Marriage-based Green Card vs. K-1 Visa (Fiancé Visa)
Depending on what’s most important to you and your fiancé(e), it is important to understand the different tracks for a K-1 visa and a marriage-based Green Card. In this article, we will compare the two visas, marriage-based Green Card (CR1 visa) and K-1 visa.
I. What is a K-1 visa?
K-1 nonimmigrant visa is commonly referred to as a fiancé(e) visa. This is only available to a United States citizen desiring to bring a foreign fiancé(e) to the U.S. for the purpose of a lawful marriage.
II. What are some factors to consider when choosing K-1 visa over marriage-based Green Card?
Although there are pathways for ultimately getting a Green Card for your foreign fiancé(e) or your foreign spouse, the following are factors that must be considered:
- Whether you prefer to get married within the United States or abroad, outside of the United States
- Whether the petitioning spouse is a United States citizen or a Green Card holder
- How quickly the United States citizen and the foreign fiancé(e) prefer to get married
- How quickly the foreign fiancé(e) desires to immigrate to the United States
- Financial situation of the United States citizen
III. What are the eligibility requirements for K-1 visa?
The following requirements must be met for a United States citizen to apply for a K-1 visa:
- The applying spouse must be a United States citizen
- The United States citizen and the foreign fiancé(e) must have the intent to be legally married within ninety (90) days after the admission into the United States
- Both individuals [United States citizen and foreign fiancé(e)] must be legally free to marry
- Both individuals must not be currently married
- If previously married, must have legally terminated any prior marriages, or have proof of the death of a prior spouse or annulment.
- Both individuals must have known each other previously
- Met, in person, at least once within the two (2) year period before filing of the petition; or
- Request a waiver of the “in person” requirement, and provide evidence of the following:
- Prove that meeting would violate strict and long-established customs of the foreign fiancé(e)’s culture or social practice; or
- Prove that meeting in person would result in extreme hardship to the United States citizen petitioner.
IV. K-1 fiancé(e) visa with child
If the foreign fiancé(e) has children, there are options that the children may be eligible for entry to the United States on a K-2 nonimmigrant visa. The following are the eligibility requirements for k-2 visa:
- The child must be under the age of 21 until admission to the United States
- The child must be unmarried and remain unmarried until admission to the United States
- The name of the child must be disclosed on the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) (Form I-129F)
Upon approval, the children of the foreign fiancé(e) may travel to the United States with the foreign fiancé(e), or arrive at a later time. However, the children of the foreign fiancé(e) may not travel to the United States prior to the arrival of the foreign fiancé(e).
Furthermore, after the successful marriage between the United States citizen and the foreign fiancé(e) within the ninety (90) day period after admission into the United States, the children of the foreign fiancé(e) may also be eligible to apply for a Green Card through Form I-485. It is suggested that the children of the foreign fiancé(e) apply concurrently with the foreign fiancé(e) or after. The K-2 nonimmigrant visa children of the foreign fiancé(e) must remain unmarried in order to maintain their eligibility for a Green Card.
V. Requirements for fiancé(e) visa, K-1 visa?
In order to obtain a K-1 visa, the following documentations will need to accompany your application of Form I-129F.
- Proof of the United States citizen’s citizenship
- Copy of birth certificate showing birth within the United States
- Copy of naturalization or citizenship certificate issued by the USCIS
- Copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by United States Embassy or Consulate
- Copy of unexpired United States passport
- Original written statement from a United States consular office verifying United States citizenship and valid United States passport
- Proof of legal termination of any prior marriages for either/both United States citizen and foreign fiancé(e) (if applicable)
- Copy of Final Divorce Decree
- Copy of Death Certificate of deceased prior spouse
- Copy of Final Annulment Order
- Original color passport photograph of United States citizen and foreign fiancé(e) taken within thirty (30) days of the filing of Form I-129F petition
- Proof of any legal name change (if applicable)
- Proof of intent to marry within ninety (90) days within the foreign fiancé(e)’s admission into the United States as a K-1 nonimmigrant
- Proof of establishing meeting in person within two (2) years prior to filing Form I-129F *Alternatively documents supporting waiver of the “in person” requirement
Should any of the submitted documents be in a foreign language, an English translated version must be submitted with a certification from a competent translator with a statement attesting to the complete and accurate translation.
VI. What factors would make marriage-based Green Cards better?
If a foreign fiancé(e) is currently unmarried, there are several factors to consider whether a marriage-based Green Card might be better than applying for a K-1 visa. Since the couple who consider applying for a K-1 visa are not married yet but soon-to-be married, in this case, the marriage-based Green Card category is mostly the CR1 visa (conditional residence Green Card)
- Typically it will be cheaper for a marriage-based Green Card (spouse) than getting a K-1 nonimmigrant a Green Card (foreign fiancé(e))
- If you and your foreign fiancé(e) desire to get married outside of the United States, a marriage-based Green Card is the better path
- Your foreign fiancé(e) does not mind waiting for a longer period of time to immigrate to the United States
- Your foreign fiancé(e) desires to become a permanent resident upon arrival to the United States
VII. What if my foreign fiancé(e) and my sponsoring spouse have already married outside of the United States?
In situations where a foreign fiancé(e) has already been married to a sponsoring spouse (a U.S. citizen or permanent resident) outside of the United States, the sponsoring spouse may file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) in order to sponsor a Green Card for the spouse seeking a Green Card.
In the above situation, depending on the time period of marriage, the spouse seeking a Green Card will receive either a CR1 Green Card or an IR1 Green Card.
If the marriage has been for less than two (2) years, a CR1 Green Card will be issued. This is commonly referred to as a “conditional residence (CR)” Green Card. A CR1 Green Card is only valid for two (2) years, and a Petition to Remove conditions on Residence (Form I-751) will need to be filed in order to receive a permanent Green Card.
If the marriage has been more than two (2) years, a IR1 Green Card will be issued. This is commonly referred to as a “immediate relative (IR)” Green Card. A IR1 Green Card is valid for ten (10) years, and eligible for renewal for additional ten (10) year periods.
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