Which is Better a Marriage Visa or a K-1 Fiance Visa?


Q. I have met a special person in Mexico. I would like to marry her and I would like her to enter the United States as soon as possible. I want to know if I should file a fiancée visa in the United States or go back and marry her in Mexico and process the case that way? What do you think?

Congratulations on your pending marriage.  It seems like you are asking me the following question: “which is better a marriage visa or a K-1 fiance visa?  That is a very common question.  I am asked this question every week in my practice.

While every situation is different, here are some things to consider before you make a decision as to which route to take.  After reviewing these considerations you will be better able to decide which route to take in your case.  You should then speak to an experienced Immigration Attorney to review your options prior to filing your case.

1. Does your romantic interest have children who will come with her to the United States?

If she does, it is important to note that children under the age of  twenty-one can come to the US as derivatives (K-2) of a fiancé visa (K-1 visa) .

However, if you get married you have to file the children separately and that you can’t file for step-children if you married the parent after the children were eighteen. By contrast children who enter as K-2’s can file their separate adjustment of status application until they are twenty-one. (Make sure you do not file either type of case, if children are involved, unless and until you speak to an experienced Immigration Attorney).

2. Are you a US citizen or are you a lawful permanent resident?

You don’t say in your question. However, it is important to note that only United States citizens can file both a K-1 fiancé visa and a marriage visa.

Lawful Permanent Residents may file for a marriage visa only (they are not able to file for a K-1 fiance visa). However, if you are a permanent resident and you are applying for a marriage visa then you should realize that this process generally takes several years. It may make more sense, in this situation, if the lawful permanent resident is eligible for U.S. citizenship (please see our blog post:”1o Things USCIS checks at your citizenship interview” , for the lawful permanent resident to obtain United States citizenship and then choose between the two options.  A lawful permanent resident, even if he or she is applying for US Citizenship, cannot file for a K-1 fiance visa until he or she actually become a US Citizen. Premature filing will lead to the K-1 visa being denied.

3. Where do you want your wedding to take place?

This is a very important issue to consider. Your fiance or your fiance’s family may wish to have the wedding in the home country of your romantic interest. However, if  you get married before your romantic interest enters the United States then you cannot use the K-1 fiancé visa process.  This is because this person, once you get married, is no longer your fiance, he or she is now your spouse.

Believe it or not there are some US citizens (how do I apply to become a US citizen? ) who get married to their fiancees while the K-1 fiance visa case is pending with USCIS.   Once married they lose their ability to process the K-1 fiance visa and must, instead, proceed with a marriage visa. Please see our post:  “ Consequence of Marriage When waiting for K-1 Fiance Visa Process”. 

4. Do you have a specific time frame you are working with concerning your marriage?

A marriage case allows you to have more control of the time frame in which your romantic interest will come to the United States. The time constraints are tighter on a fiancé visa.   Therefore, in this situation a marriage case would be preferable to a K-1 fiance visa.

5. Do you want your romantic interest to work as soon as they enter the United States?

If you want your romantic interest to work as soon as they enter the United States then you should really consider the marriage visa.

If your romantic interest enters on a fiancé visa there will be a longer period of time to wait before they are authorized to work.

When someone enters the US after being petitioned as a spouse they enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident and only need to obtain a social security number to work.  This can be done very quickly.

A fiancé , in contrast, has to enter the United States, get married within the 90 day period, and then file their adjustment of status in order to obtain a green card.  Approval of the work authorization by USCIS will  come before the green card interview.  However, it will still take approximately three months to six months.  This means that your fiance will not be able to work for at least 3 months and possibly 6 months or more after coming to the United States.

So if you or your  romantic interest would like your romantic interest to work in the United States as soon as she or he arrives then a marriage case is the better route to take.

6. How many times have you met your romantic interest?

You want to show the consular officer who will be adjudicating your case that you have a serious and committed relationship. This is hard to do if you have only met your fiance once (with a brief visit).  If this is your situation then you may wish to return and visit  (make sure you talk to an immigration attorney before you spend the money to book your trip to make sure this needs to be done) your romantic interest again (in order to more clearly establish the relationship) or marry your romantic interest if you wish to pursue the marriage visa .  Make sure you get pictures together and gather other evidence that will establish in the eyes of USCIS that you have met in person.  This is done on a case-by-case basis.  You should speak to a qualified immigration attorney about this issue prior to proceeding with your case.

Remember, in order to successfully apply for a K-1 fiance visa petition, you must have met your fiance, in person (not over skype) within the past 2 years.  Thus, if it has been more than two years since you last saw your fiance (childhood girlfriend etc.) then you will need to meet with your romantic interest before you can apply for the K-1 fiance visa.

7. Which process is the quickest to make your romantic interest a lawful permanent resident?

A  fiancé visa case will, in most cases, have your romantic interest in the United States much faster.  Currently expect a fiance visa case to take 8 months to complete.  However, a fiancé case requires that your romantic interest take the second step of adjust her status in the US in order to obtain her green card.  Thus, although your fiance is much more likely to enter the US quicker on a fiance visa (most likely 3-6 months quicker) the total time frame for her to become a lawful permanent resident will  likely be a little longer (and a little more expensive (please see below).

In most cases, if you want your romantic interest to be in the United States sooner (which, for a great many of my clients is the number one criterion) then you should apply for the K-1 fiance visa.

8. Which process is more expensive?

If you are hiring an attorney (please see our blog post:”Will My Immigration Case go Faster With an Attorney ?” ) to help you in your case then the marriage visa route will be less expensive.  This is because when your romantic interest enters the United States with a marriage visa she will be done with her immigration paperwork.  She will be a lawful permanent resident.

If she enters with a fiance visa she will still need to file an adjustment of status case with USCIS in order to obtain her green card.  While the government frequently changes the fees required in these types of cases, currently processing for the green card as a marriage case is currently less expensive by approximately five hundred dollars in fees to the US Government.

You will also save some money on attorneys fees if you are doing a marriage visa.  If you are doing a K-1 fiance visa case and then doing the green card case in the United States then you will likely be paying more in overall attorneys fees.

These are just some, but not all of the things you should consider prior to deciding which route to take in your case.  The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. Laws can and do change and additional laws may apply in your case. Contrary to what your friends tell you every immigration case is different. Please contact our office and we will be happy to review your matter with you, free of charge, prior to filing any documentation with USCIS

Lawrence Gruner is an immigration lawyer in Sacramento  and a fiance visa attorney with more than 20 years of experience handling immigration cases. His office handles cases throughout California, the United States and the World You may reach us at 916-760-7270 or you can reach us from anywhere in the world toll free at 888-801-6558 . You may also email us your questions at attorneygruner@gmail.com .

Attorney Gruner would be happy to review your situation and all of your options. He can help you come up with a plan for your Immigration case.  His office handles green card cases  please see our post: “How to get a green card“, K1 fiance visa cases, and Citizenship cases. 

We handle cases throughout the state of California and the World. California cities include: Sacramento, Stockton, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Daly City, Fremont, Hayward, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Richmond, Fairfield, Grass Valley, Nevada City,Vallejo, Berkeley, Concord, Walnut Creek, Orinda, South San Francisco, San Bruno,Daly City, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Millbrae, Brisbane, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Foster City, Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Mt. View, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Yuba City, Santa Cruz, Modesto, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Coronado, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Roseville, Rocklin,Auburn, Dixon, Davis. We also have clients in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Reno, Denver, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago.





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