Understanding Your Options

The 4 Ways to Get a Marriage Green Card

Did you know there is more than one way to immigrate to the United States as the fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident? There are actually 4 different procedural options to choose from, and selecting the best one for you is the critical first step in your journey. Watch the video below for an overview of your options, then check out the resource page for more detailed information about each of the paths.

Marriage Immigration Options Comparison Chart

We've made a comprehensive two-page chart that breaks down all the primary factors we use to determine which immigration option is best for our clients. Make a side-by-side comparison of the process, requirements, benefits & drawbacks of the 4 ways to get a marriage-based green card. Sign up below for access!


4 Ways to Get a Marriage Green Card - Quick Notes Overview

K1 Fiance Visa

Both of you must be legally free to marry and have met in person within the two years prior to beginning your application. The immigrant fiancé typically is residing abroad. The process involves first getting a K1 Visa to come into the United States. Then you have 90 days to marry and file a green card application to be able to stay. This option is usually the fastest way to get a foreign fiancé physically into the U.S., but the paperwork has more steps and is slightly more expensive than a spouse visa. Click here to learn more about K-1 Fiancé Visas.

CR1 or IR1 Spouse Visa

If you are already married (in the U.S. or a foreign country), the fiancé visa is no longer an option. A spouse visa is usually the best method for an immigrant spouse who resides abroad to be able to move to the U.S. In some cases, immigrants already living in the U.S. and married to U.S. citizens do not qualify to apply for a green card in the United States and also must travel back to their home countries as part of the spouse visa process. Click here to learn more about Spousal Visas. 

Adjustment of Status

For immigrants who are already living inside the U.S. (for example, they may be on student visas or work visas), adjustment of status is the process used to switch from their current visa type to a permanent green card. Couples sometimes try to avoid the spouse visa process by coming to the U.S. with a tourist visa or ESTA and adjusting status, but this can cause major legal problems. If immigrants have entered the U.S. unlawfully (crossing the border with no visa), they usually are not allowed to adjust status and must apply for a spouse visa.

Direct File at a U.S. Embassy

This is a variation on the CR1 or IR1 spouse visa category that may be available if the U.S. citizen spouse is living outside of the United States as an expat and is trying to return to the U.S. with their spouse. Availability of direct filing is limited to specific countries only, as not all embassies are equipped for this. If you do qualify, a direct file is significantly faster than a traditionally filed CR1 or IR1 spouse visa.