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K1 Fiancé Visa vs. CR1 Marriage Visa

K1 Fiancé Visa vs. CR1 Marriage Visa

By Julie Sparks in Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-07-13 19:55:22

If you have landed on this page, chances are you are a noncitizen engaged to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. citizen engaged to a noncitizen living outside the U.S. You could also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident married to a noncitizen living outside the U.S. In either case, you are probably wondering what the best pathway for you is to be united in the U.S. to build your life together as a couple. You have landed in the right place. 

At J. Sparks Law, we have experienced immigration lawyers who help clients in the Austin area who are engaged or married to U.S. citizens, or permanent residents get the right visa for their spouses or fiancé living outside the U.S.

Visa Options for Engaged Noncitizen Couples

There are two primary visas a noncitizen who lives outside the U.S. can obtain to come to the U.S. either to get married to a U.S. citizen or to join their married partner living in the U.S. who is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. These are the K-1 and CR-1 visas. These visas are also known as fiancé visas (for K-1) and spousal visas for (CR-1).

What is the Difference Between K-1 and CR-1 Visas?

A K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to couples who are engaged to get married to a U.S. citizen.

A CR-1 visa is a conditional green card given to a noncitizen who is married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder living in the U.S., and the noncitizen lives abroad.

A scenario that typically plays out is the U.S. citizen or permanent resident travels to the country where their fiancé lives and either gets married, or the couple tries to decide whether to get married in the noncitizen’s country or to get married in the U.S.

Their decision will determine what visa to apply for because either way, the noncitizen is going to need a visa to travel and enter the U.S. if it is the couple’s plans to live in the U.S. If the decision is to get married outside the U.S., then the right visa to apply for would be the CR-1 visa. If the decision is to remain engaged but to get married in the U.S., and the partner living in the U.S. is a U.S. citizen, then the couple would have the option to apply for a K-1 visa.

There are several factors one can consider in trying to decide whether the K-1 or CR-1 visa is the right visa to pursue, and some of these factors include the following:

If your spouse or future spouse is not a U.S. citizen, then your K-1 is not an option, but applying for a CR-1 visa is an option for you. If your spouse or future spouse is a U.S. citizen, then you have the option to apply for either the K-1 or CR-1 visa.

If you desire to get married in the U.S. and your fiancé is a U.S. citizen, then the K-1 visa is the best option for you.

If you already got married, but one of you lives outside the U.S., then the K-1 is not an option, but the CR-1 is your only other option.

Other considerations a couple makes in deciding whether to pursue a K-1 or CR-1 visa include cost and processing time.

  • Cost. Currently, USCIS for Form I-129F fee for a K-1 visa is $535, but USCIS has proposed to increase this fee to $720. On the other hand, the fee for Form I-130 for a CR-1 visa is currently $535, but USCIS has proposed to increase this fee to $820. Additional costs will apply once the I-129F or I-130 petition is approved.
  • Processing Time. According to the most recent USCIS data, the wait time for a K-1 visa is 14.5 months, while a CR-1 visa is currently taking 13.6 months to process. However, there are other factors that may speed up or extend your individual processing time, including making sure you have properly filed and completed paperwork to get your case approved.

Frequently Asked K-1 and CR-1 Questions

Can I apply for a fiancé visa if my partner is a green card holder?

No, a K-1 visa is only available to U.S. citizens to sponsor their fiancé. However, a green card holder can sponsor their spouse for a marriage-based green card.

Is a fiancé visa less costly than a spousal green card?

No, a K-1 visa costs a lot more than obtaining a green card based on marriage when you factor in the application fee for the green card, which must be filed after the fiancé comes to the U.S. and gets married to their partner.

Can I work on a fiancé visa?

No. A fiancé visa only allows you to enter the U.S. to get married to your fiancé, which you must do within 90 days. After you get married, you will then apply for a green card, and that application can be filed with a work permit application. You will only be authorized to work after your work permit application is approved.

What do I need to get a fiancé visa?

To obtain a fiancé visa, you must be engaged to a U.S. citizen, and the two of you intend to get married within 90 days of arriving in the U.S. You must also prove to the satisfaction of USCIS that you have previously met in person at least once within the two years before applying for the visa.

How much money do I need to sponsor someone for a fiancé visa?

To sponsor your fiancé for a K-1 visa, the U.S. citizen sponsoring the fiancé must show an adjusted gross income that is at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines based on their most recent tax return. If they do not meet that income threshold, then the U.S. citizen sponsor must find and use a joint sponsor to meet the income threshold.

Why do fiancé visas get denied?

There are many reasons why a fiancé visa can be denied, but the most common are failure to meet the eligibility requirements, suspicions of the relationship not being genuine, and criminal or immigration violations.

Our Austin Immigration Lawyers Can Help

If you are in the Austin area and need a K-1 or CR-1 visa, contact our office today and learn how we can help you. J. Sparks Law, PLLC, regularly helps people in your position. 

Julie Sparks

Julie Sparks is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration and Nationality Law, one of a few such attorneys in Texas. After 15 years of practice in this field, she has represented immigrants from more than 70 different countries.

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