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If you have recently become engaged, congratulations! If you are a U.S. citizen whose fiancé or fiancée is from another country, you have the opportunity to sponsor them to come live with you permanently in the United States. We are often asked which is better, a K-1 fianc(é)e visa petition or a spousal visa petition.

Here are some key considerations to help you decide which is the better option for you and your loved one: 1) place and time of your marriage; 2) processing time and cost; 3) your fianc(é)e's needs for work and travel outside the U.S.

Place and time of the marriage: The K-1 visa was created to allow U.S. citizens to bring their foreign fianc(é)es to the United States and marrying here. It is a single-entry visa and the marriage takes place in the United States within 90 days of entry. By contrast, to qualify for a spousal immigrant visa, you must already be married.

Speed of process: The K-1 visa is typically faster to obtain. The I-129F petition you file to get a K-1 visa has historically been processed faster than the I-130 petition you file for a spousal visa. Currently, the processing times for the petitions are about equal, but the consular processing of the K-1 visa is often quicker than the consular processing of the spousal visa. Nevertheless, after entering on a K-1 visa, the marriage must take place and thereafter the fiancé must apply for adjustment of status. The adjustment of status is the green card application stage, which can take another year to approve.

On a spousal visa, while it takes longer to obtain from the consulate, the spouse becomes a lawful permanent resident (green card) immediately upon entering the U.S. In other words, there is no further need to apply for an adjustment of status.

Cost: There are more steps involved in obtaining a K-1 visa and adjusting to lawful permanent residency than there are to get lawful permanent residency through a spousal immigrant visa, there are more fees involved in the K-1 visa process. Here is a short comparison of the fees; keep in mind that there are additional out-of-pocket fees for the required medical exam, vaccinations, travel, any necessary translation, immigration attorney fees and any costs related to dependents.

K-1 visa:

USCIS filing fee for petition I-129F: $535

Consulate visa application/processing fee: $265

USCIS filing fee for I-485 (adjustment of status): $1,225

Total Filing Fees: $2,025

Spousal immigrant visa:

USCIS filing fee for petition I-130: $535

NVC immigrant visa application/processing fee: $325

NVC I-864 affidavit of support fee: $120

USCIS immigrant fee: $220

Total: $1,200

Note that these fees are as of the date of the posting of this information.

Need for work authorization or travel abroad: Because a K-1 visa holder doesn't automatically become a lawful permanent resident upon entry to the U.S., the person will not have work or travel authorization right away. The K-1 visa holder will generally apply to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident after marriage and at that time also apply for work and travel abroad authorizations. Consider whether your fianc(é)e will need to work or travel immediately.

It can be a long journey to bring your fianc(é)e to the States, so make sure you're on the right track from the beginning. Call Yew Immigration Law Group for more detailed information about K-1 fianc(é)e visas and spousal immigrant visas.

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