Marriage-Based Immigration Options for Fiancé(e)s and Spouses: Pros and Cons

If you are married to or engaged to a U.S. citizen but currently live outside the United States, you could obtain legal status in the United States through marriage-based immigration.

Visas for Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens 

One of the most common ways to obtain legal status through marriage is the K-1 fiancé(e) visa. This visa allows the foreign national fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States to get married within 90 days of arrival. Once married, the foreign national can apply for adjustment of status to obtain a green card and become a lawful permanent resident.

The K-1 visa offers several advantages. First, it allows you to enter the United States quickly and legally without needing a lengthy visa application process. Second, once you are married and apply for adjustment of status, you can obtain work authorization and travel permission while your green card application is pending. This means you can start building your life in the United States immediately without waiting for your green card to be approved.

However, the K-1 visa also has some drawbacks. First, you must marry your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days of entering the United States, which can be a tight timeline for some couples. Second, if your relationship does not work out and you do not get married, you will need to leave the United States and may face difficulties obtaining another visa. Finally, the K-1 visa process can be expensive, with fees for the visa application, medical exams, and other required documents.

Visas for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

An option for foreign nationals married to U.S. citizens is the CR1/IR1 spouse visa. This visa allows the foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident without needing a separate adjustment of status application. The CR1 visa is for spouses who have been married for less than two years, while the IR1 visa is for spouses who have been married for two years or more.

The CR1/IR1 visa offers several advantages over the K-1 visa. First, as a lawful permanent resident, you will have the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely without needing separate work authorization or travel permission. Second, you will not face the 90-day marriage deadline with the K-1 visa. Finally, if you have been married for two years or more at the time of entry and secure the IR-1 visa, you will not need to apply for removal of conditions on your green card after two years.

However, the CR1/IR1 visa process can be lengthy, with several months to a year or more processing times. During this time, you will need to remain outside the United States and may face difficulties visiting your spouse or building your life together. Additionally, the CR1/IR1 visa process can be complex, requiring extensive documentation of your relationship and a thorough background check.

Choosing the Right Option

Ultimately, deciding between the K-1 visa and the CR1/IR1 visa will depend on your circumstances and priorities. If you want to enter the United States quickly and are committed to marrying your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days, the K-1 visa may be the best choice. If you prefer to marry before coming to the U.S. and are willing to wait a couple of years before moving to the U.S., the IR-1 visa gives you the most direct path to permanent residency. However, if you are already married, the CR1/IR1 visa is your option.

Get Legal Help Today

Regardless of which path you choose, navigating the marriage-based immigration process can be complex and stressful. You should work with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the process, help you gather the necessary documentation, and advocate on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

At Rahimi Law Firm, P.C., we have extensive experience helping foreign nationals obtain legal status through marriage-based immigration. Our team of compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys will work with you to achieve your goals and build a future with your spouse in the United States. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward making your American dream a reality.