A K1 Fiancee Visa (officially known as the “K1 Visa”) allows the foreign fiancee of a U.S. Citizen to enter the United States with the intentions of getting married within 90 days of entering the United States. K1 Visas are generally preferred (over the Spousal Visa and k3 visa) as the visa of choice for engaged international couples as they are considered the easiest, quickest, and least expensive route.
K1 Fiancee Visa processing times are generally between 3-7 months from the time the I-129F Petition is filed at a USCIS Service Center to the day the K1 Visa is issued. First, the Petition is filed with the USCIS. Once approved, the Petition is sent to the overseas embassy for further processing, the fiancee interview and the eventual issuing of the K1 Visa.
In contrast, a Spousal Visa allows the foreign spouse of a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Resident to enter the United States for the purposes of immigration. Processing times have gotten significantly better throughout since 2004 for U.S. Citizens. However, the K1 Fiancee Visa is still quicker and simpler for unmarried international couples seeking to get married in the United States.
Spousal Visa processing times are generally between 4-9 months from the time the I-130 Petition is filed at a USCIS Service Center to the day a Spousal Visa/k3 visa is issued. First, the Petition is filed with the USCIS. Once approved, the Petition is sent to the overseas US Embassy for further processing, the spouse interview and the eventual issuing of a visa. U.S. Residents must wait an additional period of time–until an Immigration Visa Number becomes available–after the USCIS approval, which can add several more months to the timeline.
DUE TO USCIS CHANGES IN 2004-2005, OUR FIRM NO LONGER RECOMMENDS FILING A K3 VISA FOR MARRIED COUPLES SINCE THERE ARE NEGLIGIBLE BENEFITS FOR FILING A K3 VISA PETITION
The K3 Visa was designed to speed up the waiting times for married couples who have a pending Spousal Visa Petition with the USCIS. The K3 Visa allows the foreign spouse of a U.S. Citizen to enter the United States-only after an overseas marriage, the I-130 Petition filing (marriage visa petition), K3 Visa Petition approval and K3 Visa issuance. A K3 Visa is only available to a spouse of a U.S. Citizen and not a spouse of a U.S. Resident. However, as stated above, since 2005 I-130 Petitions are processed almost as quickly as I-129F Petitions which means there is no reason to file a K3 Visa.
Thus, Spousal Visas, and not K-3 Visas, are generally recommended by our firm and most experienced immigration attorneys for those who have already been married overseas, or are in unique/rare situations where they must be married in a foreign country. A Spousal Visa is typically more complex, a bit slower, and the more expensive route compared to the K1 Visa.
Important Issues to Consider:
If you are already married, please see our section on Spousal Visas. If you and your fiancee are not yet married and you are still uncertain about a Spousal Visa/K3 Visa or Fiancee Visa, you may want to consider the following:
1. Processing Timelines
K1 Visas–You can begin the petition for a Fiancee Visa immediately, assuming that the couple have met within the last two years and meet other requirements.
Before you can begin the petition for a Spousal Visa/K3 Visa, the couple must first be married in the foreign country where, for many, there are residency and waiting period requirements–not to mention the problematic logistics of work schedules, finances and traveling.
2. Staying Together vs. Separation
With a K1 Visa, once the couple is married in the United States, the foreign newlywed is free to stay in the United States and immediately begin life with their new spouse.
Whereas, with the Spousal Visa/K3 Visa process time, once the couple is married, the foreign spouse must remain overseas and the U.S. Citizen or Resident must return home alone (assuming they work or have other responsibilities). The foreign spouse must stay in the country of marriage until they are issued a Spousal Visa or, a K3 Visa Petition is also filed, and a K-3 Visa is issued.
3. Overseas Marriage vs. Overseas Marriage Celebrations
Instead of getting married overseas (and filing for a k3 visa), most of our clients opt for the K1 Visa application process. If having a ceremony overseas is very important to the couple, they may still have an “unofficial marriage celebration” with family and friends overseas–before or after–the official/legal marriage in the United States. The U.S. only recognizes “civil” marriage ceremonies and not “engagement/pre-marriage” celebrations when defining marriage.
If you have any concerns or have further k1, Spousal Visa or K3 visa questions about which is the right visa for you, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to discuss your options.