The K-1 and K-3 Visas, respectively, are marriage-based visas that allow foreign nationals to enter the United States to obtain a green-card at the request of their U.S. citizen partner. However, there are important differences between the two that make each one better for different couples based on their situation. This decision depends on where you are living, how long you wish to wait to be together, and various other circumstances. Read up on the differences between K-1 “fiancé” visa and the K-3 “spouse” visa to see which option is best for you.
What Are The Primary Differences Between the K-1 and K-3 Visas?
A K-1 Visa, otherwise known as a fiancé visa, allows a United States citizens engagement partner to enter the United States under the precondition that they will get married within 90 days. After marriage, the newly wedded spouse can then “adjust status” by applying for permanent residence via green card. A K-3 Visa, in contrast, is for couples who are already legally married (often outside the United States), in the event that the expat spouse is not yet a permanent resident. This allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States with a temporary legal status while waiting to obtain a green card.
For engaged couples, there are both pros and cons to both types of visas. The right choice for your aspiring family will depend on a variety of factors including where you want to hold your wedding, how quickly the foreign fiancé can travel to the United States, and how much you are willing to pay. Unmarried couples who have yet to make this decision can evaluate the best choice for them by considering the processing timelines and fees for each visa (found below).
K-1 Fiancé Visa Process & Timeline (Updated for 2019)
The first step in applying for a K-1 visa is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to file Form I-129F (known as the “Petition for Alien Fiancé”) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The government’s required filing fee for Form I-129F is $535. After the form and supporting documents are filed at the appropriate address, USCIS will typically send a receipt notice within 30 days. Depending on which USCIS service center is handling the case, the average processing times can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months (as of 2019).
Once the Form I-129F is approved, USCIS will send a notice to the petitioner informing them of the approval or denial of the petition. If approved, the foreign fiancé will receive information from their nearest consulate or embassy regarding how to schedule a medical exam with the panel physician, as well as with the date and location for their visa interview (usually scheduled 4-6 weeks after the embassy’s initial notice).
Prior to the interview, the sponsored fiancé must also complete the U.S. Embassy’s online DS-160 form (the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) which is the actual K-1 Visa application. This is usually paid at the interview and costs $265. Once the interviewing officer makes a decision on the case, and your K-1 visa is approved, the sponsored fiancé will have 4 months to travel to the United States. Once there, she or he will have 90 days to get married.
After the couple is legally married, they must then apply for a green card application (Form I-485) to adjust status to permanent residency. This form, known as the “Adjustment of Status” application requires a $1,140 filing fee as well as a $85 biometrics fee for fingerprinting. This later process typically takes around 6 months.
K-3 Spouse Visa Process & Timeline (Updated for 2019)
The K-3 Visa begins with the U.S. citizen spouse filing Form I-130 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative) which serves as a request to start of the family-based immigration process and costs $535. If your petition is approved (usually within 30 days), the U.S. citizen spouse will receive a receipt notice indicating that the package was received by the USCIS and is being processed. Processing for the I-130 takes 3-5 months based on 2019 standards. After receiving the receipt of the I-130 petition, the U.S. resident must then file a I-129F “Petition for Alien Fiancé” to petition their foreign fiancé spouse’s right to maintain permanent residency in the United States. This costs an additional $460.
Approximately 30 days after the USCIS approves the Form I-129, the foreign national spouse will receive correspondence regarding the day and time of their visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate (usually scheduled within 4 to 6 weeks). At this point they must also file a green card application with the Department of State using online form DS-160. A corresponding visa filing fee of $265 is also required, and is usually paid at the interview.
Once approved (usually immediately after the interview or shortly thereafter), the foreign spouse can then legally travel to United States, whereby they will be granted permanent residency status. Two to three weeks later, they will receive their physical green card in the mail.
Which Path Should I Choose?
All in all, the estimated time from start to finish for the K-1 Visa is 6-8 months, while the estimated cost is $2,025. The K-3 Visa process takes on average 10-13 months to complete and has a combined total cost of $1,260, not including the cost of travel, medical exams or other costs. Again, these numbers are based on 2019 data and could potentially fluctuate in the future.
The K-1 fiancé visa makes sense for engaged couples you want to be together in the United States as soon as possible (7 months on average) or who want to hold their wedding in the United States. The K-3 spouse visa, on the other hand, is good for couples who are cost-conscious, plan to hold the wedding outside the U.S., or who wish to have permanent residency immediately upon entering the United States.
Consider Working With A Immigration Attorney
We hope this article has help you obtain a better understanding of the differences, advantages and disadvantages between the K-1 or K-3 marriage-based visas. Ultimately, the choice over whether to pursue one over the other fundamentally depends on where and when you and your fiancé want to get married, as well as how much you are willing to pay.
For more information about updated marriage-based visa filing requirements, processing guidelines, or payment estimates contact Johnson & Masumi today. Our immigration attorney’s can consult with you and help you determine the best visa to pursue based on your needs and circumstances.