Engagement and marriage are the most exciting life events. The excitement is severalfold if you’re getting committed to someone who is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder (lawful permanent resident in the United States). The thought of starting a new life in a new country is exhilarating.
Before deciding whether you should get engaged or married, it’s highly recommended that you look into visa options. Two types of visas are issued to partners of people already living in the U.S. as U.S. citizens or LPR; fiancé visa and marriage visa. While both types of visas make your partner’s entry into the States possible, they’re quite different.
Understanding what a fiancé visa and marriage visa are, how they’re different, and which route you should choose is crucial when deciding the next step in your life. This blog will answer most of the questions that you may have in this regard.
Understanding Fiancé and Marriage Visas
A Fiancé visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa. They typically issue it to a foreign fiancé of a U.S. citizen. They call this visa a K-1 visa, and the process is much faster. If you plan to apply for a fiancé visa. Then you must get married in the U.S. within 90 days of your fiancé coming to the United States. Once married, you can apply for your partner’s status change to lawful permanent resident (LPR).
A marriage visa or spouse visa is issued to the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). The marriage must have taken place outside the United States to be eligible for a spouse visa. The processing time for a marriage visa is also longer than for a fiancé visa. Once the visa is processed, the foreign spouse becomes a lawful permanent resident and receives their green card.
Marriage visa is of two types; IR1/CR1 and K-3. If you get married outside the U.S. and then apply for family sponsorship immigration as your spouse is your immediate family now, the visa is an IR1 or CR1 visa.
Your spouse has to wait for the visa process to be complete before coming to the United States. However, if you want your spouse to join you sooner, you can apply for a K-3 spouse visa, under which your spouse can come to the United States and stay with you while their LPR application is still under process. K-3 is a non-immigrant visa.
Fiancé Visa vs. Marriage Visa
Both types of visas have different specifications, pros, and cons. Your choice would depend entirely on your case, including how soon you want your partner to join you, what your income is in the U.S., etc. Let’s look at both visa types below and compare them to see how they differ.
The first and most prominent difference between a marriage visa and a fiancé visa is the eligibility criteria. You can apply for a fiancé visa if you’re a U.S. citizen. Lawful permanent residents (LPR or green card holders) aren’t eligible to apply for a fiancé visa. If you wish to bring your foreign fiancé to the U.S., you must be a U.S. citizen. On the other hand, both U.S. citizens and LPRs can apply for a marriage visa.
Fiancé visas are processed faster than marriage visas. If you’re a U.S. citizen and are unsure if you should apply for a fiancé visa or marriage visa to bring your partner to the U.S., you’ll benefit from a fiancé visa because it’ll be processed faster.
It takes about 6 months for the fiancé visa to be processed, after which your foreign fiancé can come to the U.S., and after you’re married, it takes about 10.5 months for your partner to receive the status of a permanent resident. In contrast, marriage visas can take much longer to process. It takes at least 10 months for your partner to receive their marriage visa.
Entry into the U.S
One of the biggest benefits of a fiancé visa is that your fiancé can come to the U.S. as soon as the visa is issued. You two can get married in the U.S. and then apply for your spouse’s green card. However, you don’t have that option if you aren’t a U.S. citizen. Your spouse can only come to the U.S. after their marriage visa has been processed and their green card has been issued.
If your partner is coming to the U.S. on a fiancé visa, you’ll have to get married in the United States within 90 days. If you don’t get married within this time, your K-1 visa will be invalid, and your fiancé will have to leave the United States immediately. They may even be barred from entering the United States in the future. There’s no way around it. In the case of a marriage visa, you can only apply for this visa if you got married outside the U.S.
If you plan to apply for a fiancé visa, you’ll need to submit pictures of the two of you together, proof of your correspondence to show you are in touch, and written statements from your mutuals to prove that you two are a couple.
Requirements for marriage visas are stricter. You have to prove that your marriage is legitimate. You’ll have to submit a marriage certificate to show the full name of both spouses and the date of marriage, joint bank statements (if there’s a joint account), joint leases (if any), pictures of the wedding function, and proof of having children together (if any).
The processes of both a fiancé visa and a marriage visa aren’t as straightforward as they may sound. You need to be extremely careful with your documentation. If any fraudulent activity or intentions are suspected, your partner may never be able to join you in the United States.
Get in touch with a reliable immigration lawyer to discuss your case and choose the route that’s best for you.
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