You and the love of your life have decided to get married. You’ve established a solid, supportive relationship, and you’re ready to take the next step together. There’s just one hiccup in your plan: your fiancée lives in the Philippines.
Now you need to sort through the paperwork and bureaucracy to bring her to the U.S. The prospect may seem overwhelmingly complex. One fundamental question you may be wondering is whether it makes more sense to apply for a fiancé visa—and get married in the U.S.—or apply for a spouse visa—and get married in the Philippines before she moves.
Each visa has its advantages and challenges. Here are a few core differences between the two visas that could factor into your decision:
Under the fiancé K-1 visa, your fiancé arrives in the U.S. under the condition that the two of you must marry within 90 days. Once married, your spouse can apply for an adjustment of status to get a green card. It’s worth noting that:
- Fiancé visas are expensive. The application process alone—not including attorney fees—can cost upwards of $2,000.
- On average, the fiancé visa application time is about six months, while the green card application can take 10 or 11 months.
- If a fiancé visa is denied, your recourse is limited. There is no appeals process to this decision.
Applying for a spouse visa is considerably cheaper than applying for a fiancé visa. However, the application process takes longer—often about twice as long as the fiancé visa application. With this option, you and your spouse would be apart for longer. Benefits of a CR spouse visa include:
- It’s possible to combine a green card application into the visa application process. If successful, a spouse can enter the U.S. already green card approved.
- While nothing is set in stone when it comes to visa acceptance, marriage visas tend to have a better chance of success overall compared to fiancé visas.
- If a spouse visa is denied, there is an appeals process.
A note on visa denial
Many couples falsely believe that if they can prove to immigration authorities that their relationship is genuine, their visa application will automatically be approved. This is not a foregone conclusion. Any number of application mistakes or background check issues can flag an applicant for denial. Once denied, the task of convincing immigration to consider future visa applications becomes much more challenging.
Considering everything that hinges on one application, it’s highly advisable to seek the help of an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through this process.