k1 or spousal visa - comparison table

Fiancé(e) Visa Explained

A fiancé(e) visa is designed for someone to marry their spouse within 90 days of them landing in the U.S.  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) K-1 visa. With the K-1 visa, the foreign fiancé(e) will be able to travel to the U.S. and marry their sponsor within the 90-day 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 K-1 visa is that the process is relatively fast and typically speedier than a K-3 or CR-1/IR-1 visa (for married individuals). The fiancé(e) visa process is about 6 months and becoming a permanent resident thereafter takes about 10.5 months.

Spouse Visa/Marriage Visa Explained

A spouse visa on the other hand, offers two possible options: IR-1 or CR-1 and K-3 visas. You can bring your spouse to the U.S. by way of a Petition for Alien Relative, I-130 or nonimmigrant visa (K-3). 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. On average, it can take around 10 months for these visas to process. Depending on your situation, it might be better to apply for one of the options. Start your immigration journey with VisaNation and let us take care of your application.

Which One Is For You? Fiancé(e) Visa or Spouse Visa

With both visas, you must demonstrate proof that you have a bona fide relationship. With a fiancé(e) visa, you must get married in the United States, whereas a K-3 spouse visa or CR-1/IR-1 marriage visas you must have been married outside the country. 

There are several deciding factors that come into play when choosing the right immigration option for you:

K-1 fiancé(e) visa is better if:

  • You want to have a wedding in the U.S.;
  • You are unable to get married abroad due to your spouse’s country’s laws or traditions; or
  • You want to benefit from faster processing times.

Marriage visa CR-1/IR-1 is better if:

  • You are on a budget. Marriage visas are relatively cheaper than the K-1 visa;
  • You want your spouse to become a lawful permanent resident when they arrive in the U.S.;
  • You are determined to have a wedding ceremony in the U.S.; or
  • You don’t mind waiting a little bit longer compared to K-1 visa.

K-3 spouse visa is for you if:

  • You want your spouse to be in the U.S. while their permanent resident application is being processed.

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Differences in Requirements: Fiance vs Spouse Visa

It is crucial to compare eligibility requirements between the fiancé(e) visa and marriage visas. The eligibility criteria differ drastically between the two, which may play a big role as to which option is applicable to your situation.

If you or your partner are considering applying for a fiancé visa these are the requirements to fulfill:

  • The partner initiating the visa application must hold American citizenship at the time of application. Otherwise, if the initiating partner only holds a green card as a permanent resident, bringing the other partner into the country would necessitate applying for a spouse visa.
  • The initiating partner must provide evidence demonstrating the legitimacy of the relationship. This evidence may include a marriage certificate and other supporting documentation.
  • Both you and your partner must be eligible to marry legally, meaning both parties must be officially divorced from any previous spouses.
  • Additionally, both parties must demonstrate that they have met in person at least once within the two years preceding the filing of the visa application.

If you or your partner are considering applying for a spouse visa these are the steps:

requirements spouse visa infographic

You should not be in any other marriage at the time of your immigration application. If you were previously married, you will need to provide evidence proving that that marriage has ended either by death of the spouse, divorce, or annulment.

Learn more about Form I-864 and Form I-864A.

Which is Faster–Fiance or Spouse Visa

At the time of this post, a spousal visa is slightly faster than a fiance visa but this can fluctuate depending on a number of factors including visa backlogs, issues with your case, etc. Based on USCIS data, the wait time for a K-1 visa is 12.2 months, while a spousal visa currently takes 10.8 months. While the process is very similar, the benefit of a fiancé(e) visa is that they can join you in the country much faster than with a spouse visa. 

  • K-1 fiancé(e) visa usually takes around 11 to 15 months to approve, from the moment of application to your fiancé(e) receiving the visa. After your marriage, it will take another 4 to 7 months for your spouse’s green card to process. Your fiancé(e) will be able to enter the U.S. and be with you while the green card is being processed.
  • CR-1 or IR-1 marriage visas must be applied through the consular processing scheme. It can take anywhere between 6 to 11 months to process these green cards. Your spouse won’t be able to enter the U.S. until their green card is approved.

Spouses Of Permanent Residents

In some cases, the spouse of a permanent resident will be on a waitlist until the visa or green card becomes available but this waiting period is shorter than other family immigration categories.

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Filing Fee Differences Fiance vs Spouse Visa

These are the major costs associated with a K-1 fiancé(e) visa:

  • Form I-129F: $675 (formerly was $535 before April 1st fee changes)
  • U.S. State Department processing DS-160: $265
  • Medical Exam: Varies
  • Adjustment of Status: $1,440
  • Biometrics form: $85
  • Additional fees apply if the immigrant would like a travel permit or work permit

These are the major costs associated with a spousal visa:

  • For the immigrant visa, there’s a filing fee of $625(online filing) or $675 (paper filing) for Form I-130
  • $325 to the consulate for the DS-260 application, and a fee of $120 for the affidavit of support
  • To adjust your status, it will cost $1,225 for the Form I-485 fee.
  • Any denials or rejections can lead to higher costs and additional wait time to bring your loved one to the U.S. VisaNation ensures that your application is prepared and submitted right the first time. Start your application today!

Below is a comparison table of costs for a fiancé(e) visa and marriage visas  CR-1/IR-1. Keep in mind that the adjustment of status will also be required for K-1 visa holders.

K-1 Fiance Visa Costs 

Marriage Visa Costs (consular)

$675 – Form I-129F filing fee

$675 – Form I-130 Filing Fee

$1,440 – Form I-485 filing fee for green card

$120 – Financial Support Form Fee

$85 – Biometrics fee

$325 – NVC Processing Fee

$265 – (Form DS-160 fee for NVC stage)

$235 – USCIS Immigrant Fee (to issue green card)

Total cost: $2,465

Total cost: $1,340

Income Requirement Differences – Marriage Visas

Regardless of whether you opt for a fiancé(e) 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 your spouse is applying for a green card through an adjustment of status, you’ll have to meet the higher 125% requirement.

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VisaNation Law Group marriage green card lawyers can help identify the best course of action, whether it be a fiancé(e) visa vs spouse visa.  They have successfully handled dozens of cases and have assisted hundreds of 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.

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