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Marrying a U.S. Citizen: Which Visa is Right for You? [infographic]

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on April 08, 2016

When United States citizens and foreign-born individuals decide to tie the knot, there can be a variety of obstacles that get in the way. While things like language barriers, religious customs and cultural misunderstandings can all cause a few bumps in the road on the way to matrimony, perhaps one of the biggest hurdles couples face is getting the foreign fiancé into the U.S. legally to begin with.

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Marrying a U.S.Citizen

While most engaged couples are drawn immediately to the K-1 fiancé visa, in some situations other visa options make more sense. Before committing to a visa solution, it’s a good idea to take a quick look at all of the visa options available.

Features of the K-1 Visa

There are a number of reasons that the K-1 visa is an attractive option for engaged couples. A K-1 visa allows the couple a full 90 days to get married, unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to apply for a K-2 visa and join the soon to be married couple in the U.S., and the foreign fiancé can apply for a green card, which would enable him or her to remain in America permanently. Unfortunately, green card processing can take 3 to 5 months.

Features of the CR-1 and IR-1 Marriage-Based Immigrant Visa

If the couple doesn’t mind getting married outside the United States, a marriage-based visa option may be a wise choice. A CR-1 visa is applicable if issued prior to the second anniversary of the marriage. Otherwise, the IR-1 visa would apply. The beauty of a marriage-based immigrant visa is that the foreign spouse becomes a permanent U.S. resident upon being admitted into the United States, and U.S. citizenship can be obtained in just 3 years. The downside, however, is that the processing time can be quite lengthy.

Features of the K-3 Marriage-Based Non-Immigrant Visa

Initially, the K-3 visa was viewed as a short-cut for foreign spouses to enter the United States. Once admitted into the U.S., the spouse would apply for an “adjustment of status” and would be allowed to remain in the U.S. while awaiting approval and the availability of an immigrant visa. This type of visa has lost popularity in recent years, however, because the numerous obstacles, scheduling issues and abundance of red tape involved often make this option more challenging. In fact, there were only 392 K-3 visas issued in 2014, compared with 29,913 CR-1 visas and 41,488 K-1 visas.