If you are a U.S. citizen whose fiancé lives overseas, and you would like to have your fiancé immigrate to the U.S., you may be considering whether you should bring your future spouse to the U.S. as your fiancé (on a K-1 visa) or to get married first and petition for a spousal immigrant visa for him/her. Here are some of the factors to consider when deciding which option is best for you.

Speed: Generally, the K-1 visa is the faster route for getting the foreign fiancé or spouse into the U.S. The processing time for the I-129F petition (for K-1 visa) has historically been faster than the I-130 petition submitted for a spousal immigrant visa. Even though the reported processing times are currently similar, the steps involved in the consular processing for the K-1 visa generally allow the K-1 visa holder to come to the U.S. more quickly. It should be noted, however, that the K-1 visa is only valid for 90 days, within which the couple must get married and the foreign spouse then applies for adjustment of status to stay in the U.S. as a permanent resident. In contrast, with a spousal immigrant visa, the foreign spouse becomes a Permanent Resident upon admission into the U.S.

Work Authorization and Travel: A K-1 visa is valid for a single entry. International travel and work authorization are not possible immediately. Generally, the K-1 fiance will apply for work authorization and Advanced Parole (to allow them to travel outside of the U.S.) when they apply for adjustment of status. If they wish to travel outside the U.S. while their AOS application is being processed, they will also need to apply for Advanced Parole at that time. In contrast, a person with a spousal immigrant visa becomes a Permanent Resident upon admission into the U.S. They are therefore able to immediately seek employment without restrictions and will not require special permission to leave the U.S. for travel. No Advance Parole (AP) document is required.

Place and Time of Marriage: The purpose of the K-1 is to come to the U.S. for marriage, so the marriage must take place in the U.S., within the 90-day period following admission in K-1 status. For those who want a chance to spend more time together in the U.S. before getting married, the K-1 will provide that additional time. In contrast, for the spousal immigrant visa, it does not matter where the couple gets married (in the U.S. or abroad), but you must be married first before filing the I-130 petition. For many, this may depend on whether you feel ready to get married now, and also where you, your fiancé, and perhaps your family expects you to hold the wedding.

Costs: There are more steps involved in the K-1 visa, and thus, the total costs incurred is higher for K-1 visa than the spousal immigrant visa, after taking into account all government filing fees.  Below is a quick comparison of the government fees. (This does not include any costs associated with dependents, and don’t forget that there are additional fees to complete the medical exam, get your vaccinations, and costs for traveling, necessary translations, etc Additionally, if you are working with a law firm, there will be additional attorney’s fees.)

K-1 Visa:

USCIS Filing fee for I-129F $535
Consulate Visa Application/Processing fee $265
USCIS Filing fee for I-485 (Adjustment of Status) $1225
Total $2025

Spousal Visa:

USCIS Filing fee for I-130 $535
NVC Immigrant Visa Application/Processing Fee $325
NVC I-864 Affidavit of Support Fee $120
USCIS Immigrant Fee $165
Total $1145

For more detailed information on the process to petition for a green card for a spouse or other immediate relative, visit our website here. For information on K-1 visa, visit here.

Bringing your loved one to the U.S. can be quite a journey, so before you start walking down that road, make sure you’re on the right one! If you are planning on getting married to someone from overseas, call our office today to schedule a consultation to discuss which option is the best for you!