Fiance Visa VS Spouse Visa

Deciding between a Fiancé Visa and a Spouse Visa is an important consideration for couples planning to unite in the United States. Each visa type offers a unique pathway for foreign partners to join their American loved ones, with distinct differences in procedures, requirements, timing and implications. This guide explores the nuances of the Fiancé Visa (K-1) and the Spouse Visa (CR-1/IR-1 or K-3), providing a comprehensive comparison to assist couples in making an informed decision tailored to their specific circumstances and future goals. The decision between marrying in the U.S. or abroad impacts the journey of the union, and understanding these nuances is key to a successful transition.

Fiancé Visa Summary

A Fiancé Visa, or K-1 visa, is specifically for foreign nationals engaged to U.S. citizens, facilitating their entry into the U.S. to marry. This visa serves as a bridge to marriage and subsequent permanent residency. It begins with a U.S. citizen filing a petition with USCIS and, upon approval, the foreign fiancé undergoes consular processing. This visa is particularly advantageous for those who wish to experience their wedding and initial married life in the U.S. and for those whose countries may not recognize their union legally.

What Are the K-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements?

The K-1 visa, designed for the foreign fiancés of U.S. citizens, sets specific eligibility requirements to ensure genuine relationships. The process must be initiated by a US citizen who files a petition, and both partners must commit to marrying within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival in the US. This timeframe emphasizes the relationship’s urgency and commitment. Furthermore, the couple must have met in person at least once in the two years preceding their application, a requirement that can only be waived in exceptional circumstances. This criterion is a safeguard to confirm the relationship’s authenticity. The K-1 visa emerges as an ideal option for those who aim to marry quickly in the U.S., particularly in cases where marrying in the foreign partner’s country is not feasible or if the U.S. citizen isn’t a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).

Two Step Process: Petition and Consular Processing?

The K-1 visa application process begins with the U.S. citizen fiancé submitting Form I-129F. The U.S. citizen fiance must demonstrate to USCIS that the relationship is real and not just for immigration purposes; that the couple has seen each other in-person within the last 2 years (some exceptions apply); and that the couple will marry within 90 days of entry to the U.S. in K-1 status.  After USCIS approves the petition, it is forwarded to the Department of State and then to the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the foreign fiancée’s country. The foreign fiancée then applies for a K-1 visa, appears for an interview, and if approved, they have six months to enter the U.S.  This phase includes an inspection at a U.S. port of entry to ensure compliance with US immigration policies.

What Happens After Obtaining the K1 Visa ?

The arrival of the couple in the United States on a K-1 visa marks the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. They must marry within 90 days, which is critical for the foreign national spouse’s transition to lawful permanent residency. Post-marriage, the couple embarks on the next significant phase: filing Form I-485 for Adjustment of Status. This step is pivotal in converting the temporary K-1 visa into permanent residency. The process is theoretically faster than applying for a marriage visa, making it a preferred choice for couples eager to commence their married life in the U.S. without prolonged separations.  However, recent processing delays have made the application timeframe for the K-1 visa nearly equivalent to that of the marriage based green card through consular processing.

Timeframes for Fiancé Visa and Green Card through Consular Processing?

The K-1 visa process typically concludes in about 2 years. This timeline is particularly beneficial for couples looking to reunite and marry in the U.S. After the marriage, the foreign national spouse begins the Adjustment of Status process in the United States and can apply for both work authorization and travel authorization while the Adjustment of Status application is pending. The duration of this phase varies based on individual case details and USCIS processing times. It’s a journey that requires careful navigation through the U.S. immigration system, often necessitating professional legal assistance to ensure a smooth and expedited transition to permanent residency.


Related: The US Naturalization Process: Everything You Need To Know


Benefits and Disadvantages of Obtaining a Fiancé Visa?

For foreign couples who are keen to get together and marry in the U.S., the K-1 fiancé visa provides a special route. This expedites the process of bringing a fiancé(e) from abroad to the United States, although it may be more expensive than other marriage-related visas. The marriage must occur no later than ninety days following the foreign partner’s arrival, which is a crucial prerequisite for the K-1 visa. This short notice helps the couple move forward with their American life together more quickly, but it can also increase the pressure to plan the wedding in the U.S. as timing with regard to visa uncertainties can make planning challenging.

Unsure whether a Fiancé Visa or Spouse Visa is right? Let Agarwal Law Group clarify options. Contact us for expert guidance and make informed decisions for a future together.

Spouse Visa Summary

a happy couple

The Spouse Visa is tailored for U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) looking to reunite with their foreign spouses in the United States, promoting family unity. The process is commonly referred to as obtaining a green card through consular processing.  Whether the foreign spouse receives permanent or conditional residency depends on the duration of their marriage when applying. When the U.S. spouse files Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), the procedure begins. After its approval, the application moves into the consular processing phase, which involves a critical interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign spouse’s home country. This interview is a pivotal step to verify the marriage’s authenticity and meet all legal requirements for the foreign spouse’s U.S. residency.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements?

To qualify for a spousal visa, a couple must fulfill specific requirements. The union has to be enforceable in the United States (i.e. incestuous marriages or polygamous marriages may not be recognized).  The application process starts when the U.S. spouse files Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS.  Here, the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse must prove their immigration status and that their marriage is bona fide.  This first step is essential to launching the spouse visa application. It is also imperative that both partners confirm that any prior marriages have ended lawfully, either by divorce, annulment, or demise. Fulfilling this eligibility criteria is vital for the smooth progression and eventual success of the visa application.

Two Step Process: Petition and Consular Processing?

The Spouse Visa process unfolds in two distinct stages: petitioning and consular processing. Initially, the U.S. spouse files Form I-130, establishing the marital bond with the foreign spouse. Once this petition receives approval, the case moves to the national visa center.  In this phase, the national visa center requires the immigrating spouse to complete an immigrant visa application and the U.S. citizen spouse must also upload materials for an affidavit of support. Once the national visa documentarily qualifies the application, they will transfer the case to the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad where the immigrating spouse will attend a visa interview.  At the interview, the applicant provides documentation, including results of a medical examination.  Once these procedures are fulfilled and the foreign spouse obtains an immigrant visa, they have 6 months to enter the U.S. as a permanent resident.  The official green card will be mailed to them after entering the U.S.

What Happens After Obtaining an Immigrant Visa

Securing an immigrant visa is a significant milestone, enabling the foreign spouse to enter the United States. The next crucial step involves paying an immigrant fee to USCIS, a process that kickstarts the green card issuance. After this fee is paid, USCIS creates the green card and mails it to the new resident’s address in the country. This card certifies the foreign spouse’s status as a lawful permanent resident, allowing them to live and work in the US for an indefinite amount of time, subject to certain limitations and obligations.

Permanent Residence vs. Conditional Permanent Residence

Both permanent and conditional permanent residents in the U.S. enjoy similar rights and responsibilities, such as the ability to work and travel. The primary difference lies in the duration their green cards are valid. Permanent residents receive a 10-year green card, while conditional permanent residents receive a 2-year card. Individuals with conditional status are required to file for the removal of these conditions before their green card’s expiration date. This condition typically applies to individuals who obtained their green card before being married for two years, regardless of whether it was through a K-1 visa or an immigrant visa.

Timeframe for Immigrant Visa based on Marriage?

The time it takes to obtain a marriage-based immigrant visa can vary greatly, usually spanning several months to over a year. This timeframe encompasses processing the I-130 petition, the subsequent consular processing, and the final visa issuance. Visa processing times vary based on factors like document accuracy, USCIS workload, and specific embassy or consulate requirements or availability of visa interviews.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Obtaining an Immigrant Visa?

Couples can benefit greatly from the immigrant visa because it enables the foreign spouse to enter the country with permanent residency status, promoting family harmony. Nevertheless, this procedure can be quite lengthy, requiring an existing marriage. This might result in periods of separation for the couple during the application process. The extensive documentation required and the scrutiny of the relationship can be daunting for some couples.


Related: The Difference Between a US Citizen and a Lawful Permanent Resident


Fiancé Visa vs Immigrant Visa: What’s the Difference?

The key difference between a Fiancé Visa (K-1) and an Immigrant Visa lies in their purpose and the steps involved in obtaining them. The Fiancé Visa is tailored for foreign nationals engaged to U.S. citizens. Fiancees of green card holders do not qualify for a K-1 visa.  The K-1 visa allows individuals from other countries to come to the U.S. for marrying their American fiancé(e) and then pursue permanent residency. In comparison, the Immigrant visa caters to those who are already married to U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents. This visa grants the foreign spouse instant permanent residency upon their U.S. arrival. Although obtaining a K-1 visa is theoretically faster, it necessitates a legal status update following the wedding. On the other hand, the Immigrant Visa takes more time to acquire, yet it offers immediate permanent residency to the spouse when they arrive in the U.S. and is generally taking the same amount of time, on average as the K-1 visa process.

Ask for Help Before You Decide Which Visa Is Right for You

a mixed couple reading together

Deciding between a Fiancé Visa and a Spouse Visa is a pivotal decision that shapes one future and immigration path. Each option has distinct procedures, requirements, and implications. Professional guidance is highly advisable to maneuver through these complexities. We provide comprehensive immigration solutions and expert legal advice to help one navigate their options and make informed decisions at Agarwal Law Group. Our comprehensive knowledge of US immigration laws makes the visa application process go more smoothly. Contact Agarwal Law Group for a consultation to discuss one’s unique situation and find the most appropriate visa option for one’s joint future.


Deciding between a Fiancé Visa and a Spouse Visa can be complex. Agarwal Law Group is here to help. Schedule a consultation with us to navigate options and start the journey with confidence.

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