Fiancé Visas and Marriage-Based Immigration to USA green cards are two of the primary routes to the United States. A qualified lawyer could explain the pros and cons of each.
When a United States citizen wants to marry his or her foreign-citizen partner, the couple has several options. An experienced immigration attorney could help choose the best option based on individual and unique circumstances.
Introduction to Fiancé Visas and Marriage-Based Immigration to USA
The decision of whether to pursue a fiancé visa (K-1) or a marriage-based green card (CR-1 or IR-1) depends on the specific circumstances for each couple. Some choose to go the K-1 route while others are more suited for the CR-1 route.
In either case, it is essential that you discuss your unique situation with an experienced immigration attorney. The choice you make will impact your life for years to come.
The end goal for both the fiance visa and the consular marriage green card is to bring your spouse into the United States. There are a few different paths you can take.
For both the K-1 fiance visa and the CR-1 or IR-1 spouse visa, you must prove that you and your foreign spouse are committed to getting married. This involves providing documentation such as wedding photos, joint bank accounts, shared bills and rental agreements.
The fiance visa also requires that both members of the couple have met in person at least once within the last two years. This is an important requirement, although it is sometimes waived for cultural reasons or in cases of extreme hardship.
K-1 Fiancé Visa
Love knows no borders, but when the person you love is from another country the process to unite. And start a new life can be very complicated. The K-1 visa, also known as the fiance(e) visa is a nonimmigrant visa for couples who are engaged and plan to get married within 90 days of arriving in the United States.
Once USCIS approves your fiance visa petition it will be sent to the National Visa Center, or NVC. The NVC will assign a case number to your fiance visa application and send it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your fiance’s foreign place of residence. The embassy will then invite your fiance to attend a visa interview.
At the visa interview a consular officer will review the documentation you and your fiance(e) have submitted. And may ask questions to ensure that your relationship is genuine. Typical documentation includes photographs together, correspondence between you and your fiance(e). Evidence of remittances, phone bills showing calls to each other, and more.
CR-1 and IR-1 Spousal Visas
If you are already married to a foreign national and want to bring them to the United States, a CR-1 or IR-1 Spousal Visa may be an option. These immigrant spouse visas allow you to apply for a Social Security card, work and take trips abroad immediately after your arrival.
Unlike the K-1 visa, which is only valid for two years, the CR-1. And IR-1 spouse visas provide permanent resident status upon your arrival in the United States. It is important to note that these are not “green cards” because they are only conditional until you reach the two-year mark. And then need to be upgraded to a permanent residency card.
In order to qualify for either a CR-1 or IR-1, you and your spouse must be legally married. USCIS does not recognize common-law marriages, so it is important to have proof that your relationship is genuine, such as joint bank accounts, flight itineraries and utility bills.
You will also need to have a medical exam and undergo a background check and an interview. While these procedures are much less cumbersome than the fiance visa, there are still many steps involved in this process. It is important to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to complete the entire process.
Documentary Requirements for Fiancé Visas and Marriage-Based Immigration to USA
If you are applying for a K-1 Fiance visa, you must demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and subsisting by providing significant evidence of this. This could include shared expenses, tax returns and bank statements. In some cases, the Home Office may undertake further checks. Or interview you and your fiance to verify that your relationship is real.
In addition, you must prove that you and your fiance have met in person at least once in the last two years. For this, you will need a valid passport and official photographs of the couple. If any of the documents are in a foreign language, they must be accompanied by full English translations. You will also need to bring a printout of your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
During the visa interview, you will need to show that your sponsored fiance has no other immigration issues. And is not likely to become a public charge. This can be shown through things like a valid passport and official birth certificate, as well as official proof that all previous marriages have ended (such as divorce, annulment or death certificates). It is important to note that only US citizens can sponsor fiances; US permanent residents cannot.
For a US citizen to sponsor their foreign fiance, they must file an I-129F petition with the USCIS. The petition must include information about the couple and proof of their relationship. The USCIS will review and approve or deny the petition. If approved, the petition will be transferred to the State Department.
The fiance must make a strong effort to convince the interviewing officer that they are in a genuine relationship. And plan to get married within 90 days of arriving in the United States. They must also prove that they are financially independent of each other. If they are unable to demonstrate their financial independence. They may need to submit a joint sponsor to file a supplemental affidavit of support. This is a major step in the process that can delay their adjustment of status to permanent residence in the US.
Benefits and Considerations
While the immigration process can be lengthy, it is a great option for couples who are eager to start their married life together in the United States. However, every couple has its own unique situation, preferences and constraints to consider.
Another consideration is that the K-1 fiance visa has strict income requirements. Essentially, the US citizen petitioner must prove that they earn roughly 100% of the federal poverty guidelines for themselves and their foreign fiancee (or spouse).
For many immigrant couples, these financial limitations can be challenging. A way around this is to choose a marriage-based approach. This allows the couple to get married in the immigrant’s home country in a civil ceremony, and then they can celebrate their wedding day with friends in the US once their immigration processes are complete. This strategy can also save time and money on the long wait times associated with the fiance visa.
Adjustment of Status
The K-1 visa, formally called the fiance visa, is the process through which a foreign citizen engaged to a US citizen enters the United States for the purpose of marrying that US citizen.
The fiance visa is not an immigrant visa. Meaning it does not automatically lead to a permanent residency or green card. Instead, a foreign spouse must go through a process known as adjustment of status to obtain permanent resident or green card status after entering the country on the fiance visa.
Fortunately, this is possible to accomplish without leaving the country, as long as the foreign citizen or spouse met all of the underlying requirements for a green card, such as meeting the eligibility criteria for sponsorship through work, or qualifying under one of the family-based categories.
This is an advantage that only fiance visa holders have. As opposed to marriage-based green card applicants who must first leave the country and then return to begin the process all over again.