U.S. Citizens who would like to marry their foreign fiance have two options to bring their partner to the United States: a Marriage Green Card (Spouse Visa) through Consular Processing or a K-1 Fiance Visa. U.S. Green Card holders may not apply for a K-1 Visa. The main differences between a K-1 Fiance Visa and a Marriage Green Card are their timing, location, and cost.
The K-1 visa is often the quicker option for international couples. It takes 9-15 months and costs $800 to get a K-1 Fiance visa. With this visa, the couple can begin life in the U.S. immediately after their wedding. They will still have to apply for a Marriage Green Card for the foreign spouse to stay in the U.S. The process of adjusting status from a K-1 Fiance Visa to a Marriage Green Card takes 4-6 months and costs $1225.
Consular Marriage Green Cards (Spouse Visas) are issued after the couple is married outside of the U.S. The consular Marriage Green Card application process takes 11-32 months and costs $1,210. The foreign spouse cannot move to the U.S. until the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) approves their Green Card application.
Choosing between a K-1 Fiance Visa and a Spouse Visa can be tricky, but this article is here to help! When you’re ready to apply, we can help you prepare the necessary paperwork for either visa. Click the green button above to get started, and read on to learn more.
Before deciding whether to apply for a K-1 Fiance Visa or a Marriage Green Card as the fiance of a U.S. Citizen or Green Card holder, it is important that you first determine if you are eligible for these statuses. You can compare the eligibility requirements for a K-1 Fiance Visa and Marriage Green Card in the table below:
The end goal of a K-1 Fiance Visa and a Consular Marriage Green Card (Spouse Visa) are the same - get a Green Card for your spouse so that they can live and work in the U.S. The application process is slightly different for each of these immigration benefits, though.
The K-1 Fiance Visa application process has three phases. Phase I and Phase II contain the steps to get the foreign spouse into the U.S. and take 12-15 months to complete. Phase 3 is the process of applying for a Green Card for the foreign spouse following the couple’s marriage and takes 4-6 months to complete.
The Consular Marriage Green Card application process has two phases that take anywhere from 11-32 months to complete. The foreign fiance cannot move to the U.S. until after both phases are completed.
Here are the processes and timelines to get a Marriage Green Card through the K-1 Fiance Visa and Consular application processes:
Time to Green Card: 16 to 21 months
Time to Green Card: 11 to 32 months
Check out our step by step guide on applying for the K-1 Fiance Visa and our step by step guide on applying for the Marriage Green Card to learn about the process and timelines for both applications.
If you would like free help with your K-1 or Marriage Green Card process, ImmigrationHelp.org can assist.
If the U.S. government denies your K-1 Fiance Visa or Marriage Green Card application, you may be able to appeal their decision. It is a good idea for you to work with an experienced immigration lawyer if you choose to file an appeal. You can find free or low-priced legal help at USA.gov.
ImmigrationHelp.org can help you put your application together correctly the first time so that you don’t have to appeal a denial decision.
The cost of applying for a K-1 Fiance Visa and the cost of applying for a Consular Marriage Green Card are different. There are various application filing fees involved in both application processes, and these fees change from time to time. In fact, they are scheduled to increase soon. You can find the most recent USCIS filing fees on the USCIS’s website, and the most recent visa filing fees on the State Department’s website.
As of November 2020, it costs $800 to get a K-1 Fiance Visa and an additional $1,225 to apply for a Marriage Green Card once you enter the U.S. By comparison, it costs a total of $1,210 to get a Marriage Green Card through consular processing. These fees come from a few different parts of the application processes:
To learn more about the K-1 Fiance Visa application process, you can check out the comprehensive K-1 Fiance Visa filing guide on our website. You can also read more about how to apply for a marriage-based Green Card on our website.
ImmigrationHelp.org can help you prepare K-1 Fiance Visa and Marriage Green Card applications for free.
According to U.S. immigration and labor laws, you cannot work in the U.S. without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The process of getting that work authorization is different for a spouse on a K-1 Fiance Visa than for one who chooses the Marriage Green Card route.
You cannot work in the U.S on your K-1 Fiance Visa unless you apply for and receive work authorization after you enter the U.S. You can apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS and paying the $410 filing fee. USCIS will generally process this work permit application within 2-3 months. Processing times vary depending on USCIS service center backlogs.
No matter how long it takes USCIS to process your application for work authorization, your work permit will expire at the same time as your K-1 status - 90 days after you enter the U.S. Because of processing backlogs the short-term work permit may arrive towards the end of the 90-day validity period and thus not be very useful. If you really need it, though, the option is available.
You can apply for a longer-term work permit for free by submitting Form I-765 along with Form I-485 when you apply for your Marriage Green Card after your wedding. As with the K-1 work permit, it usually takes USCIS 2-3 month to grant your Marriage Green Card work permit. Unlike the K-1 work permit, the Marriage Green CArd work permit is good for however long it takes USCIS to make a decision on your Marriage Green Card application. Once your receive your Marriage Green Card, you will no longer need your work permit. Your Marriage Green Card authorizes you to work!
Most people can’t enter the U.S. until they receive their green card, so working in the U.S. while they wait for the card isn’t an issue. If you have another status that allows you to live in the US while you wait, you still won’t be able to work until you receive your Marriage Green Card unless that other status allows you to work (like an H1-B Visa, for example). Once you have your Marriage Green Card, you won’t need a work permit - your green card is all that you need to work legally in the U.S.!
If you would like to learn more about the Marriage Green Card application process, check out the step-by-step filing guide on our website. We have also published a step-by-step guide for the K-1 Fiance Visa application process.
Whether you decide to apply for a K-1 or a Marriage Green Card work permit, we can help you apply for free.
The choice between a K-1 Fiance Visa and a Marriage visa will ultimately depend on what your goals are as a couple. Where do you want to get married - in the U.S. or foreign spouse’s home country? Do you want to move to the U.S. before or after your wedding? What is your budget for this immigration process? How quickly do you want to move to the U.S.? Your answers to these questions will help determine which immigration makes the most sense for your needs. Here are a few scenarios where each application type may be a good idea.
Both a Marriage Green Card and K-1 Fiance Visa accomplish an important goal - they allow you and your spouse to live together as a married couple in the U.S. The application type that makes the most sense for you depends on your situation and priorities. You can learn more about the merits of the K-1 Fiance Visa and the merits of a Marriage Green Card on our website so that you can make an informed decision about which is right for you.
Once you choose the right visa for your needs, we can help you prepare and file your application for free with our simple web.
We hope that you found our guide to the differences between K-1 Fiance Visas and Marriage-based Green Cards useful. K-1 Fiance Visas and Marriage-based Green Cards can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!