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Comparison of marriage-based visas

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[edit] Disclaimer

This page is currently under construction. Do not use this article as a guide until this paragraph is removed from the disclaimer section.

It should be noted that there are no guarantees as to whether you will be granted a visa by the US authorities concerned with immigration. This article is meant as a guide only, and if you are unsure about anything with respect to your visa application you should seek counsel with a qualified immigration attorney.

Neither BritishExpats.com nor any member/contributor thereof accepts any liability for events arising from use or misuse of information in this article.

[edit] Acronym/abbreviation dictionary

AOS = Adjustment of Status

AP = Advance Parole

BC = Birth Certificate

Beneficiary = The UKC applying for the visa

DCF = Direct Consular Filing - an unoffical term which denotes the act of filing the petition/visa application directly with a consulate outside the US (e.g. London).

DHS = Department of Homeland Security

EAD = Employment Authorization Document

GC = Green Card

LPR = Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card holder”)

NC = Naturalization Certificate

PP = Passport

PPPP = Passport photo page

Sponsor = The USC petitioning USCIS for permission for a visa for their spouse or fiance(e)

SSN = US Social Security Number

UKC = UK Citizen

USC = US Citizen

USCIS = US Citizenship and Immigration Services

USD = US Dollars

[edit] Overview

What's the difference between the K-1 and Immigrant (CR-1/IR-1) marriage-based visas? Which one should I use? Which one is fastest? Which one costs the least? Which one is the least 'hassle'?

These are questions that are answered in this article by comparing the paths to the marriage based visas currently available. It should be noted that only undisputably legal methods to immigrate are discussed here.

Obtaining a visa is a two-stage process. Firstly, the USC files a petition with USCIS. Think of this petition as a request to USCIS to confirm that the USC is eligible to sponsor their UKC spouse or fiance for a visa (stage one). Presuming this petition is approved, the spouse or fiance may apply for the visa (stage two).

In the case of a K-1 visa, there's a third stage that comes after the UKC enters the US and marries the USC. This is called Adjustment of Status (AOS).

Below is a table of the available visas along with their prerequisites, advantages/disadvantages etc. For further information on each visa, click the search links provided at the top of the table. What may be best for you may not be for someone else; it depends on your priorities. Some view being apart for the shortest time to be of primary importance, while others will prefer the cheapest way, or the way that enables the new US resident to start work and/or travel outside the USA again immediately.

The K-3 'spousal' visa is not discussed here, as it no longer has any advantages over a CR-1 visa.

While not the subject of this article, it should be noted that US Federal Law recently changed, and same-sex marriages are now recognized for immigration purposes.

In addition, it should be noted that additional paperwork/evidence may be required if the applicant(s) have any kind of criminal record, which is likely to complicate their case.

[edit] Table of comparison

As to the descriptions in the column headers below, the following applies: While one or both parties may not be physically present inside or outside the US for the entire duration of the petition/visa application process, what we are concerned with here is where they are resident - for the purpose of filing the relevant paperwork.

For a K-1 visa, the USC always files with USCIS as if they are resident in the US. With a CR-1 or IR-1 visa, one or both of the parties may be resident outside the US.

For married couples, whether a CR-1 or IR-1 visa is obtained will depend on how long the couple has been married at the time of the UKC's entry to the US using the visa. If under two years it will be a CR-1, if two years or more it will be an IR-1.


K-1
CR-1 / IR-1
(UKC outside the US)
CR-1 / IR-1
(both parties outside the US)
Search links (wiki and forum) K-1 – WikiForum

Fiance Visa

I-129F

AOS – WikiForum

CR-1 – WikiForum

IR-1

I-130

DCF – WikiForum

CR-1 – WikiForum

IR-1

I-130

Prerequisites (global)
The USC must provide proof of US Citizenship (e.g. US PPPP, NC or BC)
The UKC must provide proof of identity (e.g. UK PPPP or BC)
Proof of termination of all prior marriages (decree absolute)
Proof of US-based income by sponsor or joint-sponsor at 125% of the poverty level (or qualifying assets equivalent to three years of such)
Prerequisites No marriage has taken place (a marriage effectively abandons a K-1 application)

Parties intend to marry within 90 days of the UKC entering the US

With very few exceptions, the two parties must have met in person within two years of the date of filing the I-129F and can prove such (photos together etc)

The parties are married to each other

The USC is domiciled in the US

The parties are married to each other

The USC is domiciled in the US or can show intent to become so

Possible additional prerequisites If filing DCF in London, the USC must have lived in the UK on the correct visa for at least 6 months
Approx time start to finish

(as of January 2014)

8-10 months 10-12 months 3-5 months
Approx costs for all filings to obtain Green Card (excludes medical) TBC TBC TBC
Perceived Advantages Couple both stay in the US after the wedding

May be quicker than CR-1 if the UKC is outside the US

If the UKC has a child that will be under 21 but over 18 at the time of the wedding, using a K-1 and a K-2 for the child is the only way for the child to be able to immigrate along with the UKC.

Cheaper than K-1

Less paperwork than K-1

UKC becomes a GC holder at the moment of approved entry – free to work in and travel out of the US immediately

Fastest route to visa/GC

Cheaper than K-1

Less paperwork than K-1

UKC becomes a GC holder at the moment of approved entry – free to work in and travel out of the US immediately

Perceived Disadvantages More paperwork involved than CR-1

Costs more than CR-1

Likely to be a period when the UKC cannot work or travel outside the US

GC not obtained until after AOS completes

May take longer than a K-1

Couple are living apart after marriage

Stage 1 (USC Petition)
Forms / items to be filed

(mandatory)

I-129F

G-325a (one for each party)

Recent PP photo (one for each party)

Proof of US Citizenship (photocopy of PPPP, NC, BC)

I-130

G-325a (one for each party)

Recent PP photo (one for each party)

Proof of US Citizenship (photocopy of PPPP, NC, BC)

I-130

G-325a (one for each party)

Recent PP photo (one for each party)

Proof of US Citizenship (photocopy of PPPP, NC, BC)

Other items that are required if applicable Copies of documents establishing any legal name change by either party

A certified translation of any document which is required but not already in the English language

Copies of documents establishing any legal name change by either party

A certified translation of any document which is required but not already in the English language

Copies of documents establishing any legal name change by either party

A certified translation of any document which is required but not already in the English language

Where to file See this webpage Chicago Lockbox – see this webpage If resident less than 6 months, file to the US Service Center covering your last state of residence. If resident in the UK 6+ months, you may be eligible to file via the London Embassy ('DCF')
Stage 2 (UKC Visa Application)
Forms / items to be filed

(mandatory)

DS-160 (online)

Notification of Readiness Form (online)

I-134 (or other documentation evidencing financial support)

DS-260 (online)

Notification of Readiness Form (online)

I-864

DS-260 (online)

Notification of Readiness Form (online)

I-864

Other items that are required if applicable None Additional I-864 or I-864A (if using a joint sponsor) Additional I-864 or I-864A (if using a joint sponsor)
Where to file Local USCIS field office (e.g. London Embassy visa unit) Local USCIS field office (e.g. London Embassy visa unit) Local USCIS field office (e.g. London Embassy visa unit)
Stage 3 (Adjustment of Status)
Forms / items to be filed

(mandatory)

I-485

G-325a

I-94 (or photocopy)

I-797

2 PP photos

Photocopy of K-1 visa

Photocopies of all UK passport pages

Photocopy of UKC long form birth certificate

Evidence of ongoing relationship

I-693

I-864

Photocopy of USC birth certificate

Tax return transcripts for last 3 years

Not applicable Not applicable
Other items that are required if applicable I-765 (if you wish to obtain an EAD so you can work until the GC arrives)

I-131 (if you want an AP document so you can travel outside the US before the GC arrives)

Where to file Chicago Lockbox – see this webpage

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