Which is Better? Bringing Someone to the U.S. as Your Fiancé or Your Spouse?

Visas for Fiancés vs. SpousesIf you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t a U.S. citizen, you are likely weighing your options when it comes to making them a legal permanent resident. U.S. immigration authorities value keeping families together, so if you show that you are making moves to make your significant other a part of your family, they may approve them for a visa.

Foreign nationals can come to the country using their significant others as a sponsor through both the K-1 visa for fiances and several different kinds of spouse visas. Having a visa allows your loved one to apply for citizenship after a certain period of time, so this is the best path for them to stay in the country permanently. Any attorney for immigration in Los Angeles will tell you that both of these options are considered family-based green cards, which have the highest priority and shortest time frame out of other immigration options.

The immigration system defines “spouse” as the legally wedded husband or wife, and they also include same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. In some cases, common-law spouses may qualify for the same benefits.

In this article, our law offices of immigration in Los Angeles have listed the different fiance and spouse visas and the eligibility requirements and timelines for each.

The K-1 Fiance Visa

A K-1 Fiance Visa allows a foreign person who is engaged to a U.S. Citizen to enter the country with the intentions of getting married within 90 days of entering the United States. The fiance will then apply to adjust their status to permanent resident through the  I-129F petition.

In addition to being married, you and your fiance must meet other eligibility requirements. To sponsor your fiance for a K-1 visa, you must be a U.S. citizen. You must also prove your financial eligibility by showing that you meet at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines when applying for the fiancé visa. You should also bring proof that you have divorced any past spouses; failing to disclose previous marriages can result in denial of the visa.

You must also convince the immigration officials that your relationship is legitimate by providing photos, written testimonials from your friends, and proof that you have met in person at least twice. Having concrete wedding plans are also recommended by Los Angeles visa lawyers, and you can show this by proving that you have sent out invitations or showing your venue reservation or caterer reservation.

The K-1 visa will generally take between 5-7 months from the time the I-129F sponsorship petition is filed to the day the visa is issued. The fee for filing the I-129F petition is $535. The foreign national must also submit their visa application through form DS-160 and pay the $265 visa fee.

Once you have this visa, you must get married within 90 days. After you are wed,  the foreign national can file for a green card application to change their status. This application is done through form I-485 and carries a filing fee of $1,140 and a $85 fingerprinting fee.

K-1 visas are generally preferred over marriage visas because they are considered the easier, faster, and the least expensive to obtain.

The Marriage-Based Visa

If you, a U.S. citizen, and your fiancé get married outside of the U.S., you can sponsor them for a marriage-based visa. As the U.S. citizen in the relationship, you must submit the I-130 petition to USCIS and pay the $535 filing fee.

After the I-130 petition is approved, you must also file a green card application package, including an online form (DS-260) and the $445 filing fee. The foreign national will then have to attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

If your case is approved, the foreign spouse will get a visa stamp in his or her passport that allows for travel into the United States. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay the $220 Immigrant Fee to USCIS online. This can be done after the foreign spouse has picked up their visa, but it has to be paid before they come to the U.S.

The foreign spouse will become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they enter the United States. About 2-3 weeks later, the physical green card is mailed to the couple’s U.S. address.

On average, a marriage-based green card process will take around 10-13 months, and the total cost is $1,200, not including translations, travel to and from the consulate, or any fees from a green card attorney in Los Angeles.

Which is Better?

Couples who want to reach citizenship or permanent residence often come into our green card law firm in Los Angeles asking “Which kind of visa is right for us?,” and we tell them it relies on a variety of factors.

An immigration lawyer in LA might recommend the K-1 fiancé visa to engaged couples who meet the following criteria:

  • You have a tight deadline. The K-1 visa takes 7 months instead of 10-13 like the marriage visa does.
  • You two want to have your wedding in the U.S.
  • There is a problem with you getting married abroad (for example, a same-sex couple where one fiancé lives in a country that does not recognize same-sex marriages).

A marriage-based green card works better for engaged couples who meet the following criteria:

  • You are trying to save money. A marriage visa costs $1,200 as opposed to $2,025 for a fiancé.
  • The foreign national partner wants to be in the country quickly. They will become a permanent resident immediately after they arrive in the country after applying.
  • You are planning on getting married outside of the United States.
  • You don’t mind waiting longer for your partner to arrive legally in the country. While your spouse can visit temporarily, they will not be a permanent resident until their green card application is approved.

Both of these options typically take the foreign partner 13 months to get the green card after the application process starts.

You and your partner’s journey to get a green card can be a long, expensive, and complicated process. Because of the high costs associated with getting a green card, you don’t want to fill out the petition wrong because your fees won’t be refunded to you. That’s why it’s recommended that anyone wanting a green card should hire a visa immigration attorney in Los Angeles like Alami Law.