Fiancé(e) Visa or Spousal Visa – What’s my Best Option?
While marrying a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident is the most common way to obtain permanent legal status, there are different paths to get there and it’s important to know which options serve the best interests of you and your fiancé(e) or spouse.
K-1 Fiancé(e) Nonimmigrant Visa and the Path to a Green Card
Planning to get married but want to do so in the United States? Then the K-1 Fiancé(e) visa is for you. As long as you are a U.S. citizen engaged to your foreign fiancé(e), you can petition to bring your fiancé(e) to get married in the U.S. After an approved petition with USCIS, consular processing and a successful interview with an immigration officer, your fiancé(e) can legally enter the country to get married to you within 90 days.
Once you are legally married, the rest of the green card process continues from inside the United States by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and other required forms, including Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. While waiting, your new spouse will be eligible for a work permit and even permission to travel. The approximate waiting time for a green card tends to last 12 months on average but varies with each case.
The end of the process is marked by a green card interview with you and your spouse at an immigration office in your home state. Upon approval, you spouse is a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Spouse Immigrant Visa and the Path to a Green Card
If there is already an existing legal marriage between you and your foreign spouse, the path to a green card will require your foreign spouse to remain outside the U.S. for the duration of the green card process. If you are already legally married when you decide to start the green card process, the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse will file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. After an approved petition, the foreign spouse will undergo Consular Processing with the National Visa Center and attend an interview with an immigration officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Following approval, the applicant spouse will receive an immigrant visa to legally enter the U.S. permanently. The physical green card will arrive in the mail to their new U.S. address.
The qualifying relationship or marriage must be “bona fide” and verifiable through substantial documentation. If the marriage is in existence for 2 years or less at the time of the green card approval, a Petition to Remove Conditions application must be filed 90 days prior to the date of expiration. This application requires proof that the marriage is still valid, unless in circumstances of divorce or abuse. If the conditional status is removed, a 10-year green card is granted.
Whether you pursue the fiancée visa first or file for a spousal visa depends upon your personal circumstances as there are a variety of factors to consider. Although the processing times may vary, either administrative process should be expected to last on average 12 to 18 months.
Because of the complexities of immigration law, and navigating the immigration process, a free immigration consultation with the Milovic Law Firm will start you on the right path. Whether you are in Phoenix Arizona, across the U.S. or outside of the country, we can help unite your family successfully.