One of the most common questions visa applicants have is which visa should a petitioner file for their relative. Generally, people want to know if they should file now for a fiance visa or if it is “better” to return to their fiance(e)’s country, marry, and then file for either a K-3 or I-130. The answer to this is the classic lawyer answer: it depends. The length of the relationship, the current documentary evidence, the number of times the petitioner has physically met their fiance(e), and the personal goals of the couple, are some considerations.
The following is a breakdown of the different visa types and how they differ.
Who can file?
Only United States citizens may file a K-1 or K-3 petition. Therefore, if you are a legal permanent resident (LPR) then you must marry your fiance(e) and file an I-130 petition.
Average Wait Time?
K-1 petitions take approximately 7-9 months to complete.
K-3 petitions take approximately 8-10 months to complete.
I-130 petitions take approximately 8-12 months to complete.
The filing fee for a I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance(e) is $455. Following approval by the USCIS, the fiance(e) must pay for a medical exam and visa application fee. Generally, the medical exam will cost $150-$300, depending on the country. The visa application fee is $350.
The filing fee for a I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $355. Following approval by the USCIS, the petition is sent to the National Visa Center for processing. The National Visa Center requires the petitioner to pay an immigrant visa processing fee of $400 and an affidavit of support processing fee of $70. Once the National Visa Center has concluded its processing, the petition is sent to the consulate. At that time, the spouse must undergo a medical exam, which generally costs $150-$300.
There is no filing fee for a I-129F, Petition for Fiance(e) when it is filed as a K-3 petition. However, in order to file a K-3 petition, the petitioner must have already filed the I-130 petition on behalf of their spouse, which costs $355.00. Following approval by the USCIS, the fiance(e) must pay for a medical exam and visa application fee. Generally, the medical exam will cost $150-$300, depending on the country. The visa application fee is $350.
What happens after entry into the United States?
A K-1 visa holder must marry within 90 days of their entry and apply for adjustment of status to a LPR to receive their conditional green card. The adjustment of status fee is $1010. A medical exam is also required, which generally costs $150-300.
A spouse who enters on a K-3 visa has 2 years to file for their adjustment of status. The adjustment of status fee is $1010. A medical exam is also required, which generally costs $150-300.
A spouse who enters on an immigrant visa, i.e., from the filing of a I-130 petition, does not need to adjust their status. They receive LPR status as soon as they enter the United States.
Employment and Travel?
A K-1 visa holder may not work or leave the country until they apply for adjustment of status. When the adjustment of status is filed, applications for employment and travel will also be filed. Generally, 90 days after the filing of all 3 applications, the employment and travel applications will be granted. The adjustment of status generally takes 6-12 months.
A K-3 visa is a multiple-entry visa. Therefore, a K-3 visa holder may travel out of the country. However, they must still apply for employment authorization. Generally, this is filed with the adjustment of status application.
Once the beneficiary of a I-130 petition enters the United States, they acquire LPR status. Therefore, they can travel outside of the country and obtain employment immediately.
The differences between the visa types will confer different experiences for the couple along their journey to live together in the United States. To sum it up, the K1 visa is the fastest route available. However, because of the adjustment of status process required following entry, it may also prove to be the most expensive. On the other hand, the I-130 petition, while probably the longest option of the three available, confers LPR status upon entry, allowing the couple to bypass the expensive adjustment of status.