Obtaining citizenship through marriage is a decision that must be carefully made. With so many visa categories available, it's important to methodically review the eligibility requirements of each to determine your best option. For example, if you're a resident outside of the United States and you're planning on marrying a U.S. resident, you may be curious about the most strategic path to gain U.S. citizenship. In this case, there are two main choices to consider: a fiancé(e) visa and a spouse visa.
Though a fiancé(e) visa and spouse visa sound similar, they're entirely different terms with distinctive characteristics. Choosing between the two can confuse many couples. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and what's best for one couple may not be ideal for another. When making your decision, it's crucial to consider the speed of each process, the associated costs, and other factors. We've broken down everything you need to know.
Understanding the Difference between a Fiancé(e) Visa and Spouse Visa
There are two main ways that a United States citizen whose partner is living abroad can bring that person into the United States: as a spouse through an immigrant visa or as a fiancé(e) through the K1 visa process. Both possibilities have their strengths and weaknesses that are important to consider. Here's what to know about each:
A K-1 visa—colloquially known as a fiancé(e) visa—allows an engaged partner of a United States citizen to enter the country, as long as the couple gets married no more than 90 days later. As the name suggests, a fiancé(e) visa is reserved for those engaged to be married but have yet to seal the deal. After marriage within 90 days, the newly married spouse can then apply for permanent residence—or a “green card”—based on marriage.
A spouse visa—sometimes referred to as a CR-1 visa, K-3 visa, or marriage visa—stipulates that the couple be legally married first, whether in the immigrant's home country or elsewhere. A spouse visa is obtained by the foreign spouse while in the foreign country after marriage to immigrate to the U.S. to live permanently. A “spouse,” in this case, is defined as the legally married husband or wife, including same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs.
Fiancé(e) Visa vs. Spouse Visa: Which is Right for Me?
Now that you understand the difference between each type of visa, you may be wondering what makes sense for you. Should you wait to officially get married in the U.S. to secure a Fiancé(e) visa, or does it make more sense to get married in your home country and opt for a spouse visa? Here are a few considerations:
- Speed: One advantage of the K-1 visa is that the process is generally faster than a K-3 visa. The fiancé(e) visa process often takes about six months, meaning that becoming a permanent resident can be completed in less than 11 months. A spouse visa would be a lengthier process.
- Location: Where would you and your partner prefer to get married? With a fiancé(e) visa, it's required that you get married in the United States, whereas a K-3 spouse visa requires you to get married outside the country.
- Cost: An estimated fiancé(e) visa cost would hover in the range of $2,000, while an estimated spouse visa might be about $1,2000.
U.S. immigration laws are often very complex. Fortunately, the right immigration attorney may be able to help you navigate the process and understand which option is right for you. Consulting a lawyer before making any marriage-related decisions may help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Contact an Experienced Seattle Immigration Attorney for Help with Your Fiancé(e) Visa or Spouse Visa
If you're weighing your options about whether to bring your partner into the U.S. on a K-1 Fiancé(e) visa or through a spouse visa, it's crucial that you meet with an immigration attorney to go over your options and discuss which might be the better fit for you and your partner. Fortunately, help is just a click or call away. At Orbit Law, our team of knowledgeable Seattle immigration lawyers will be by your side throughout every step of the K-1, C-1, or K-3 visa process, and we're dedicated to ensuring that you have the best chances of success.
At Orbit Law, our lawyers have the time, resources, and expertise to investigate your situation in order to determine the most strategic plan of action. We understand U.S. and foreign immigration laws, and we're committed to helping you navigate the immigration process. We've aided many clients looking to obtain permanent U.S. residence through marriage, and we're thrilled to help you through this process. To schedule a consultation, give us a call at (206) 312-8086 or complete our online contact form today.