K1 Fiancé vs CR1 Spouse, Which is Better?

Which path should I choose? The K1 fiancé visa or the CR1 visa?

To help you really understand which option is better, it’s important to understand there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option or there’s no best option for everyone. The option between a K1 fiancé visa and the CR1 spouse visa is going to depend a lot on your particular situation, the facts of your case, and your goals in your relationship as to which option will be best.

Eligibility Requirements

For the K1 fiancé visa, the first eligibility requirement is that the petitioner, the individual who is wanting to petition to bring their fiancé from another country to the United States, has to be a United States citizen. If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the United States, you aren’t able to petition to bring your fiancé.

The second requirement is that both of you are legally free to marry and that means neither of you is currently married or if you’ve been married before, you’re divorced. The third requirement is that you are prepared and you’re ready to marry each other once your fiancé receives the fiancé visa.

You also have to show immigration that you’ve met in person within the past two years of filing your application. There are some limited circumstances in which you aren’t required to meet in person. For example, there’s some kind of extreme hardship or a cultural or religious reason that you can’t meet in person. But for a large majority of fiancé visa applicants, you have to have met in person within the two years of filing your application.

You also have to show immigration that you have a real relationship based on love and not just to receive an immigration benefit.

For the CR1 spouse visa, you have to be legally married. You can actually be either a lawful permanent resident or a citizen to petition for your spouse. Again, you have to show that you have a real relationship based on love and not to receive an immigration benefit.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Now that we’ve gotten all of the eligibility requirements out of the way, let’s do a side-by-side of the pros and cons of the fiancé visa versus the CR1 spouse visa. For the fiancé visa, you have to be a United States citizen to petition for your fiancé.

For a lot of people, if they’re a lawful permanent resident, they can’t apply or petition for their fiancé. If that’s your situation, that would eliminate that as an option. If you’re eligible to naturalize, you could go through the process to become a citizen and then petition for your fiancé. The option would be the spouse visa if you’re a lawful permanent resident.

The other pro between the fiancé visa and spouse visa is that historically, the fiancé visa has been the fastest option for couples to be able to be together. COVID has unfortunately happened and caused significant delays. It’s not entirely true or clear if the fiancé visa is still going to be the fastest option.

The other benefit of the fiancé visa versus spouse visa is relating to children. With the fiancé visa, if the immigrant fiancé has children and wants to bring those children with the fiancé visa application, those children can be included on the application so long as they’re not more than 21 years old.

This is a huge point that we go over with clients when they’re first consulting. Whether or not there’s any children on the application. Because if there are children, sometimes the fiancé visa would actually be the better option.

With the spouse visa, only children who are under the age of 18 at the time that the spouses got married can be part of the petition. There’d have to be a separate petition filed.

But if the couple has gotten married or have plans to get married and they have children that are over the age of 18, we highly encourage people to consider the fiancé visa because that would be the fastest option or the only option to be able to bring those children that are over the age of 18 but under the age of 21.

In terms of some of the benefits of the spouse visa, while it has historically been a longer process, the immigration fees for the CR1 visa are significantly less.

Finances and expenses for the immigration case are huge but typically when couples are making a decision with regards to which option they want, the difference between the government fees has not typically been something so significant that a person would choose the CR1 over the fiancé visa.

The other benefit that people choose the spouse visa over the fiancé visa is that with the spouse visa, the spouse will enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident and green card holder. The spouse will enter the United States, they’ll receive their green card and Social Security card in the mail and they can basically hit the ground running with their life.

Whereas with the fiancé visa, the immigrant fiancé will be coming with a fiancé visa and then you’ll have to get married within 90 days. There’s still another step after you get here to receive your green card.

When couples are making a decision about which option is best, sometimes they decide even though the spouse visa is a longer process, the benefit of knowing that the spouse will come into the United States as a lawful permanent resident green card holder without the need to have to complete another step for your green card is a benefit.

For the fiancé visa, you’ll enter the United States on your fiancé visa. And then, you’ll have to complete a process for your green card. You’ll have to mail in a different application that takes on average between four to six months before you can receive your work permit and Social Security card.

For a lot of individuals who are considering having both things and balance which option is better for them, the consideration of the fiancé entering the United States and being in this period of limbo for four to six months is a huge consideration.

Once your fiancé is here and you’re waiting during that time, your fiancé is in lawful status but without a work permit and a Social Security card. You’re not able to have a driver’s license and work and be able to be fully integrated into the US.

That’s a difficult aspect of the fiancé visa and that’s why some individuals choose the spouse visa.

Those are the main pros and cons of each option. Hopefully, this information is giving you some insight into some of the main benefits and drawbacks of each option to help you decide which option is best for you. Please feel free to check out the educational materials on our website.

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If you’re just starting out on your immigration journey and you’re looking for assistance with your case, we would love to help you. You can schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys or you can book a consultation 24/7 on our website.

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Our appointments come with a mini-course regarding the various options for individuals who are going through a couple-based immigration case. We want to make sure that you have even more information before the appointment.

During our strategy appointment, we can walk you through any other doubts or concerns you have and help you to pick the best strategy and the next steps for you so you can hit the ground running with your immigration case and be one step closer to being able to be together and start your lives in the United States.

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