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K-1 Visa vs. marriage based Green Card

Posted on May 31, 2022
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By Shoreline Immigration

Are you about to get married to a US citizen, or have you already gotten married? The answer to this question will help you determine whether to apply for a K-1 Visa or a CR-1/IR-1 marriage-based green card.

If you have not yet gotten married, you can apply for a K-1 visa. If you have already gotten married, you will apply for either a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa. It depends on how long you have been married. If you have been married for less than 2 years, you will apply for the CR-1 visa. Couples married for longer than 2 years will apply for an IR-1 visa.

Your specific situation will determine whether to apply for a K-1 visa or a marriage-based visa.

In this post, we will cover the differences between the K-1 Visa and the CR-1/IR-1 marriage visa so you can make an educated and informed decision with your loved spouse or fiance.

What is the difference between a K-1 Visa and A CR1/IR1 Marriage Visa?

The difference between a K-1 visa and a CR-1/IR-1 visa is one of the most common questions asked during a marriage visa consultation. One of the most critical details determining what visa you apply for is whether you are married or not?

If you are not married yet, the fiance of a United States citizen can immigrate to the US with a K-1 visa as long as the couple gets married within 90 days.

However, if you were married outside of the US, you will need to file an I-130 petition and take the CR1/IR1 process to immigrate to the US. Whether you need a CR-1 or an IR-1 visa depends on how long you have been married.

Which path you choose depends on where and when you want to get married. It may be important to your family to have a wedding outside of the United States. Or you may want to get married before getting a K-1 visa. Whatever your situation is, there are options to bring your spouse to the United States.

We will cover what Marriage visas are first. If Marriage visas do not seem to apply to your situation, read the K-1 visa portion of this post to see if it is a better option for you.

the Difference between a CR-1 and IR-1 Marriage Visas

There are two types of visas you can apply for if you have already gotten married. They are the CR-1 visa and IR-1 visa. Which visa you are eligible for depends on how long you have been married. CR-1 visas are for couples that have been married for less than two years, and IR-1 visas are for couples married for longer than 2 years.

What is a CR-1 Visa?

A CR-1 visa is a conditional resident visa. That means the foreign spouse may travel, live, go to school, and work in the US with a CR-1 visa and marriage-based green card. However, other "conditions" must be satisfied to stay in the US if you were granted a CR-1 visa.

There are also other forms you must submit before your CR-1 visa expires.

Who qualifies for a CR-1 visa?

A CR-1 visa is for couples that:

  • Were married outside of the United States
  • Have been married for less than two years
  • have one spouse living in the US and is a citizen or a lawful permanent resident
  • Can prove that the marriage is legal and not trying to circumvent the US immigration system

What happens to a CR-1 Green Card after two years?

The CR-1 visa is a conditional resident visa for couples that have not been married for very long (less than two years.) In the eyes of the US government, couples that have been married for a short time are more likely to apply for a marriage visa fraudulently. That is why the CR-1 is for couples that have been married for less than two years and require further processing. That leads us to the next step, the I-751 form.

Filing the I-751 Form

To continue living in the United States, you need to petition to remove the conditional status of the CR-1 visa. Filing the I-751 form is part of the CR-1 removal of conditions process.

To remove the conditions of your CR-1 visa, you must file a Form I-751 within 90 days of the green card expiration date.

Once you have filed Form I-751 and it is approved, you will receive a 10-year green card, and you may continue to live and work in the US.

Who Is Eligible for The IR-1 Visa?

An IR-1 visa is for an immediate relative and grants permanent residence to the foreign spouse.

To be eligible for an IR-1 Visa, you must:

  • Be legally married
  • Be married to a United States citizen
  • Have been married for longer than 2 years

What Is The IR-1 Visa Processing Time?

The IR-1 visa processing time can take between 6 and 12 months. United States immigration agencies are very busy, and processing time can take longer if many cases are ahead of yours.

The national visa center must review your case, and this process may take 4 to 6 weeks.

How much Does a Marriage based Green Card Cost?

When you are ready to file for a marriage-based visa, you can expect to pay for

  • legal fees
  • Filing the I-130 form is $535
  • Processing of the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application is $325
  • Medical exam costs will depend on the country you live in
  • Any other costs such as passport applications, birth certificates, or travel expenses

As you can see, fees can add up when filing for marriage visas. Consult with our law firm to understand how much you can expect in legal fees.

Benefits of a K-1 Visa Vs. Marriage Visas

One of the key benefits of a K-1 Visa is the time it takes to complete the entire K-1 process. The process takes from 6 months to 12 months on average. To learn more visit the government's K-1 visa webpage.

If you are thinking about getting married before applying for a K-1 fiance visa, consider your timeline. It may benefit you to wait to get married and apply for the K-1 visa first.

Another benefit of the K-1 visa is the cost. Both government agency fees and legal fees are lower compared to marriage visas.

If you have yet to get married and plan to marry in the United States, a K-1 Visa is the appropriate visa for your situation. Many people prefer a K-1 visa because it is a quick way to gain lawful permanent residence.

The difference between Marriage-Based green cards and K-1 Visa Conclusion

This post covered the different scenarios for a couple looking to gain lawful permanent residents in the United States for their foreign spouse.

If you have not yet gotten married, the fiance visa (K-1) would be a suitable method for your foreign fiance. On the other hand, if you are already married, you should consult with a lawyer about the appropriate visa for your spouse.

The key questions you must answer when considering a K-1 visa or marriage visa are:

  • Are you married yet?
  • Do you want to get married inside or outside of the United States?
  • If you are already married, how long have you been married?

By talking through these questions with a lawyer, you can be sure to apply for the correct type of visa and start your journey to lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

K1 Fiance Visa VS Marriage visa FAQs

Do I need to fill out a Form DS-160 for a K-1 Visa?

Yes, a Form DS-160 is required if you apply for a K-1 visa. The DS-160 is a paperless form that can be filled out online.

Which visa application should I use for a K-1 Visa?

K-1 visa applicants must use form I-134 because a K-1 fiance visa is a nonimmigrant visa. You will need to fill out and submit a Form I-864 when you adjust your status with the USCIS.

Can children of a foreign spouse get a green card?

If you marry a United States citizen and obtain a marriage-based green card, your foreign-born children may be eligible to come with you to the US and receive green cards. Your children must be unmarried and under the age of 21. 

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