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2018 What is Better? Fiance or Spouse Visa ?

When bringing your partner to live with you in the United States, you have two choices and they both include marriage.

Sorry, but US immigration does not offer a boy or girlfriend visas.

Lets start by comparing the K-1 and the CR-1.

Fiancee visa is about 7 months faster, but costs about $ 900 more.

The K-1 Fiancee visa is like a tourist visa on steroids.

It allows the holder to enter the USA and visit here for up to 90 days. AND includes eligibility to apply for permanent residency. If the wedding occurs within the 90 days allotted, the bride or groom is eligible to apply to remain in the USA permanently. This is called Adjustment of Status. She or he "adjusts" status from a temporary K1 visitor to a Permanent Resident. The id card your spouse receives stating she or he is legally permitted to stay is called the "Green Card". The K1 visa is valid for 6 months. Your fiancee must begin travel before it expires.

The CR-1 Spousal visa is a visa for permanent immigration to the USA. It is valid for 6 months,and allows the holder to enter the USA, in order to reside here permanently. Permanent residence is already approved, and no ajustment of status is needed. The visa holder gets her or his green card after a few simple formalities.

Married couples used to have a choice between a K-3 or CR-1 visa. Currently the K-3 visa is being phased out, and the sole option is the CR-1

For Single/Engaged For Married Couples
K-1 Fiancee Visa CR-1 Spousal Visa
Total Time:  7 to 9 months (average)

 at USCIS:  5 to 7 months (average)
 at NVC:  1 months (average)
 at Consulate:  2 months (average)
Actual processing times will vary. Some faster, some slower.
Total Time: 12 to 15 months (average)

 at USCIS:  5 to 7 months (average)
 at NVC:  5 - 6 months (average)
 at Consulate:  2 months (average)
Actual processing times will vary. Some faster, some slower.
both available to marry + engaged
sponsor = US Citizen
sponsor income: $16,020 + $4,160/dependent
met face to face w/in past 2 years
Bona Fide Relationship
married to each other
sponsor = US Citizen or US Resident
sponsor income: $20,025 + $5,200/dependent
Bona Fide Relationship

I-129F USCIS Filing Fee:  $535
Overseas Medical: $300
Consulate Visa Fee: $265

Single entry visa to start travel to USA within 6 months of issuance. Valid for 90 day stay in USA to marry, and apply for Green Card.

Adjustment of Status (Green Card), 1-485 Petition. After marriage in the USA, you apply for permanent residency (Green Card) for your new spouse.
Review of Vaccinations:   $100
Green Card USCIS Filing Fee:  $1,225

CR-1 Spousal Visa (If marriage is less than 2 years old, if older it is called IR-1 Visa)
Includes Permanent residency (Green Card) for your new spouse.

I-130 USCIS Filing Fee: $535
NVC Affidavit of Support Fee: $120
NVC Immigrant Visa Processing Fee: $325
Medical: $300
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220

Total Cost  Including
Green Card: $2,425
Total Cost Including
Green Card: $1,500
Dependent Children can be included at the same time. This is a K-2 (Dependent Visa)

USCIS K-2 Filing Fee:$0
Overseas Medical:$200
Consulate K-2 Visa Fee:$265

Review of Vaccinations: $100
Green Card USCIS Filing Fee: $1,140
              ($750 if under 14 years old)
USCIS Biometrics: $0

USCIS Filing Fee:  $535
NVC Affidavit of Support Fee: $ 0
NVC Immigrant Visa Processing Fee: $325
Medical:  $200
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $165
Fiance $2,425
Child $1,705
(under 14)
Spouse $1,500
Child $1,225

First of all, the K-1 Visa is a Fiancee Visa. You are both free to marry but not married. This visa allows your foreign fiancee to enter the USA for up to ninety days. If she or he marries you within those ninety days, your new spouse is then eligible to apply for permanent residency and to stay in the USA and to obtain her or his green card.

The Spouse Visa, CR-1 Visa allows your foreign spouse, who you already married, to enter the United States and permanent residency is already pre-approved. Actually there are two kinds of spouse visa, the CR1 and the IR1. The only difference is how long you are married on the day you apply. If married less than two years your spouse gets a CR1 visa. If married longer, your spouse gets an IR1.

Since most of my married clients are newlyweds, I will just refer to CR1 visas, but the process is the same for IR1's also.

Spouse or fiance visas are similar, but which is better for you, depends on your priorities.

The three main considerations most couples have are speed, cost, and how early the spouse can work in the USA.

For Overall Speed, the fiance visa is about 7 months faster.

For Economy the spouse visa costs about a thousand dollars less.

For Permission to start work in USA: the spouse visa allows your spouse to work immediately, even on day of arrival, while normally on a Fiance Visa your new spouse needs about 5 months to start work.

The process for a K-1 Fiancee Visa is as follows. First of all, you have to have met face to face. This does not count web cams or Skype or telephone calls. This means the two of you, being physically in the same space, meeting each other, seeing each other, breathing the same air. That's the basic eligibility requirement.

Then, once you have met, you decide you want to marry and are engaged you submit a fairly substantial application to USCIS, that's Homeland Security. The application we submit is the "Front Loaded" petition package that VisaCoach is known for.

Homeland security reviews the petition and approves (their part) then passes the case on to the US Department of State.

The Department of State operates our consulates around the world. They'll send your case to the consulate that's closest to your fiancee. The consulate asks your fiance in for a screening interview and that is when the visa is approved or denied. visa. Once the Visa is granted, the visa is good for six months for your fiance ton travel to the USA. Once here, your fiancee has ninety days, to look over the situation, and get married to you.

After the wedding there is one final step, your spouse's K1 visa is expiring, for permission for your new spouse to remain permanently in the USA you need apply for "Adjustment of Status."

Your spouse is "adjusting" her or his status from a temporary (90 day) visitor to a Lawful Permanent Resident.

In the case of a Spouse visa, you first marry your foreign partner. You then prepare and submit the spouse visa application to Homeland Security.

After USCIS approval, they pass on your case to the Department of State, to their National Visa Center, NVC located in New Hampshire.

Unlike a Fiance Visa, where your case is only briefly handled by NVC, and relatively quickly sent overseas for further processing, NVC is now more intimately involved with your case. You go online to pay fees, submit more information about your spouse, then to submit a second application package, (at VisaCoach we call this the mini-petition). It contains basic civil documents, police clearances, plus evidences of your income.

Once NVC is satisfied that the "mini petition" is in order, and all payments made, they notify you that they have scheduled an interview appointment for your spouse at the US Consulate handling your case overseas.

At the Consulate, your spouse has the final screening interview, and the visa is approved or denied.

The CR-1 Spouse Visa process is what's called, "Regular Immigration." That means that once the visa is approved, your spouse is also approved for permanent residency and the Green Card is waiting to be issued after arrival to the USA.

so unlike the Fiance Visa, there's no need for any Adjustment of Status after arrival.

Once your spouse does enter the USA, she or he confirms your home address with the immigration inspector at the first port of entry, which triggers the process to issue the Green Card which should be available a few months later.

For most the critical difference between Fiancee and Spousal Visas is how long one must wait for the final interview and issuance of the visa to allow your partner to travel to join you in the USA.

In 2018 K-1 Visa on average currently is taking between seven to nine months from the time the petition is submitted to Homeland Security to the time your fiance gets the visa embossed to his or her or his passport.

The Spouse Visa takes roughly seven months longer, usually on average between twelve and fifteen months.

Why does the spouse visa take so much longer? Primarily the delay is caused by the extra time it takes to approve permanent residency. The Fiance Visa is officially only for a 90 day stay, the spouse is for a permanent stay called "permanent residency". And permanent residency in the eyes of immigration is a much bigger deal.

Here are the costs for a K-1 Visa, all of the way through to getting permanent residency, or the Green Card.

I include the cost of permanent residency because it provides a more relevant comparison against a Spouse visa, because the spouse visa includes permanent residency as well.

So the fees I give here both end at the same immigration status for your new spouse

When you send in your K1 Visa application to Homeland Security, you include payment of $535.

Your fiance pays to the consulate another application fee of $265

Prior to the consular interview your fiance must undergo a medical exam. The fees for this on average are around $300.

Then finally, fiance arrives in America and you marry and apply for Adjustment of Status. At the original medical exam overseas your fiance's vaccination records were checked. However the standard for vaccinations for a 90 day visa, and permanent residency are quite different. Now in the USA, now planning to stay permanently another doctor reviews the vaccinations again in order to confirm that they meet the higher standards. This usually costs around $100.

Finally, the filling fee for "Adjustment of Status" paid to USCIS is $1,225.

All in, from first K1 application through to Green Card the grand total is roughly $2,425.

The costs for a Spouse visa are as follows:

The Homeland Security application fee is $535.

At the National Visa Center stage, you pay, separately online, $120 as the Affidavit of Support fee, plus $325 for the Consulate Application Fee.

Prior to the consular interview your spouse must have a medical exam, which will cost roughly $300.

Finally after the interview, but before beginning the journey to the USA there is one final fee to be paid.

This time it is to USCIS, and is called an immigrant fee. It is paid online, and the amount is $220.

The final cost from submitting your CR1 visa application through to Green Card, is roughly $1,500

Here's a summary comparison between the Fiancee and Spouse Visas. Initially, both applications start similarly with a petition filed to USCIS.

The earliest time that you can file, for the K-1, it has to be after an actual face to face meeting, whereas for the Spousal Visa, it needs to be after the wedding.

Average time to process, seven to nine months for Fiancee, twelve to fifteen months for Spouse.

Total fees, through to Green Card is $2,425 for K-1, compared to $1,500 for CR1.

Immigration is always concerned about catching those who fraudulently enter into Sham marriages solely for immigration purposes. The CRITICAL part of the interview process at the consulates is to determine it the couple is "bona fide."

The consular officer will closely question (read interrogate) the fiance or spouse until the consular officer is convinced (or not) that the application is based on a genuine relationship by a real couple.

It is at the interview, that the benefits of the VisaCoach "front loaded" presentation are so important.

This is where the higher VisaCoach standard, for crafting "front loaded presentations" wins the day. The consular officer always reviews the case file before the interview starts. Our plan is that he will find many good reasons why he should trust you and approve the visa. Even before he invites your spouse to sit in front of his desk, he should already be mentally prepared to say "yes". This makes the interview a fast and friendly, formality. Most VisaCoach clients hear "Welcome to the USA" in just 3 to 4 minutes

I get phone calls from guys saying, "there's not going to be ANY issue about the consulate believing my case cause I spent a lot of money to fly there" or "during my trip we got married, surely that is all they need to approve my case"

Sorry, no, that's not how the consular officer views your situation. Everyone in a long distance relationship suffers extra costs for travel. And the standard for the consulate to accept that your relationship is "bona fide", is far more complicated then giving you credit for spending some money, and travel time and spending an hour or two in front of a "justice of the peace".

Fiance visa or spouse visa the burden to prove your bona fides is the same, It requires a whole rainbow of evidences to demonstrate yours is a "sincere, genuine" relationship.

Which visa is better?

It depends upon your priorities. The Fiance visa makes sense, if you want to start your life together as quickly as possible. It allows you to start your lives together in the USA about 7 months sooner.

The spouse visa makes sense, if your fiance really wants to have a dream wedding in your fiancee's home country in front of family and friends, or in case she or he wants to start work immediately on arrival to the USA without interruption.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

Questions? call 1-800-806-3210 ext , or Tel/Fax 1-213-341-0808, Open 7 Days a Week
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Fred Wahl is Bonded by the State of California as an Immigration Consultant, qualified to coach in the non-legal, technical procedures of immigration form preparation, and document selection. Whenever legal advice or legal representation is needed, the service of a qualified Immigration Attorney should be sought. Access to and use of VisaCoach.com and Services are subject to the following Visa Coach terms of service.
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