The issue of whether an applicant should seek a fiancé or marriage visa depends on the timing of the immigration process and how it impacts their lives. Therefore, a fiancé or marriage visa is a personal decision for each couple. Foreign fiancés obtain fiancé visas to travel to the United States to get married and adjusting status after to permanent status. Conversely, an immigrant applies for a marriage visa to join their spouse in the U.S.
Fiancé Visa Process
The fiancé visa (K-1 visa) is initiated by the U.S.-spouse, who files a petition with the government to grant the visa. Once approved, a visa interview is scheduled in the foreign fiancé’s country. Once the foreign spouse enters the country, the couple must get married and file their adjustment of status paperwork within 90 days. Therefore, the wedding and marriage must occur relatively soon after the visa is issued – which can be an issue for couples hoping to host a large wedding with numerous guests.
Marriage Visa Process
The marriage visa (CR-1 or IR-1) is issued to a foreign spouse already married to a U.S. citizen. Ordinarily, the couple is married outside the United States, and, once married, they apply for the marriage visa. The petition is reviewed via consular processing. Consular processing means the petition is reviewed while the applicant waits in his or her home country. Therefore, unlike the fiancé visa, the foreign spouse must wait outside the United States for permanent status. Just like the fiancé visa, the foreign spouse sits for a consular interview.
However, if the U.S. spouse must return to the United States, they may petition for a K-3 visa, which grants temporary residence for their foreign spouse pending approval of their permanent status application.
Fiancé v. Marriage Visa
Whether a couple should apply for a marriage or a fiancé visa depends on their plans and how they want to address the immigration process. If the couple wants to get married in the United States, they should get a fiancé visa. If they want to get married abroad, they should apply for a marriage visa and K-3 for temporary resident status. Moreover, the fiancé visa is usually approved faster (around five to ten months). However, a major drawback for the fiancé visa is that the full cost of adjusting status to permanent resident costs several hundred more dollars than a marriage visa.