A U.S. citizen planning to file a visa petition for a foreign fiancée or spouse who is outside the U.S. may have various strategies to choose from. The most common options are the K-1 fiancée visa, the K-3 visa, and the CR1/IR1 immigrant visa. This article analyzes the factors to be considered in choosing among such strategies.
This article does not discuss less commonly used strategies for foreign fiancées and spouses, such as applying for an H-1B or L-1 work visa.
Nor does this article does not focus on options where the foreign fiancée or spouse is already physically present in the U.S. In that case, it may be possible to marry in the U.S. (if not yet married) then file with USCIS both the I-130 and the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, in which case no visa application at a Consulate abroad is necessary. See our Guide to the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status.
Beware that entering the U.S. by misrepresenting one’s purpose or hiding a preconceived intent to immigrate can lead to denial of the Form I-485. See Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa for a discussion of whether it’s feasible to be admitted to the U.S. as a B-1 (visitor for business) or B-2 (visitor for pleasure) once you have an intention to immigrate. The same principles apply to admission through the visa waiver program (ESTA). That article also discusses whether it’s possible to enter in B-2 status for purposes of marrying in the U.S. or meeting the U.S. citizen spouse’s family, so long as the visit is temporary.
The Visa Types
K-1 Visa: As background, you should know that the K-1 fiancée visa involves the following procedures:
- Step 1: The U.S. citizen files a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancée (i.e., K-1 petition) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Step 2: USCIS forwards the approved petition to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) for clerical processing.
- Step 3: The fiancée applies for a K-1 visa (and any children apply for K-2 visas) at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
- Step 4: The fiancée applies for admission to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) inspector at a port of entry.
- Step 5: To qualify for a green card, within 90 days of entering in K-1 status, the couple must marry and the foreign spouse (and each K-2 child) must file with USCIS a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. (Note that marriage prior to entering the U.S. will make the foreign spouse ineligible for a K-1 visa).
For more details, see our K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide.
CR1 or IR1 Immigrant Visa: The immigrant visa (CR1 if issued prior to the second anniversary of the marriage; IR1 if issued afterwards) involves:
- Step 1: The U.S. citizen files a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS or in exceptional cases with a U.S. Consulate abroad.
- Step 2: The approved petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center for clerical processing and gathering relevant documents from the petitioner and spouse. (This step does not apply where the petition has been filed with a USCIS international office or U.S. Consulate).
- Step 3: The spouse applies for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
- Step 4: The spouse applies for admission to a CBP inspector at a port of entry. The spouse becomes a permanent resident upon being admitted.
For more details, see our Guide to Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on Behalf of a Spouse.
K-3 Visa: Where a U.S. citizen has filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of a spouse, the K-3 visa theoretically allows the spouse to enter the U.S. to “await the approval of [the I-130] and the availability … of an immigrant visa.”
In practice, the K-3 is almost never a realistic option. Over time, USCIS and the State Department have coordinated to stop issuing any K-3 visas. Here are the number of K-3 visas issued according to the State Department report on “Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Classification” in their annual reports.
|Fiscal Year||# of K-3 Visas Issued|
In comparison, the State Department issued 108,292 immediate relative immigrant visas in 2020.
The K-3 process is as follows:
- Step 1: The U.S. citizen files a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS.
- Step 2: Upon USCIS issuance of the receipt notice for the I-130, the citizen files a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancée, with the same USCIS office.
- Step 3: Ordinarily, USCIS holds the adjudicates the I-130 and I-129F at the same time, then forwards them to the National Visa Center. If the NVC receives the approved I-130 before it completes processing of the I-129F, the K-3 visa application will be “administrative closed” and the NVC will process just the immigrant visa application. Only in uncommon cases does the NVC complete processing of the K-3 visa application and forward it to the Consulate.
- Step 4: The spouse applies for a K-3 visa at the Consulate. (If the I-130 has been approved and received at the Consulate, the K-3 visa will not be issued. Instead, the post will adjudicate the spouse should complete the immigrant visa application).
- Step 5: The spouse applies for admission to a CBP inspector at a port of entry and is admitted in K-3 status valid for two years.
- Step 6: The spouse applies for permanent resident status by completing the immigrant visa application at the Consulate or by filing a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, with USCIS.
Here’s how the government avoids issuing K-3 visas. First, USCIS routinely delays adjudicating the I-129F so that it is adjudicated simultaneously with the related I-130. Next, the NVC will “administratively close” a K-3 visa application if it receives from USCIS the approved I-130 before NVC finishes processing the K-3 case: this is routine since USCIS sends both to NVC at the same time. Together, these practices defeat the congressional intent embodied in the statute that K-3 visas should be issued to allow the foreign spouse to enter the U.S. to “await the approval of [the I-130] and the availability … of an immigrant visa.”
Factors to Consider in Choosing
Here are common factors to consider in deciding whether to seek a K-1, K-3, or CR1/IR1 visa:
1. Are You Ready to Get Married? Perhaps the most important factor to consider is whether you are ready to get married now (or soon). If you’re not ready, the K-1 may be the best option. Maybe you want to get to know each other better before marriage. Or maybe you want to have a chance to spend time together in the U.S. before marriage.
2. Place of Marriage: The purpose of the K-1 is to come to the U.S. for marraige. For the K-1, marriage must take place in the U.S. within the 90-day window following admission in K-1 status. If you prefer to be married abroad, the K-1 may not be the best option. (Note: couples pursuing a K-1 will sometimes first have a wedding banquet or religious ceremony that is not legally binding abroad then come to the U.S. to be married for legal purposes.) In contrast, for the K-3 or immigrant visa, the couple must first marry (either in the U.S. or abroad), then file the I-130.
3. Timing for Admission to the U.S.: The K-1 visa is usually the fastest (currently 5-10 months counting from the date of filing to the date of admission), and the immigrant visa usually slower (10-16 months), with the K-3 somewhere in between. An important exception is that if the U.S. citizen spouse resides abroad, it may be fastest to seek an immigrant visa by filing the I-130 with a USCIS international office or, in exceptional circumstances, a U.S. Consulate.
4. Timing for Employment Authorization: An immigrant visa holder becomes a permanent resident eligible to work in the U.S. upon being admitted by CBP at the port of entry. In contrast, a K-1 or K-3 is required to apply for an employment authorization card, which takes approximately 90 days.
5. International Travel: A K-1 visa is valid for a single entry. No international travel is possible until the foreign spouse files a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, along with an application for advance parole. Advance parole is typically issued within 90 days of filing, although expedited processing is sometimes granted. Only then may the foreign spouse depart the U.S. In contrast, since an immigrant visa holder becomes a permanent resident upon admission to the U.S. for the first time, international travel is possible immediately. And a K-3 visa is valid for two years and multiple entries to the U.S., so international travel is possible immediately.
6. Consular Jurisdiction: For the K-1 or immigrant visa, the visa is ordinarily but not always adjudicated by the Consulate with jurisdiction over where the applicant resides. For the K-3, if the couple married abroad, the visa may be issued only in the country where the marriage took place (or, if there is none, at a Consulate designated by the State Department); and if the marriage took place in the U.S., then the visa may be issued only by the Consulate with jurisdiction over where the applicant resides.
7. Risk of Denial for Failure to Prove a Valid Relationship: This risk is slightly lower for a K-3 or immigrant visa than for a K-1:
- For a K-3 or immigrant visa, the spouse must prove to the consular officer’s satisfaction that at the time of marriage the couple intended to have a life together (a valid relationship), not merely to marry for immigration purposes. For a K-1, the couple has to prove both that the couple intends to marry within 90 days of entry to the U.S. and that the relationship is valid.
- Also, an approved K-1 petition is valid for 4 months. It may be extended (“revalidated”) by a consular officer upon a finding that the couple are free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days of entry. The revalidation is for 4 months, and multiple revalidations can be granted. However, the longer the period of time that passes, the more the officer may be concerned about the parties’ intentions. In sum, there is a risk for a K-1 petition that an officer who is not convinced of the validity of the marriage may kill the case simply by refusing as a matter of discretion to revalidate the petition.
8. Sons’ and Daughters’ Visa Eligibility: If the foreign spouse had a son or daughter age 18 or over on the date of the marriage, the son or daughter is ineligible for an immigrant visa on the basis of a petition by the step-parent. Consider the K-1 or K-3 strategy if the son or daughter is age 18 or over but not yet age 21.
9. Level of Confidence That Permanent Residence Will Be Granted: For any visa application there is some risk that the visa may not be approved. The immigration lawyer can help evaluate that risk. In some cases, couples that have not yet married choose the K-1 option over the K-3 or immigrant visa because that way if the visa is denied the couple has a chance to re-evaluate whether they still want to get married given that obstacle to living together in the U.S.
10. If You Foresee Problems with the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support: If you foresee problems with the I-864, Affidavit of Support, then the K-1 visa may be slightly easier. An applicant for either a K-1 or an immigrant visa must prove they won’t be a public charge. A K-1 applicant needs to show only that he or she will be able to subsist at 100% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines Level. K-1s can rely on their own income and assets, as well as a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, by the U.S. citizen petitioner and/or other sponsor. In contrast, the sponsor for an immigrant visa, must a slightly stricter test. The sponsor must submit the Form I-864, and prove the ability to support the sponsored immigrant at a strict 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines, sometimes relying a joint sponsor, household member, and/or the foreign spouse’s assets and income to help. For more information, see the Affidavit of Support Help Center.
11. Petitioner’s Domicile: For a foreign spouse to qualify for an immigrant visa, the U.S. citizen petitioner must either be domiciled in the U.S. or plan to reestablish domicile in the U.S. not later than when the foreign spouse enters as an immigrant. (In certain circumstances, where the foreign spouse files a Form I-864W, Affidavit of Support Exemption, the petitioner needn’t prove U.S. domicile). For more information about the domicile requirement, see the Affidavit of Support Help Center. In contrast, the K-1 and K-3 do not have this domicile requirement, so they can be filed even if the foreign spouse plans to move to the U.S. before the petitioner.
12. Legal Fees: The immigrant visa typically has slightly lower legal fees because it involves filing one petition and one visa application. The legal fees for a K-3 are slightly higher because a second petition must be filed. And the legal fees for the K-1 are slightly higher than that because after admission to the U.S. with the K-1 visa a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, must be filed.
13. Budget for Key Expenses:
|K-1 petition stage:|
* Filing fee for Form I-129F
|K-1 Visa application stage:|
* Filing fee for K-1 Visa Application
|* Medical exam||200|
|* Travel and hotel for appointment at U.S. Consulate||varies|
|Adjustment of Status Stage:|
* Filing fees for Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, and Biometrics
|* Medical exam (vaccination form only)||100|
|TOTAL||USD 2325 plus travel (estimate)|
CR1 or IR1 Immigrant Visa:
|Immigrant Petition Stage:|
* Filing fee for Form I-130
|* Travel for appointment at USCIS International Office or U.S. Consulate (if applicable)||varies|
|Immigrant Visa Application Stage:|
* Filing fee for immigrant visa application
|* NVC I-864 review fee (if applicable)||120|
|* Medical exam||200|
|* Travel and hotel for appointment at U.S. Consulate||varies|
|* USCIS Immigrant Fee||220|
|TOTAL||USD 1400 plus travel (estimate)|
* Filing fee for Form I-130
|* Filing fee for Form I-129F||0|
|K-3 Visa Application Stage:|
* Filing fee for K-3 Visa Application
|* Medical exam||200|
|* Travel and hotel for appointment at U.S. Consulate||varies|
|Adjustment of Status Stage:|
* Filing fees for Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, and Biometrics
|* Medical exam (vaccination form only)||100|
|TOTAL||USD 2325 plus travel (estimate)|
14. Wedding Planning: For K-1 visa applicants, wedding planning in the U.S. may be difficult because it cannot be predicted exactly when the K-1 visa will be issued and, therefore, when the 90-day window to be wed will occur.
15. IMBRA Filing Limitations for K-1s: A U.S. citizen who has filed two or more K-1 petitions at any time in the past or had any K-1 petition approved within the prior two years is not allowed to file a new K-1 petition unless USCIS grants a waiver of these limitations as a matter of discretion. No waiver will be given to a petitioner with a history of violent offenses except for narrow exceptions. These limitations do not apply to I-130s or K-3 petitions.
If I’ve left out any important factor that should be considered in choosing among the K-1, K-3, and CR1/IR1 visa, let me know in the comments.
An immigration attorney may be able to assist you in choosing the right visa strategy. Family-based immigration is a lengthy, sometimes complex, and constantly changing process. Some people are ineligible to immigrate, and others can only immigrate by qualifying for a special “waiver” of ineligibility grounds. It’s common for immigration cases to be delayed and the couple kept apart if specific procedures are not carefully followed at each step along the way, or if incomplete information or documentation is submitted. I would encourage every couple to at least consult with a qualified and experienced immigration lawyer to find out if there are any hidden pitfalls. Love and marriage are too important to leave the immigration process to chance.
I came to the US with a B2 visa and got married to my permanent resident boyfriend. He filed a Form I-130 for me, which was approved. I applied for adjustment of status after my authorised stay expired and was denied adjustment. What are our options? I am still in the US.
Harry: I need more info to begin to understand your situation. Why was your adjustment application denied? Has your husband applied for naturalization? Has the Department of Homeland Security issued a Notice to Appear requiring you to attend a removal (deportation) hearing?
This information is fantastic, thank you. A question about the Affidavit of Support: I am a naturalized US Citizen living abroad and doing freelance translation work. 2.5 years ago I married a foreigner and was just granted temporary residence in Costa Rica. I have been living aboard since we got married but have continued to file US taxes (national not state) and have a permanent address in the US, US bank accounts, student loan, etc. However, being that I do freelance work, I do not have a steady income and don’t believe I can prove 125% of the US Poverty Guideline. Would it be possible for my US citizen parents or sister to cosign the Affidavit of Support or do I as the petitioner have to prove I can support my husband alone?
My Fiance and I are trying to decide which route to go. The immigrant Visa is more cost effective and I have heard of people getting approved much quicker although I don’t have details and it could be misinformation as it was not first hand. My fiancee is from the Dominican Republic and our original plan was to get married there and file the I-130 Visa while I am there. This will be our second attempt. A couple of years a go I stared the process of a K-1 visa but he did not receive notification and he missed his interview. I lost hope and gave up. This is such an overwhelming process.
What is your advice?
Hi Hanna: I know what you mean when you say that the process can be overwhelming. But don’t lose hope. An attorney’s job is to provide professional legal assistance to guide and help you through the process. Why not schedule with our law firm or with another member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association?
I intend to help my fiancee, who is from Thailand, apply for a K1 visa. How can I prove we have met in person during the 2 years prior to the application? Thank you.
I’ve been denied a K-1 visa under section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. After that, we married. Can we go ahead and file for a k3 visa?
K-1 is no longer an option since you’re now married. Right now, K-3 visa issuance is extremely rare, as mentioned above. So odds are that you should have your wife file a Form I-130 on your behalf and then you can apply for a CR-1 or IR-1 immigrant visa. Of course, the specific strategy will depend on the specific facts of your case, including but not limited to what was the factual basis for the denial of the K-1 visa application. Formulating the best strategy is the kind of thing our firm or another qualified immigration lawyer can help with.
Interesting read and comments. My girlfriend is from Colombia and I am a U.S. Citizen. She already has a 10 year B1/B2 visa and we have been frequently flying back and forth seeing each other for 3 years. We have decided to marry. Reading this, I am thinking the best approach is to get married next time we are in Vegas, then she returns to Colombia and I initiate the CR1 process. Sound like a plan? She still needs freedom of travel to check up on her sons in college from time to time. Will she be able to continue to use her B1/B2 visa during the process?
Jim: For more on entering the U.S. with a B1/B2 visitor visa after filing a Form I-130, see here.
This is the information I’ve been looking for, thank you very much.
Quick question, in regards to “15. Wedding Planning”.
Once the K-1 is approved I ‘d have 4 months to “use it”, right?
Therefore, there would be a 4 month period for us to plan the wedding.
Once the K-1 petition is approved, there will be some period for the visa applicaiton process (let’s say 2-3 months), then some time for the foreign fiance(e) to enter the U.S. (the visa is valid for up to 6 months), then the wedding must take place within 90 days of entry. So there’s pretty good lead time between the K-1 petition approval and the wedding.
I am currently in the US on a B1/B2 visa. The initial plan was to visit my boyfriend for a month and return back to Asia after that. However we soon found at that we are pregnant and expecting a baby (due early next year). I have now been here for 4 months (I have another 2 months to go before I need to exit the US). We have decided to get married but unsure about which route to go – do we get married and go ahead with the AOS process? Or do we get married and I leave the country and go the CR1 way? Thanks for your input.
Great question about whether to file a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, or instead depart the U.S. to apply for a visa abroad. The scope of this particular article, as mentioned above, is limited to visa options for foreign nationals outside the U.S. Since you’re in the U.S., feel free to schedule an appointment with our law firm or another competent immigration attorney to discuss what’s the best strategy for your case.
Hi, i just want to ask: what if my husband cannot meet the requirements for his income, and we cannot find someone to be the joint sponsor? Does it mean there is no other way for us to be together?
MM: There are various ways to fulfill the minimum income requirement for the affidavit of support. For details, see the Affidavit of Support Help Center.
I came to the US on a K1 visa in August and my fiancé and I got married that same month. We applied for AOS and the Advanced Parole however I had to travel to the UK as a personal emergency occurred which would have meant severe financial loss and embarrassment to my whole family. Before I left, I tried to get the AP expedited and at the office but they didn’t give this to me and said I either had to wait to receive the AP in the post (which would have been too late) as they only approve this on life and death scenarios however I can always fly back since I am a UK citizen (under the visa waiver) with no problem since I have done my biometrics. However I hear doing this will mean abandoning my aos application and I would have to apply in the US consular in the UK for a new visa. I am so confused on what to do. My husband and I don’t want to be apart again. We already went through the time apart on the K1 visa and we intend to leave in the US which is where he lives!
Alex: Sounds like you may have been given misleading information by a USCIS officer before you departed the U.S. I recommend that you retain a qualified immigration lawyer to provide timely and accurate advice.
In section two you say:
“Note: couples pursuing a K-1 will sometimes first have a wedding banquet or religious ceremony that is not legally binding abroad then come to the U.S. to be married for legal purposes.)”
This will not work in all countries. In the Netherlands we have a law stating a wedding celebration cannot be blessed or take place BEFORE the marriage by law, as state and church are separated.
The church will get a fine of €5.000 Euro if they do so.
In other words, you can celebrate it on your own but cannot involve any institution or organization.
We will apply for a K1. We then will marry in US and when adjusted or free to travel we will celebrate and get a blessing in my native country the Netherlands.
Just wanted to share 👍😀
Menn: Thanks for the info about Netherlands’ law.
Thank you so much for writing this article, it was the most helpful thing ever. Me and my boyfriend have been in a long distance relationship for more than a year. We want to get married next year. He’s American while I’m Mexican. I’m considering taking a 3-month course in the States. Is it better for us to apply for a K-1 visa or for me to enter with the B-2 and apply for adjustment of status?
Cecilia: Beware that entering the U.S. with a B-2 visa by misrepresenting one’s purpose or hiding a preconceived intent to immigrate can lead to denial of the Form I-485. See Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa for a discussion of whether it’s feasible to come to the U.S. as with a B-2 visa once you have an intention to immigrate.
Please kindly help me with the question below.
My wife filed a K-1 petition (Form I-129F) for me in June 2015. USCIS and NVC approved it and forwarded it to U.S. embassy in Nigeria, where I was interviewed. At that time, the consular officer told me they will be sending the petition back to USCIS with a recommendation that it be revoked on the basis that we have already married. (We have already had a traditional marriage).
Someone at the Embassy told me that my wife needs to wait until after our second anniversary to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on my behalf. Is that true?
Christian: There is no such rule.
Going through Divorce to be Finalized in Jan 2016. Will be getting remarried to Chinese National, she has a tourist visa. Should we apply for Finance Visa once divorce is final or would it be easier if we were married after divorce is final and then applied for a spousal visa. Can she still travel on her Tourist visa to the U.S .
Chet: As you can see from the above article, the decision about which process to choose is very fact specific. Consider scheduling a consultation with our law firm or another qualified immigration lawyer.
I filed a K-1 visa which was approved, but when my fiance went for the interview, he was denied a visa, and my petition was sent back to uscis for revocation. What are my next options. I am going to his country next week.
Shaterra: To answer your question, more information is needed about why the petition was sent back to USCIS for revocation. For general info about the revocation process, see Options after a Consular Officer Denies your Visa Application. Now would be a good time to consult with our law firm or another qualified immigration attorney.
I am French citizen and my fiancé is American.
We already started the procedure for the K-1 Fiancé Visa a few weeks ago. I am currently staying in France but I would like to visit before the K-1 Visa is issued.
1/ Can I apply for a B-2 Visa (to stay 6 months) while the K-1 is being processed ?
2/ If yes, Is it possible to activate the K-1 Visa without going back to France ? (For instance : Staying in the US and changing status, or leaving and entering again from a neighbor country, Canada or Mexico).
3/ If no, (we may decide to marry in France). What would be the procedure to immigrate to the US and how long (approximatively) would it take for us to be able to live in the US together?
Thanks a lot,
1. Maybe you can enter with a B-2 visa or under the visa waiver program while waiting for your K-1 visa. For details, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa.
2. A K-1 visa is only issued following an appointment at a U.S. Consulate abroad, and the only way to get K-1 status is to enter the U.S. with that visa. For details, see our K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide.
3. See the information above regarding the CR1 immigrant visa process.
I got married almost 3 years ago in Mexico. We have 2 kids: a 1-year-old and 4-month old, who live with me in the U.S. We plan on visiting my husband in Mexico in March. What is the best strategy for us? Thank you for the help.
The best strategy in any given case can only be decided on with full knowledge of the facts and the family’s goals. Feel free to contact our law firm or another qualified immigration lawyer for a consultation about the best course of action in your case.
I’m a UK citizen and my girlfriend (now wife) is an American Citizen, during my recent holiday to the states to see her, she arranged for us to be married. It wasn’t planned, it was a spur of the moment event. I’ve since returned to the UK and we are both unsure as to what to do.
We consulted with the USCIS whilst I was in the states and their representative recommended the I-130 followed by K3 visa approach, however your article leads me to believe we should pursue the I-130 and CR1 approach instead? We are not sure how to proceed. And In terms of lawyers, equally we have no idea how to proceed either.
Can you help?
Yes, Simon. Schedule a consultation here.
Hello Gary, is it possible to file a K-1 petition for my fiancée while I am living in her town in Mexico? Or do I have to be in the States as I go through that process?
Anthony: There’s no requirement that you be in the U.S. at the time you file the K-1 petition. You will, however, need to be in the U.S. in order to marry your fiancée during the 90-day window after her K-1 entry. For more about K-1 visas, see here.
Hello I’m a US citizen and my fiancé has Russian citizenship. We both live in Italy and both have permanent residence here. She has a tourist visa to USA that is still valid for a year and a half. If we get married in Italy and I file for her immigrant visa will she still be able to use her B2 visa to visit USA.
To enter as a B-2 visitor, she’ll need to prove nonimmigrant intent to the Customs and Border Protection inspector at the airport (or other port of entry). For details, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa.
I filed an I-130 for my husband, who currently lives in Africa. The I-130 was denied due to incomplete documentation. Should I appeal? I read that it may take a long time.
Kadmia: Sorry to hear about the I-130 denial. A motion to reopen, motion to reconsider, and/or appeal may be appropriate in certain circumstances. In other circumstances, it may be appropriate to file a new I-130 or to use a different strategy. I can’t comment about your case because I don’t know all the facts, such as what documentation was incomplete. This would be a good time for you to consult with our law firm or another qualified immigration lawyer about your options. Warning: there are very short deadlines for filing a motion to reopen, motion to reconsider, and/or appeal, so you should act immediately.
My fiance is an American citizen, and I live abroad. We plan on applying for a K-1 visa and then getting married in the USA. We are planning to later visit family outside the USA. Can I leave the USA after the marriage, return, and then file the AOS?
Tiffany: No. A K-1 visa is valid for a single entry. No international travel is possible until the foreign spouse files a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, along with an application for advance parole. Advance parole is typically issued within 90 days of filing, although expedited processing is sometimes granted. Only then may the foreign spouse depart the U.S.
Within the last year, before we decided to get married, my girlfriend applied for twice for B-2 tourist visas in order to see me and tour around the United States. On both occasions, she was denied on the basis of immigrant intent, according to the form letters she was given.
Will these B-1 tourist visa denials affect her going forward as she tries to get an immigrant visa?
Mark: Immigrant intent is, naturally, OK for a person seeking an immigrant visa. Inability to prove nonimmigrant intent when applying for B-2 visas will not, by itself, negatively impact a subsequent immigrant visa application.
I am a UAE (Dubai) resident. Met my other half online he is based in Florida. I have been to the US 5 times since and he in Dubai 4 times. All that in about 8 months. We got married in December 2015 in florida. I had travelled on a B1B2 visa. I left in about 6 weeks of entering during my last trip. It was my longest trip yet.
I run an International business in Dubai and am a globe traveller. My husband also runs businesses in Florida. For the next year or so we plan to continue with our back and forth meetings. The biggest reason being neither of us has complete custody and we can’t leave our kids. We are looking at how both our business expansions plan out in respective countries and one of us will move.
Accordingly its no point for me to get a US residency at this stage as there’s a good chance I may not need it for 2-3 years if he moves to Dubai.
Here’s the tough part now – a silly airline agent mistakenly damaged my US visa while I last travelled by sticking the luggage tag on to it. The immigration officer let me through as it was he who pulled of the tag and very slightly ripped the visa.
To be on the safe side I got a new visa application done when I came back to Dubai in Jan 2016 which was supposed to be a simple – interview waiver replacement. They have now come back with a note that I have to have an interview.
I have become concerned now 🙁 I don’t plan to stay on in the US. I have been there 5 times in 7 months – I would have stayed by now if I wanted to! I run a business here with a fantastic office – and my babies are here.
Is it true because I am married to a US citizen I may not get a B1B2 visa… inspite of my social, business standing and that my kids are here.
My husband and me are the clingiest couple in their late 30s and 40s ever! I think it would devastate us if we have to be separated for a long period. The max we survive is 10 days apart…
I also do some business in the US and have several meetings booked…
Will the officer consider that we are not law breakers but globe trotters taking 40 flights a year or will the fact that I am married to a US citizen ruin this?
The key requirement to qualify for a B1/B2 visa is that you prove nonimmigrant intent. Your recent U.S. travel history and U.S. citizen husband are relevant to that determination. The consular officer will make a decision based on the totality of the facts. Your above posting is actually not clear as to whether you have nonimmigrant intent. You write, “I may not need it [U.S. residence] for 2-3 years if he moves to Dubai.” That word, “may,” is ambiguous. To qualify for the visa, you’ll need to be able to give testimony and evidence that are clear and persuade the officer that you are clear that you will not be using the B1/B2 visa to establish residence in the U.S. For more on this point, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa.
Thank you for your help,
I am an Ethiopian currently studying in China. My fiance is a a naturalized US citizen and she traveled to visit me in China 3 months ago.The initial plan was to get married in the coming September and also to file the spousal visa after marriage. But,the time it takes is considerably long and we can’t tolerate life at a distance.We want the process to take the shortest possible time possible without denial and get united. So,
#1. what do you think if we file a fiance visa soon and get married in my country according to plan without legal institution if the chance of acceptance is equivalent to spousal visa . We have all credible documents.
#2. If accepted , can I process the case from china US consulate as I have a X1( study visa) for china and Ethiopian citizenship?
Elias: The best strategy in any given case can only be decided on with full knowledge of the facts and the family’s goals, so I can’t answer your question based on just the limited facts you’ve provided.
As to your question about jurisdiction for filing the petition in China, you mention that you have an X1 visa. Jurisdiction for where a K-1 petition or I-130 should be filed will depend on your U.S. citizen fiancé’s residence. Jurisdiction for where the subsequent K-1 or CR1 visa should be applied for depends on several factors. For example, will you be authorized to stay in China until the visa processing can be completed? And, if there are any special issues in your case, are they more easily investigated by a consular officer in China or in your home country?
Feel free to contact our law firm or another qualified immigration lawyer for a consultation about the best course of action in your case.
Gary, you are the man.
Probably the most helpful/non-biased site I’ve ever witnessed.
And of course I too have a quick question: Is it best (easiest/fastest) to get married in both countries (within months apart)?
A big Cheers!
U.S. immigration authorities will recognize as legal a marriage which was entered into legally in another country under that country’s laws. For a couple that’s entered into a legal marriage abroad, I’m not aware of any immigration-law reason to enter into a second marriage in the U.S.
I have been looking for posts like these. Thanks.
I am a 26 year-old from the Philippines, while my fiancé is an immigrant residing in the USA. We could not decide yet which was a better option after he (if successful) is naturalized later this year (2016). Should he he file a fiancée or spousal visa? After four years of long distance relationship, we just want the fastest way we can be reunited. The twist is that my parents want to have the wedding here in the Philippines. We are also a bit concerned about how soon I can be employed once I get to the US. Which option do you think we should opt for?
I am very much looking forward to your response.
It sounds like you’ve already done a good job analyzing your options. As mentioned above in factor #1, the K-1 is usually the fastest way to get to the U.S. But a person who enters in K-1 must wait to marry in the U.S. (factor #2) and will not be work authorized for a period after entering the U.S. (factor #4). I assume you’ve reviewed the other factors as well.
Before making a final decision, I recommend that all couples consult with our law firm or another qualified immigration lawyer to, among other things, check for eligibility for the visa. I typically recommend that couples do that before they get married, since the marriage can foreclose certain immigration options (and open up others).
Fantastic resource you have built here!
I am a US citizen living in Brazil with a permanent visa since 1983. I married a Brazilian in December 2013. Now I would like to visit the US with her, spend 2 months so she can meet my relatives. We both work in Brazil, have dogs, and no plan to move to the US so far. So, which is the simplest way for her to visit the US?
Note that in 2012, while we were engaged, she applied for a Tourist Visa and was denied, on the basis that she had no proof of ties here in Brazil: no car, no property (the house is my mother’s) and “no job” (she is a freelance journalist, as I am). So she was quite upset and today, since she still has no car and property or “job”, we wonder if it’s not more a permanent solution to apply for a Immigrant Visa.
Many thanks and I look forward to your advice!
For your wife to be granted a B1/B2 visitor’s visa, she’ll bear the burden of proving her to the consular officer her nonimmigrant intent (i.e., that she has a residence abroad which she does not intend to abandon and that she intends to go to the U.S. just temporarily). See generally here.
In many cases where the B1/B2 visa applicant is married to a U.S. citizen who lives abroad, the most important factor in the consular officer’s decision seems to be whether the U.S. citizen has strong ties abroad. If not, the consular officer may suspect the visa applicant is trying to jump the line for an immigrant visa. What I mean is that since an immigrant visa can take 6-12 months or so, on average, some people try to avoid that delay by using a B1/B2 visa to move to the U.S., which is not permissible under the law. So an “invitation letter” by the U.S. citizen spouse, explaining his strong ties abroad and that only a brief trip to the U.S. is planned, can be very helpful.
There are a few cases where the B1/B2 visa is denied multiple times. In those cases, the backup plan may be to apply for an immigrant visa. Before you take that step, I’d advise that you consult with our firm or another experienced immigration lawyer.
I have lived in Ecuador for the last year and a half. I met my fiance here (he is Ecuadorian,) and we live together. I have accepted a job back in the US in August, and my main concern is getting him there with me as fast as possible because long distance sounds dreadful. But I am also concerned that the K-1 visa is more expensive and involves more paperwork. And I’m still confused by the K-3. Should we get married now or later?
Erica: Now is the right time to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer (perhaps our firm). Once you get married, you will have foreclosed the K-1 visa option and maybe other visa options. A good lawyer can learn the facts of your situation and find the best strategy tailored to meet your goals.
I am an American citizen currently living in Chile with my Chilean husband. We would like to move to the U.S. To file for the IR-1, do I need to be in the States, and if so, how long will I have to live without my husband?
No, a U.S. citizen doesn’t need to be physically in the U.S. to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives. To learn more about the “domicile” requirement related to Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, please see #11 above.
What is the best visa to be filed when you have a joint sponsor? Is it K-3 visa or an Immigrant visa?
As mentioned above, a K-3 is almost never the best option.
Thank you very much for your answer.
My son, a US citizen , is living in Thailand with his Thai wife. His dad (my ex) is dying of brain cancer here in the US and has very little time left. In these circumstances, is there any way she can she get an expedited hardship temporary tourist visa to enter the US with her husband (my son)? My husband and I can sponsor her or whatever is needed.
Colleen: It’s possible that USCIS and DOS would expedite a K-1, K-3, or CR1/IR1 visa and related petition under these circumstances. It’s also possible that a B1/B2 (visitor for business or pleasure) visa would be issued. However, a potential stumbling block to issuance of the B1/B2 is proving nonimmigrant intent. For more on that, see .
Hello Gary. I will come to USA soon, on B1/B2 visa, I’m planning to marry my love, everything is planned already. She is the citizen of USA(and was born there). Is it possible to come on B1/B2(as a visitor of her family and her), then go back home, and after 2 years(after study) start getting my CR1 visa? Is it okay? or we can get in trouble?
Artem: It’s OK to apply for a B1/B2 visa and enter in B2 status for purposes of marrying a U.S. citizen if you plan to live abroad with your spouse. Still, you need to be prepared to prove to the satisfaction of the visa-issuing officer and the CBP inspector at the port of entry that you do have nonimmigrant intent. For more, see .
I am a New Zealander and have been married to my US citizen wife for nearly 5 years. We have both been living and working in China since we were married. Now we want to move to the US. What would be the best visa for me to apply for please?
This webpage deals with K-1 visas (inapplicable to you because you are married), K-3 visas (not a feasible option 99% of cases for reasons explained above), and CR1/IR1 visas (clearly available to you). The next question is where to file the I-130 which is a prerequisite to the CR1/IR1 visa. If your wife is living in China, then filing the I-130 in China would be faster than the other option of filing it with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox. Current timing for the I-130 filed in China and then CR1/IR1 is averaging 4-7 months.
Finally, it may be work considering other visa options not covered on this webpage that may be available on other bases, such as certain work visas.
Thank you for the details. Very helpful.
I currently live abroad with my spouse, and have recently filed an I-130, but I may need to return to the US soon for employment.
It sounds like for most cases, there is no benefit to a K3 visa. However, will applying for a K3 visa help “push” USCIS to adjudicate the Form I-130 faster than they would otherwise?
Steve: No. Filing an I-129F seeking K-3 classification doesn’t cause USCIS to adjudicate the pending I-130 any faster. Another issue you raise is that you live abroad. If you filed the I-130 by mail with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, you may be able to get an I-130 adjudicated faster by re-filing with the USCIS office or Consulate with jurisdiction over where you live abroad. For info about that, see .
I would like to marry a girl in Cambodia, but also want her visit the U.S. frequently during the petition process. Is that feasible?
Douglas: As mentioned in the Conclusion above, you can see a separate article–Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa–for a discussion of whether it’s feasible for a foreign national to come to the U.S. as a B-1 (visitor for business) or B-2 (visitor for pleasure) once they have an intention to immigrate.
Hi Gary, My U.S. citizen boyfriend and I (Mexican) have been dating for 6 years. We are now thinking about getting married. I have a B1/B2 visa already. The question is, which visa process is faster the K1 or the CR1? I currently live in Mexico and he lives in the US.
See “3. Timing for Admission to the U.S.” above.
Hello Gary, I filed a Form I-129F for my fiancée in August 2016. I am now in Thailand, and we registered our marriage, so I know she no longer qualifies for a K-1 visa. Can I file an I-130 here at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok?
John: You may qualify to file the I-130 at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok (rather than filing by mail to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox) if you meet the “exceptional circumstances” test described in Part 3.1 of our I-130 Guide.
Hi. I am a US citizen living lives in Ecuador with my husband (Ecuador citizen) and baby girls (US citizens). We have the intention to travel to the US for tourism only. My husband’s B1/B2 visa applications have been denied twice. What options do we have for him to travel to the US for a short period of time? Do I need too file a I-130 petition for him?
Karina: It can be difficult for the spouse of a U.S. citizen to qualify for a B1/B2 visa. See Part 3.3 of this article. Given that your husband has twice been denied B1/B2 visas, one option is to apply again, trying to overcome the denials. Filing an I-130 may well be the backup plan.
My fiancee and I have been together for 6 years now. We live together in Chile. I feel like the K-1 Visa is for couples where one is living in the US and the other is in the foreign country. Not sure if this really applies to us. We are confused and have been going back and forth on the issue for a while now. So we just keep pushing our date back another year. Any help would be great!
Derek: Immigration law should not necessarily be interpreted based on your “feelings.” Interpretations of the law are often quite counterintuitive. A foreign fiancée of a U.S. citizen can apply for a K-1 visa regardless of whether the U.S. citizen fiancé is living in the U.S. or abroad at the time of the application. To avoid further delays in your planning, you may wish to speak with an immigration lawyer. Our firm represents clients with K-1s and CR-1s worldwide. To schedule a consultation, see here.
Hi Gary, I want to marry my fiance who is in Haiti. I am a US citizen and want to take the CR1 route because it’s economically the best option for me. I’m looking to marry him in December then fill out the I-130 form. What would be necessary supporting documents needed or proof other than the marriage certificate? And should I get a name change ro his last name after marriage before filing out the i-130 form?
Sabrina: For more on the I-130, see our I-130 Guide. As to taking his family name, that is some evidence of valid marriage, but it is optional, and the timing for doing so is at your discretion.
I am a US Citizen, LIVING in the Philippines, with my wife of two years. We intend to live in the Philippines for at least another 10 years before POSSIBLY moving back to the US. I have NO residence in the US anymore. My wife’s current US Visa (prior to us getting married) is about to expire. We want to regularly travel to the US to see family, every year though, and naturally she needs a Visa for this.
Should we apply for the CR1 Visa for my spouse, a different visa type or try to renew her regular Visa for entry into the US for travel/leisure purposes? The US Embassy here in the Philippines has not been very helpful in answering our questions and keeps referring us to their website.
Yes, consider applying for renewing the B1/B2 (visitor for business or pleasure) visa. Be aware that after marrying a U.S. citizen it can be harder to meet the requirement of proving nonimmigrant intent. See https://lawandborder.com/issues-for-u-s-citizens-expats-in-filing-the-form-i-130-immigrant-petition-for-alien-relative/.
Hi Gary I live in Ireland with my Irish wife.we have been married for 1.5 years and are looking to move back to Boston but I haven’t lived in the u.s for over 25 years, do I have to be living in the u.s with a job,address etc before I can sponsor my wife ,we have savings in the bank is this ok for affidavitt of support or do I have to be working,
In short, you’ll need to move back to the U.S. when your wife immigrates or beforehand. There are exceptions if an I-864W can be filed instead of I-864 or if you are working abroad for a U.S company. For more on this, see the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, Help Center.
I am a US citizen living in the states, my boyfriend is currently living in Australia but we would like to get married soon. I’m assuming our best option would be the CR1. If we did go that route, would he be allowed to stay in the States while the visa is pending? Or would it be possible for him to come here on a work visa, get married and then apply for Form I-485 while he stays here? Thank you in advance!
If you apply for the CR1 visa, your husband will not automatically be allowed to stay in the U.S. until the visa is issued. As explained above, he may be able to enter the U.S. with a B1/B2 visa or through ESTA, but only so long as he can prove nonimmigrant intent, i.e., that he is only coming temporarily–not moving to the U.S. before the CR1 visa is issued. For more, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent. An H-1B or L-1 work visa may allow him to enter and stay in the U.S. regardless of nonimmigrant intent, but that’s less common for the spouses of U.S. citizens because of the fairly burdensome requirements and procedures.
Can a newly wed spouse apply for a CR1 Visa? We’ve been in a relationship for 6 years. I’m just not sure if we need to wait a particular period after our marriage to file the I-130.
Aira: There is no required waiting period between getting married and filing an I-130.
In May 2018, my fiancée (US citizen and currently living in the US) filed the form I-129F to start the application of the K-1 visa for me (European citizen and current resident). Today, we are still waiting for the approval by the USCIS. As this is becoming way longer than expected, we are now considering getting married outside the US (ideally in my country of origin) and start the spouse for an immigrant visa. What’s your advice in this case?
I would advise you to speak with our firm or another immigration lawyer to analyze the potential timing and odds of success of each option so that you can make an informed choice before you get married, which would invalidate the pending I-129F.
Quick question, im US Citizen, living in ireland last number of years. Married Irish Wife, Have four Irish children, but getting US Passports for the kids next week. (They qualify) A company want me to start in a few weeks, which means leaving wife in Ireland with kids, all i need to do is get wife to USA on i130. Kids can come anytime as will be US Citizens with Soc. Sec. Numbers. What is the best way to get this done once I go to USA for work and will I have to be away from her for 5-6 months? Seems excessive as we have been married for 6 years with four kids. no previous marriages for either of us.
Matthew: Yes, visa processing times can be “excessive.” I recommend you consult an attorney, including but not limited to looking at the option of filing an I-130 at the USCIS London Field Office.
I am a Canadian Citizen and my fiance lives and works in LA and is a green card holder. We want to get married and live together asap in the US, I also would like to be able to work there legally while keeping my Canadian Citizenship. Which type of visa would be best for us? Does the country of marriage affects anything? We are still deciding if we should get married in LA or Canada but wants to make sure if the country of marriage will limit our options. Will I be able to travel to visit him in the US while there is a petition ongoing?
Looking forward to your response. Thank you in advance!
Mirelle: This blog article focuses on foreign nationals engaged to or married to U.S. citizens. Marriage to a U.S. permanent resident is a different matter. The citizen could file with USCIS a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to classify you in the 2A category, but there is a waiting list for the 2A category. Please refer to the State Department Visa Bulletin to understand that wait. There may be other visa options for you. You may want to consult with our firm or another experienced immigration attorney to learn about those options.
My now wife entered the US with a K1 visa, and we married within 90 days but she left because of an emergency, without having filed for adjustment of status or advanced parole. Can she still file while outside the US? If not how can I get her back here ASAP?
Jose: Since she is now your wife, she is not eligible for a new K-1 visa, which is for fiancées. The most obvious option is to begin the long process of applying for a CR1 spouse visa. There may be other options, such as work visas. For a complete analysis, feel free to Schedule a Consultation.
I don’t know which option is best since my fiancee is from Nigeria and that seems to be a targeted area…and we have a huge age gap 23 years.
Misty: Feel free to schedule a consultation. We can have a discussion with you and your husband to clarify and help choose the best option.
Hello Mr. Chodorow,
I love the information you publish here. This is our situation: I am a US citizen working on an open-ended visa in Abu Dhabi. I’ve been here four years. Three years ago I married a Russian that I’ve known since 2003. At the time she was living in Greece, which is also where we got married. We are now living together in Abu Dhabi and I got a wonderful 10 year-old Greek stepdaughter with the marriage. We do have custody. Our intent is just for them to visit the US. At the same time we would like, if possible, the option to immigrate, especially if for whatever reason this job goes away. My only tie to Abu Dhabi is the job here; I own no real estate. I still have a house in the US, but I don’t believe that counts as a domicile. I feel like we don’t fit cleanly into either the parameters for an immigrant nor a visitor visa. How do you see this?
Al: I bet you have more ties to Abu Dhabi than just your job. For example, you may rent an apartment, have financial accounts or a car there, and it sounds like your wife and stepdaughter are there. Anyway, feel free to schedule a consultation so we can flesh out more the facts and your goals to provide actionable advice on your next steps.
I’m from the Philippines and 6mos pregnant with my boyfriend (US Citizen by birth), who I have been dating for almost 2yrs. He has been living in the Philippines under student visa for 4yrs. We’ve decided to get married soon and move to the US with our baby. He will go back to the US in a month and work there, and I will follow once I get my visa approved. Based on your post, it looks like it’s better for me to get the CR1 visa. However, he would not be able to financially support me since he has been a student for the past 4 yrs (though he worked in the US before that). His mom (US citizen working in the US) is suggesting that she’ll sponsor my visa (or maybe as a joint sponsor?). Is this the best route to take? I currently do not have any US visa yet and applying for a tourist visa or fiancé visa doesn’t seem to be better options. Thanks
Your question focuses on how you will prove you will not become a “public charge” in the U.S. and, more specifically on the affidavit of support requirement for a K-1 or CR1 visa. Since your boyfriend is going back to the U.S. in a month to find a job, he may well be able to qualify as a sponsor to file a sufficient affidavit of support for you. It is not determinative that in the past as a student he had no income. Whether you choose the K-1 or CR1 visa, the petitioner (person filing the I-129F or I-130 with USCIS) must be him, not his mother. However, you are correct that if his income and assets are insufficient it may be helpful to ask his mother to file an additional affidavit of support as a joint sponsor. If you would like our firm to help you review this and other factors to help you decide whether a K-1 or CR1 visa best meets your goals, feel free to schedule an appointment.
this page has been super helpful. My partner and I are permanent residents in Germany. My partner has, additionally to the German citizenship, a US citizenship she inherited from her family with an US background. We are planning on permanently moving to the US in approximately three years and are currently beginning the preparations. Is there a possibility to file a visa for myself while both of us are still in Germany? We do not care whether we would be required to marry in Germany or in the US.
Tillman: Any of these strategies can be pursued while you are living outside the U.S.
Hi Gary: USCIS has approved my Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé. My income is under the 100% of the poverty guidelines for my household size, so I’m wondering whether my brother can be a joint sponsor.
Edelyn: Yes, you’ll need to file a Form I-134 since you are the petitioner. But if your income is insufficient, your brother can serve as a joint sponsor, provided he meets the requirements explained in the I-134 instructions.