Which Visa is better — Fiancé Visa or Marriage Visa?
U.S. citizens looking to bring their partner into the country on a K Visa must decide whether to apply for the K1 or the K3 Visa. The answer to this question will depend on the particulars of each case, but knowledge of the basic differences between the K1 and K3 will be helpful for unsure applicants.
If you and your loved one are not yet married, but plan to be married in the U.S., the K1 aka “Fiance(e) Visa” is most likely for you.
If you have already been, or plan to be, married in your loved one’s native country, before settling in the U.S., then the K3 aka “Marriage Visa” is probably the one you would want.
However—as with most immigration issues—this is not a cut and dry situation. There are other advantages and disadvantages for both visas. Applicants must carefully consider these before making a choice.
K1 Fiance(e) Visa:
- Must establish a bona fide intention and legal eligibility to marry
- Proof that the parties have met in person within two years of filing the petition (This requirement may be waived for reasons of extreme hardship or custom.)
- U.S. citizen will file a form “I-129F: Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)” with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Note: There are limitations on multiple petitions being filed by same petitioner.
- The USCIS is responsible for processing this petition and if approved will forward (via the National Visa Center) the petition to the consulate serving the location of the Non-US Citizen Fiancé(e).
- Upon receiving the approved I-129F petition, the US Consulate will contact the Non-US Citizen Fiancé(e) and request certain information be gathered and provided to the US Consulate.
- Additionally there will be an actual “visa interview” in person (at the consulate) for the K-1 Visa. If the embassy approves the K-1 Visa, they will issue the visa typically within two to three days after the interview.
- Once the Non-US Citizen Fiancé(e) receives the K-1 Visa they may enter the US any time within six months of the visa being issued.
- U.S. entry permitted solely for the purpose of marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner within a 90-day period. If they fail to do this within 90 days of entry into the US they may accrue unlawful status inside the US as defined by the USCIS. This may potentially affect future immigration benefits they file for.
- Minor children can accompany in K-2 status.
One of the biggest advantages is that the Fiance(e) Visa allows you and your partner to spend more time together in the U.S. before being legally bound. Couples get a 90-day courtship window before the wedding must take place, during which the foreign partner can live in the U.S. This uninterrupted time together can help solidify a couple’s commitment and provide a strong base for the upcoming marriage.
In addition, U.S. Immigration, rather than a foreign government, processes K1 applications, and require only a single petition. This means K1 Visas are typically approved faster than K3 Marriage Visas.
Further, getting married in the U.S. means your marriage will be legal and recognized by U.S. Law. And, importantly, if any problem arises during the immigration process your American attorney can serve as the point person—thus keeping you from being endlessly shuffled between government agents.
Please note that if you are your partner do not get married within the 90-day window the foreign partner must return to their native country; and, it may require more persuasion to prove the legitimacy of your relationship. Your application must also be perfect, or the approval process could be delayed a year or more.
K3 Marriage Visa:
- Must establish that marriage is bona fide
- U.S. citizen will file a form “I-130: Petition for Alien Relative” with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).
- Upon receipt of the I-130 being accepted by the USCIS, the US Citizen will file an I-129F petition with the USCIS indicating the desire to obtain a K-3 Visa.
- After the K-3 Visa is approved by the US Consulate, the Non-US Citizen Spouse can enter the US with their status as a “K-3 Visa Holder” valid for two years. They may freely travel in and out of the US as the K-3 Visa is a multiple entry visa.
- Entry to U.S. permitted solely for purposes of obtaining permanent residence via spousal relationship
- Minor children can accompany in K-4 status
Some of the advantages of the Marriage Visa is that couples married in the foreign partner’s country won’t have to work as hard to prove the relationship to the foreign immigration consulate. Also, the K3 grants the foreign partner immediate legal U.S. residency. And the foreign partner is permitted to freely travel back and forth between the U.S. and her native country.
On the downside, the K3 application process involves two steps instead of one, and all documents must be translated into the language of the foreign country. If a single form is missing from your application you will face serious delays, keeping in mind that dealing with foreign-speaking immigration officials can be extremely difficult. Also, the U.S. partner must be granted permission by the foreign country to get married there, and marriage laws between the U.S. and other countries are not always compatible.
How Our Attorneys Can Help
As you may have suspected, there are quite a few factors to consider when choosing between the K1 and K3. Making the wrong decision can result in a significant setback for you and your partner. Our experienced lawyers can help identify the best course of action, whether it be through a K1 Fiancé Visa or Marriage Visa, and walk you through every step of the process.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.