Key Differences Between Marriage Visas and Fiance Visas

A close-up photo of a Visa document and a wedding ring.

Key Differences Between Marriage Visas and Fiance Visas

Immigration is a tedious, complicated, and arduous process to go through alone, but you don’t have to. Immigration law is best understood under the guidance of an immigration lawyer. Many long-distance partners seek to eliminate the distance between them by getting married and moving the foreign partner to the United States. Married partners have a more direct path through the immigration process and eventual citizenship, but the question becomes, “is it better to get married in the US, or is it better to get married abroad?” 

The K-1 Visa may be quicker, but it’s also more expensive.

If an American citizen chooses to get married to a non-American citizen in the United States, they will need to apply for a K-1 Visa, also known as the fiance visa. The K-1 Visa process is generally quicker than getting a marriage visa in terms of relocating your non-American partner to the United States. Complete K-1 Visa applications can be processed in as little as six months. Once the foreign partner arrives in the United States, you have to get married within a 90-day window to pursue permanent residency. After you and your partner are legally married, it takes anywhere from 10 months to a year to complete the marriage-based green card process. 

The spousal visa is slower than fiance visas but still faster than other family immigration categories. 

Spousal visas can be filed under 1 of two categories, the K-3 or IR-1/CRI-1 Visa, but you must first be married outside of the United States. Legally, a spouse is a legally married person, which can include same-sex marriages. In some cases, common-law spouses may be able to apply for the same benefits, but it’s always a good idea to retain the legal expertise of an immigration attorney. 

The visa process is expensive and requires a lot of patience, documentation, and legal expertise. 

Regardless of the visa you and your partner have elected to apply for, you will need to prove to immigration that your relationship is authentic and not fraudulent. 

If you apply for the K-1 Visa, you must get married within the United States, but a K-3 Visa allows you to get married outside of the US and then bring your partner to the states. K-3 Visa has specific eligibility requirements. 

There are different fees for each of the different visa categories. There are also specific forms that must be filled out completely and correctly before submitting your application. With the help of a qualified immigration attorney, you can have the confidence that you can complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

In many cases, visa applications may be denied for insufficient evidence or incomplete paperwork. If you are required to resubmit your application, you will be required to pay all of the government filing fees again, so you must take extra care to get it right the first time. 

Filing Fees of K-1 Visa

In general, the filing fees for the K-1 Visa process can be split into three major payments. First, you’ll have to file Form-I29F, which comes with a filing fee of $535 and an additional $160 fee to the consulate. Then there’s a separate filing fee of $535 for Form 1-30, an additional $325 to the consulate for a DS-260 application, and a financial support fee of $120. 

Total government fees do not include the cost of attorney fees, transportation costs, and fees for obtaining documentation. Individuals applying for the K-1 Visa can expect to pay anywhere from $980 to $1,760 in government fees, depending on the nature of your application. People who have entered the US under a K-1 Visa and are now filing for an adjustment of status can expect to pay adjustment fees as well.

Your income will factor into both visa processes. 

As a citizen of the United States, you are considered a petitioner for your immigrant spouse. As such, you will need to demonstrate the ability to support yourself and your spouse until they are eligible to work in the United States. For your petition to be approved, the petitioner must prove that their income is sufficient. This means your income must be above 125% of the poverty level, but that is just to get your spouse or fiance into the United States. 

Once the green card process is completed, you will be expected to exceed the 125% requirement and complete a lengthy interview process. 

As mentioned above, the visa process is best completed under the legal advice of an immigration attorney. For more information about the fiance and spousal visa processes, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today or read more about our areas of practice.