If you plan to spend your life with someone who is a foreign national, and you want to live together in the United States, you may be wondering if it makes more sense for them to immigrate as a fiancé(e) or as a spouse. In most circumstances, a marriage visa is preferable, but not always. It's important to understand the factors that may make a K1 fiancé visa a better option for your loved one.
A K-3 Visa allows a foreign national who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States legally. The non-citizen spouse may then adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). In order to pursue this option, the citizen and non-citizen must be legally married prior to beginning the process.
A IR-1/CR-1 visa allows a the non-U.S. citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen to legally enter the US, and immediately become an LPR upon entry. As with the K-3, the couple must have legally married before beginning the process of applying for the visa. The marriage may have taken place either within the U.S. or in another country. If the marriage took place prior to two years before the non-citizen spouse's entry into the country, it is considered an IR (immediate relative) visa; if the non-citizen spouse enters the U.S. within two years of the marriage, they are considered a CR (conditional resident).
If your fiancé is a foreign citizen residing abroad and you are not married at the time they plan to enter the United States, they will need a K1 fiancé visa. This is a single-entry visa, meaning they can use it to enter the United States, but not to travel in and out of the country while the visa is valid. Once the visa is granted, your fiancé(e) must use it to enter the United States within six months.
There are different processes for all of these visas. For a K3 visa, filing Form I-129F allows the foreign national spouse to enter the United States. He or she must then file adjustment of status in order to secure LPR status.
Similarly, a foreign national fiancé also enters the United States by filing Form I-129F, but this is where the similarity ends. Once in the country, the fiancé visa permits a 90-day stay. He or she must marry the U.S. citizen within that time, so that they can remain in the United States. Upon marriage, the foreign spouse should immediately file adjustment of status to become an LPR.
By contrast, a foreign national spouse who is seeking an IR1 or CR1 visa must file Form I-130. Because this process allows the foreign spouse to become an LPR upon entering the United States, it is not necessary to adjust status. An IR1/CR1 visa may take a little longer than obtaining a K3 visa, but the advantage of immediately becoming an LPR makes the wait worth it for many people.
K1 fiancé visas usually take the least time, with approximately 7 months (as of this writing) to obtain a visa, and approximately 13 months for total time to become an LPR. In terms of application fees paid to the verious agencies, they also are among the most expensive.
A K3 marriage visa takes about 16 months to obtain, with a total of approximately 20-21 months to become an LPR. The fee is typically only slightly more than a K1 fiancé visa.
An IR1/CR1 visa, as noted, may take longer than a K3 visa.The application fees associated with an IR1/CR1 visa are less, as no adjustment of status is required. In addition, IR1/CR1 visa holders may seek employment without restriction upon entering the United States.
If you are planning to bring an intended spouse to the United States on a permanent basis, talk to a lawyer who understands your circumstances and can explain your options so that you can begin the process correctly and improve your chances of success. We invite you to contact Howard County, MD immigration lawyer Van T. Doan for an analysis of your situation.