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Fiance or Spousal Visa?

FIancee (K-1) or spousal (IR) visa? The eternal burning question. Clients from across North Carolina, including Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville and Wilmington, often ask about the positive and negative aspects of pursuing the different visa options for their loved one overseas when trying to determine how to get their partner ultimately to permanent residency status. Given the similarities, which option best fits your circumstance usually comes down to a personal decision. Here is a short list of pros and cons with respect to each visa:

Fiancee Visa (aka: K-1 visa)

Pros:

  • Fiancee arrives sooner than a spouse
  • Traditionally subject to quicker processing with USCIS (3 - 5 months)
  • Immediate filing (i.e. you don't need to go overseas and marry in order to file)
  • Relatively easy filing requirements (must showcase that both parties are legally able to marry and that you have met one another physically in the last 2 years)

Cons:

  • Cost - Filing fees more for a fiancee to obtain a green card than a spouse
  • Travel Restrictive - Fiancee visa is a single entry visa, meaning that it cannot be used for multiple trips in and out of the United States
  • Inflexible upon entry - the fiancee must marry within 90 days of admission. Failure to do so can result in DHS asserting that fiancee is amenable to removal
  • Green card processing takes additional time - once your fiancee is in the US and you have gotten married, you still need to apply for permanent residency. This means that your fiancee (now your husband/wife) may have to wait for an additional 3 - 5 months before receiving his/her green card.

Spousal Visa (aka: Immediate Relative or IR)

Pros:

  • Cost - Filing fees for spouses to obtain a green card are less than for a fiancee
  • Process - the process for a spouse is the same no matter what country your spouse is from. Conversely, each country has different requirements for the K-1, which makes the process confusing and difficult to navigate.
  • Speed of green card - although the K-1 fiancee arrives in the US sooner, the IR Spouse will recieve his/her green card within approximately 15 days of entry, compared to 3 - 5 months for the K-1
  • Flexibile travel - the IR visa is a multi-entry visa, meaning that a spouse can travel in and out of the United States even if he/she has yet to receive his/her green card
  • Immediate work authorization - the IR visa can be used to immediately obtain a social security number, driver's license (in most jurisdictions) and employment

Cons:

  • Speed of arrival - spouses must process their entire case overseas, which means they arrive slower than their K-1 counterparts
  • Potential filing delay - you cannot file for a spouse until you are actually married. Therefore, if you are planning on marrying a few months from now, your filing is delayed until your marriage is actually complete
  • Marriage planning - clients often lament about the costs of having their entire families travel abroad for a wedding. However, an easy fix is to have two weddings with a legal ceremony overseas and a larger family-style wedding in the US.

Regardless of your decision, choosing the process that suits your needs will help to determine what process to pursue. If you would like to discuss this with an attorney, feel free to contact Robert Brown LLC at your earliest convenience. Our attorneys have worked on bringing smiles the the faces of thousands of soon-to-be-married couples and those that have already culminated their marriage through the visa adjudications process.

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