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2016 What is Better? Fiance or Spouse Visa ?

The difference between K1 Fiance and CR1 Spouse Visa is whether you want to marry overseas, or not.

Each week I speak to callers who are trying to figure out what could work the best for them, getting married overseas or in the USA, applying for spousal or fiancee visas? This is what I tell them: To bring your lover to the USA you have two real choices, apply for a K1 Fiancee Visa, planning to marry once she arrives, or marry first, then apply for a CR1 Spousal Visa. I say 'real' choices because attempting to bring her here on a tourist, work, or student visa is as likely as winning the lottery, its just not going to happen. If you want to save yourself some time reading, this is all you really need to know:

Fiancee visa is about 6 months faster, but costs about $ 800 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 is eligible to apply to remain in the USA permanently. This is called Adjustment of Status. She may "adjust" her status from a temporary K1 visitor to that of a Permanent Resident. The id card she gets stating she is legally permitted to stay is called the "Green Card". The K1 visa is valid for 6 months. Your fiancee must begin her 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 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
Time:  4 to 5 months (average)
Actual processing times will vary. Some faster, some slower.
Time:9 to 13 months (average)
Actual processing times will vary. Some faster, some slower.
both available to marry + engaged
sponsor = US Citizen
sponsor income: $15,930 + $4,160/dependent
met face to face w/in past 2 years
Bone Fide Relationship
married to each other
sponsor = US Citizen or US Resident
sponsor income: $19,912 + $5,200/dependent
Bone Fide Relationship

I-129F USCIS Filing Fee:  $340
Overseas Medical: $200
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:  $1,070

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: $420
NVC Affidavit of Support Fee: $120
NVC Immigrant Visa Processing Fee: $325
Medical: $200
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $165

Total Cost  Including
Green Card: $1,975
Total Cost Including
Green Card: $1,230
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: $985
              ($635 if under 14 years old)
USCIS Biometrics: $0

USCIS Filing Fee:  $420
NVC Affidavit of Support Fee: $ 0
NVC Immigrant Visa Processing Fee: $325
Medical:  $200
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $165
Spouse $1,975
Child $1,550
(under 14)
Spouse $1,230
Child $1,110


A. The proof that you have a "bone fide" relationship is the same. See how to prove your relationship is bone fide

B. Spousal Visa takes at about 6 months longer

C. Paperwork: Fiancee Visa: 2 document submissions, Spousal Visa: 3 document submissions.

D. Minimum Income Eligibility is $19,912 annual income for Spouse versus $15,930 for Fiancee

K1 Fiancee Visa

Pro: You can apply as soon as you have met 'face to face'
Con: If your income is below the minimum, and you need a joint-sponsor, check with the consulate first, as some consulates DO NOT permit use of a financial joint-sponsor

CR1 Spousal Visa

Pro: Green card is included, you save about $ 800 in fees.
Pro: If you do not meet financial eligibility: Use of a financial joint-sponsor is always allowed
Pro: Her family attends wedding
Con: You must marry first before submitting.
Con: Takes about 6 months longer
Con: Three sets of documents to prepare

The majority of couples choose to apply for a Fiancee visa, as the Fiancee Visa is slightly simpler, and faster to obtain and the couple can apply immediately after they have met face to face. They do not have to delay in order to organize the complicated formalities of a wedding in a foreign country.

Spousal visas take longer to process,but at the end of the day is less expensive by about $800 in government fees. The green card is approved during the slower CR-1 process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

After she gets her fiancee visa, can we marry in her country, then travel together to the USA?

No. When she travels using the K1 fiancee visa, she MUST at that time be unmarried. If she becomes legally married before the visa is used, it must be abandoned. And you would have to start all over again, this time applying for a Spousal Visa. You MAY have a celebration, or cultural or religious ceremony providing it is NOT considered by the government of her residence country as a legal marriage.

We are already married, I don't want to wait 12 months, Can we apply for a Fiancee Visa?

No. Once married, the option to apply for a fiancee visa is taken off of the table. She must be unmarried to apply for, as well as use the fiancee visa.

We plan to marry in six months, can we apply for the spousal visa now?

No. You must wait until after the wedding, and you have your marriage certificate BEFORE submit the Spousal Visa Petition package.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

Questions? call 1-800-806-3210 ext , or Tel/Fax 1-213-341-0808, Open 7 Days a Week
Visa Coach, Suite 408, 3525 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego, CA 92130

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