K1 or CR1 Comparison?

What is Better? Fiance or Spouse Visa?


First. how Each Path Works



Actually there are just three main Questions that each couple should ask themselves to decide what they want to do.

How soon should the foreign partner arrive to the USA?
The fiancée visa process is usually faster than a spouse visa. Currently fiancée visas take about  16 to 18 months compared to spouse visas that take 18 to 22 months.

Where should the wedding take place?
One of you probably has a strong preference of where and how to get married.  It’s usually a good idea to go with the stronger desires.

How soon does the foreign partner want to work after arrival in the USA? 
A spouse visa permits the foreign spouse to work as early as on the day of arrival. This compares with a fiancé visa where the fiancé typically cannot work for at least eight months.

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.

Click here for information on the Top Reasons K1 Fiance visa is better

Click here for information on the Top Reasons CR1 Spouse visa is better

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. They “adjust” their status from a temporary K1 visitor to a Permanent Resident. The ID card your spouse receives stating they are legally permitted to stay is called the “Green Card”. The K1 visa is valid for 6 months. Your fiance 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 adjustment of status is needed. The visa holder gets their 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:  18 +/- 3 months (average)

at USCIS:  15 months (average)
at NVC:  1 months (average)
at Consulate:  2 months (average)
Actual processing times will vary. Some faster, some slower.

Total Time:  18 +/- 3 months (average)

at USCIS:  12 months (average)
at NVC:  2 – 4 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: $19,720 + $5,140/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: $24,650 + $6,425/dependent
Bona Fide Relationship

I-129F USCIS Filing Fee:  $535
Overseas Medical: $340
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: $340
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220

Total Cost  Including
Green Card: $2,465
Total Cost Including
Green Card: $1,540
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:  $250 – $350
USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220


Fiance $2,465
Child $1,705
(under 14)



Spouse $1,540
Child $1,225


Before setting out on the path to bring your partner to the USA,.. and well before solidifying ANY marriage plans, you should carefully review and consider the pros and cons of the two types of marriage based visa that are available for you.

Knowing your choices BEFORE you take actions that might be irreversible can save you time, money and frustration.

I have too many consultations with people who just returned from what they plan as their last trip before applying to immigration. Often they are married, and disappointed to discover how slow spouse visas are, and to learn, that the spouse visa is the ONLY path now available. And sometimes they find on returning to USA, still single, that the spouse visa is a better or necessary choice for them, and they basically have to get right back on the aircraft and get married first before applying.

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 Fiance Visa and the CR-1 Spouse Visa.

With the K-1 Visa, you are both free to marry, you both INTEND to marry, but you have not actually gotten married yet.

The visa is designed, to give your foreign fiance the opportunity to visit the USA for up to ninety days. They can meet your family and friends, check out where you live, and get a more informed knowledge of what it would be like to remain with you in the USA as your spouse. Remember your future spouse is giving up their foreign home and family, so they are taking a big, BIG, life altering step. So fair enough to give them a little time to decide.

Then if they marry you within those ninety days, your new spouse is eligible to remain in the USA, by applying for permanent residency. Proof of approval of permanent residency is the green card we have heard so much about.

The process for a K-1 Fiance 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, after you have met, you agree that you intend to marry and get engaged. I help you prepare and submit a thorough application to USCIS, that’s also known as Homeland Security.

The application we submit is the “Front Loaded” petition package that VisaCoach is known for. By “front loaded” it means that you and I take extra effort to include all relevant evidence that will make the final consulate reviewers job easier, to make a positive decision to approve your visa.

Homeland security reviews the petition then passes it on to the US Department of State.

The Department of State operates our consulates around the world. They’ll send your application to the consulate that’s closest to your fiance.

The consulate asks your fiance in for a one on one screening interview and that is when the decision to approve or deny is made. Once granted, the visa is good for six months for your fiance to travel to the USA. Once here, your fiance has ninety days, to look over the situation, and get married to you. And if they decide not to marry, they should leave the USA.

After the wedding there is one final step, the K1 visa had served its purpose, it allowed your fiance to enter the USA.

For permission for your new spouse to REMAIN in the USA you need apply for “Adjustment of Status.”

The other available visa is the Spouse Visa. This allows your foreign spouse, who you have already married, enter the United States and to take up permanent residency with you. Her or his Green Card is ALREADY approved.

Actually there are two kinds of spouse visa, the CR1 and the IR1. The primary 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.

As most of my married clients are newlyweds, I will just call spouse visas as CR1 visas, but the process is the same for either.

The process for a CR-1 Spouse Visa is as follows.

First you marry your foreign partner. This needs to be legally binding, in the country where the wedding was conducted.

We then prepare and submit a “Front Loaded” spouse visa application to USCIS. The evidences that you have a genuine and sincere “bona fide” relationship with your spouse is just as important as when we applied for a fiance visa.

An official piece of paper that states you are married, is not enough. The final reviewing officer must be convinced that no “gaming of immigration” no “sham” marriage has occurred, and those proofs are about what happened before and after the ceremony.

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

Unlike a Fiance Visa, where your case was only briefly touched by NVC, and quickly sent overseas for further processing, NVC is now much more intimately involved with a spouse visa case.

We will be working directly with NVC to pay fees, and submit more information about your spouse, and your financial eligibility.

Once NVC is satisfied they will 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 her or his Green Card will be waiting to be issued after arrival to the USA.

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

The main important issues to compare, on a Fiance versus spouse visa are processing time, cost, how soon after arrival the spouse wants to work, ages of any dependent children who are coming to the USA, whether a joint sponsor is required, and Criminal History.

Processing Time

For most the biggest difference between Fiancee and Spousal Visas is how long one must wait for the visa to be issued, start to finish

In 2019 K-1 Fiancee Visas on average are currently 8 to 10 months. CR-1 Spouse Visas on average are currently taking 14 to 18 months.

So a fiance visa takes about half as much time till arrival in USA.

Why does the spouse visa take so much longer? Primarily the delay is because the time it takes to approve permanent residency, the green card, is included. Spouse visa is regular immigration, and no need to apply separately for Adjustment of Status. The Fiance visa is a non-immigrant visa, officially for only a short 90 day stay. To stay longer the spouse needs apply for the permanent residency, while remaining in the USA together with her or his American spouse.


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

Prior to the consular interview your fiance must undergo a medical exam. The fees for this on average are around $340.

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

To compare apples to apples, here are the additional costs for the green card, which will be needed if all goes well.

At the original medical exam overseas your fiance’s vaccination records were checked. However the standard for vaccinations for permanent residency are higher, so another doctor, this time in the USA must review the vaccinations again. This costs around $100.

Then the filling fee for “Adjustment of Status” paid to USCIS is $1,225.

All in, K1 application through to Green Card the grand total is roughly $2,465.

The costs for a Spouse visa are as follows:

The USCIS application fee is $535.

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

Prior to the consular interview your spouse must undergo a medical exam. The fees for this on average are around $340.

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, it is called an immigrant fee, and its payment is for the processing of the Green Card. The amount is $220.

The final cost from submitting your CR1 visa application through to Green Card, is roughly $1,540

So roughly the Spouse Visa and Green card is about $1000 less than the Fiance Visa and Green Card.

How Soon After Arrival May Spouse Work

Upon arrival on a spouse visa, the spouse is pre-approved for green card and permanent residency. This means that your spouse can take a job and work in the USA immediately. Can go from airport directly to office.

However, in the case of a Fiance Visa, your new spouse may only work after the wedding and applying for Adjustment of Status and work authorization. Currently work authorization is taking about 6 months to be approved. And for most couples they need a few months to get married and organized before we can submit the application.

So plan for an after Fiance Visa spouse to have to wait around 8 months before beginning to work, versus the spouse visa spouse eligible to work on arrival.

Including Dependent children

With either Fiance or Spouse Visa paths the dependent children of your foreign partner can be included.

The major difference is that the cut off age to include a child is 3 years lower for the spouse visa Children may only be included with a spouse visa, if they were under 18 years old on the day of your wedding.

But older children 18 to 21 are still eligible to immigrate with Parent when the Fiance Visa path is chosen.

Joint sponsor required?

Some consulates do not allow the use of a joint-sponsor for a fiance visa application. But ALL consulates will accept a joint sponsor for a spouse visa. Consulates in Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Nigeria will not accept a joint sponsor for a Fiance Visa. So if you will need a joint sponsor, best is you check first which visas the consulate will allow you to use one.

Criminal History

The Fiance visa eligibility requirements ask applicants with arrest, citation or conviction history, to provide arrest, court and probation records. And depending on the issues, may require waivers in order to be ALLOWED to apply for the visa. The spouse visa does not have these extra requirements, and sometimes couples choose the spouse visa route in order to avoid the extra complications.

In summary:

Speed: The fiance visa is about twice as fast

Costs: The spouse visa + green card costs about a thousand dollars less.

How soon to work: The Spouse visa allows your spouse to work immediately, Fiance visa normally about 8 months after arrival

Dependent children: Fiance visa can include dependents up to 21 years old. The spouse visa can only include dependents who were under 18 on the day of the wedding

Joint Sponsor: All spouse visa applications may use joint sponsor. Some consulates, do not allow Fiance visa applicant to use joint sponsor.

Criminal History: Fiance Visas require extra documentation where arrests/convictions/citations occurred in past.

And finally, the most important consideration of all, when deciding between a Fiance or Spouse visa. Is “What will make my partner happy?”

If your partner has strong preferences, and wants to wed in front of friends and family, you are probably best served to make her or his dreams come true.

Fred Wahl
The Visa Coach
Your Personal Immigration Consultant