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Comparing Processing Times: K1 Visa vs. Spousal Visa

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"Is K1 visa faster than spouse visa?" This is the question you usually encounter when bringing your foreign spouse to the United States.

While both pathways lead to the union of loved ones in the U.S., they differ in their processes. The fiancé visa also called the K1 visa, is for engaged couples who want to marry in the US. On the other hand, the marriage green card is for married couples who wish permanent residency for the foreign-born spouse.

Let’s dive deeper into:

  • The differences between a K1 fiance visa and a spousal visa
  • The factors influencing processing times for both visas
  • How immigration experts and attorneys can help you get this visa

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What is a K1 Visa?

An application for the K1 visa may be filed by the foreign fiancé(e) of an American citizen. With a K-1 visa, the non-citizen fiancé(e) can visit the nation and marry their citizen sponsor within ninety days of arrival.

The fiancé(e) visa has some conditions similar to those of an immigrant visa since it allows the holder to move to the United States and marry a citizen of the country shortly after arrival.

K-2 visas are granted to eligible children of K-1 visa applicants.

What is a Spousal Visa?

There are two ways for a citizen of the United States to bring their spouse. They are as follows:

  • Immigrant visa for a Spouse of U.S. Citizenship (IR1 or CR1)
  • Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3)

A spousal visa, also known as a CR-1 visa, applies to couples who are already married. It allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or green cardholder to enter the United States to live with their partner.

According to Travel State, a spouse is a husband or wife who is married lawfully. A couple is not eligible for immigration based just on their shared residence. In such a case of polygamy, only the first spouse may be eligible for immigration.

Pros and Cons of K1 Visa and Spousal Visa

To further assist you in making an informed decision, let's explore the pros and cons of both the K1 and spousal visas.

K1 Visa

PROS CONS
  • Faster processing time compared to the spousal visa.
  • The couple must get married within ninety days of the beneficiary's arrival in the United States.
  • Allows the couple to get married in the United States within a shorter time frame.
  • The beneficiary can only work once they receive their marriage green card through the adjustment of status process.
  • Provides an opportunity to start the adjustment of the status process sooner.
  • If the marriage does not occur within 90 days, the beneficiary may have to leave the United States.

Spousal Visa (CR-1) 

PROS CONS
  • Provides permanent residency to the foreign spouse upon entry to the United States.
  • Longer processing time compared to the K1 visa.
  • Allows the foreign spouse to work immediately upon arrival.
  • Requires the couple to be married before starting the visa application process.
  • Offers more flexibility in terms of the wedding date and location.
  • Can be more expensive, considering the longer process and potential adjustment of status fees.

The Process for Fiancé(e) Visa Vs. Spousal Visa

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Are you wondering whether the K1 visa is faster than the spouse visa? When it comes to immigration options for couples, it's important to consider the process for each visa type.

Here’s how to get a K1 or Spousal visa:

K1 Visa

To bring a fiancé(e) to the United States, the process involves two main steps:

Step 1: Filing the petition

The U.S. citizen sponsor must submit Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), to the USCIS office in their area.

After USCIS approval, the petition goes to the National Visa Center (NVC). This assigns a case number and sends it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the fiancé resides.

Step 2: Applying for a visa

The NVC notifies the sponsor, who then informs the fiancé(e) about the next steps.

During the visa interview, you must then bring the following forms and documents:

  • Birth certificate
  • Completed Form DS-160 or Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  • Death or divorce certificate(s) from the previous spouse
  • Print the DS-160 page and bring it to your interview. 
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. Check the validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay.
  • Medical examination
  • Police certificates from your present residing country. Include also all countries where you have resided for 6 months and above since age 16.
  • Evidence of financial support. You may also request Form I-134 or Affidavit of Support.
  • Two 2x2 photographs
  • Proof of the relationship with the U.S. citizen fiancé(e)
  • Payment of fees

Note: Translations of documents written in languages other than the native tongue of the nation where the application is being made are recommended. The consular official may also want more details, including pictures and other evidence of your fiancé(e)'s legal status in the United States.

Step 3: Paying the fees

Various fees are associated with the fiance visa process:

  • Filing Fees. A fee is charged for filing the Alien Fiancé(e) Petition, known as Form I-129F.
  • Visa Application Processing Fee. Each K visa applicant is required to pay a nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, Form DS-160.
  • Medical Examination Fee. A medical examination is mandatory for each K visa applicant, and the costs depend on the location.
  • Travel expenses. Costs can differ from country to country and case to case.
  • Adjustment of Status Fee. Filing Form I-485 or Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status incurs an additional fee.
  • Additional Costs. Other potential costs include charges for translation and photocopying.

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Spousal Visa

To obtain an immigrant visa for your spouse involves several key steps:

Step 1: Filing a Petition for Alien Relative

Submit Form I-130 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To follow instructions, go over to the USCIS website. In special cases, U.S. citizens residing abroad may file an immigrant visa petition outside the United States.

Note: There’s no minimum age for a sponsor to file a petition for a spouse. However, the sponsor must be at least 18 years old and have a residence in the U.S.

Step 2: Paying the necessary fees

Once the USCIS approves your petition, the process moves to the National Visa Center (NVC). Some fees associated are:

  • Form DS-260 or Immigrant visa application
  • Form I-130 or an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative
  • Medical examination
  • Other required vaccinations
  • Additional costs may include translations, photocopying charges, fees for necessary documents (passport, police certificates, birth certificates), and expenses for travel to the U.S. embassy or consulate for the visa interview. Costs differ based on the country and individual circumstances.

Important Notes: Fees are non-refundable and must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age. The NVC provides clear instructions on where and when to submit the fees.

Step 3: Submitting your documents

Required Documents for Immigrant Visa Application:

  • Passport(s) with validity for at least six months
  • Affidavit of Support (I-864, I-864A, I-864 EZ, or I-864W) from the petitioner/U.S. sponsor.
  • Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application)
  • Two 2x2 photographs
  • Original and certified birth and marriage certificate copies
  • Medical Examination

Note: Consular officers may request additional information during the visa interview. It’s crucial to be prepared with all necessary documents and translations. 

Step 4: Visa interview

Once the NVC confirms the file's completeness, they schedule the applicant's interview. All involved parties, including the applicant, petitioner, and attorney, will receive appointment details via email or letter.

During the interview, applicants are advised to bring their valid passports and any additional documentation not previously submitted to the NVC.

As part of the interview procedure, ink-free digital fingerprint scans will be taken. Typically, applicants receive their original civil documents and translations back on the day of the interview.

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Timeline Comparison for K1 and Spousal Visa

Here’s a closer look at the processing times for both the K1 and spousal visas.

K1 Fiancé Visa Spousal Visa
Form I-129F Application and Approval
(6-18 Months)
Sponsor/Beneficiary Marriage
(Timeline depends on personal circumstances)
Form DS-160 and Embassy Appt/Interview
(Timeline depends on location)
Form I-130 Application and Approval
(9-13 Months)
Visa Approval and Receipt of Passport
(1 Month)
Form DS-260 or Form I-864 Application and Approval
(1 Month)
U.S. Entry and Marriage
(Within 90 days of Entry)
Embassy Appointment / Interview
(Timeline depends on location)
Form I-485 Application and Approval
(12-27 Months)

 

For information on the processing time for your specific form and field office, please visit uscis.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get K-1 visa status?

After filing Form I-129F or Petition for Alien Fiancé, it may take 10 to 16 months to obtain a K-1 visa. It may be shorter for others and longer for some.

How can I speed up my spouse's visa?

In spouse or marriage visa, you can generally request expedited processing by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) or by asking Emma after you have obtained a receipt notice.

Can CR1 visa holders travel outside of the United States?

Yes, as a lawful permanent resident, CR1 visa holders can travel outside of the United States. However, extended periods of absence may affect their eligibility for citizenship or reentry into the United States.

The Bottom Line

Choosing between a K1 visa or marriage depends on factors. The K1 visa generally offers a faster route to starting your lives together in the United States. On the other hand, the spousal visa provides permanent residency and immediate work authorization. 

It's essential to carefully consider your priorities and consult with an immigration attorney like Hacking Immigration Law, LLC. Remember, each case is unique.

Hacking Immigration Law, LLC is a trusted immigration law firm that can provide personalized guidance. They have helped thousands of clients achieve their immigration goals. Plus, they are committed to providing their clients with the highest quality legal representation.

If you are facing an immigration issue or want to be a green card holder, Hacking Immigration Law, LLC can help. Contact them today for a consultation!

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