When a U.S. citizen ties the knot with a foreign citizen, a foreign citizen has two main choices for immigrating to the U.S. These options include acquiring a fiancé visa or a marriage visa. Each has its own set of benefits but may not be right for all couples. Both options can allow the foreign citizen to obtain a green card through marriage.
The fiancé visa, also known as a K-1 visa, is a type of nonimmigrant visa obtained by a foreign citizen who is traveling to the U.S. for the purpose of marrying and adjusting his or her status to a permanent resident. A marriage visa, or CR-1 or IR-1 visa, is obtained by a spouse who lives in a foreign country following marriage. A marriage visa may be sought if the foreign spouse wishes to move to the U.S. to live permanently with his or her spouse.
The K-3 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa for foreign partners of U.S. citizens. This type of visa may be requested by a U.S. citizen who wishes to shorten the physical separation with his or her partner. Once a K-3 visa has been granted, the foreign partner can enter the U.S. and wait for approval of their immigrant visa petition. A K-3 visa is similar to a K-1 visa, so the two use the same application.
Steps to Acquire a Fiancé (K-1 or K-3) Visa
Filing for a fiancé visa comes with certain requirements. First, a couple must have physically interacted with one another in person within the last two years before they are eligible to apply for a fiancé visa. In addition, the foreign partner who is applying for the fiancé visa must legally marry their partner within 90 days of entering the U.S. or leave the country.
If either you or your fiancé were previously married, you will need to provide proof of legal separation, such as through a divorce or death certificate. In addition, the partner who is choosing to sponsor the other must be a legal U.S. citizen. A green card holder cannot apply for a fiancé visa for his or her fiancé. The couple must prove that their relationship is genuine by providing written statements from friends and family or photos together. Finally, the U.S. citizen must meet certain income requirements. As a general rule of thumb, he or she must earn at least 100 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
A fiancé visa takes an average of 13 months to obtain and costs $2,025. To obtain a K-1 visa, there is a process that must be completed, starting with submitting form I-129F, Petition for a K-1 Visa. This form, along with a $535 filing fee, must be mailed to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your petition is approved, you will receive a case number and paperwork from the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your paperwork to the U.S. embassy or consulate near where your fiancé resides. The foreign spouse will then need to undergo an interview and present certain documents.
If the interview goes well, the foreign partner will receive a visa stamp on his or her passport and can gain access to the U.S. Once the couple gets married within the 90-day span, they can file a green card application, also known as I-485 or Adjustment of Status. The couple must also submit a filing fee of $1,140 and a fingerprint fee of $85. If the foreign spouse chooses to work outside of the U.S. or travel out of the country, he or she will need to apply for a work permit and a travel permit.
Not sure if you should choose a K-1 fiancé visa or a marriage-based visa? In most cases, the fiancé visa is the best option if you are an engaged couple, you want to be together in the U.S. as soon as possible, you want to hold your wedding in the U.S., or if there is some type of impediment to marrying abroad. However, no matter which visa you choose you will likely have to wait about 13 months from the start of the application process to actually receive your green card through marriage.
Need Help with Your Fiancé Visa Application?
Living in one country while your partner resides in another can be an emotionally-challenging ordeal. Many couples who are in this situation aim to have the foreign spouse immigrate to the U.S. so that they can marry and live together. However, this process can be lengthy and sometimes problems can occur which stall the process further. When issues arise that result in the delay of your marriage-based green card, it is wise to seek legal counsel from an experienced immigration attorney. To learn more about how to get a green card through marriage or for assistance with your application, contact the immigration attorneys at Johnson & Masumi.