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Immigrant Visa or Fiancé Visa: Should I bring my overseas fiancé to the US to marry or should I marry overseas and apply for an immigrant visa?

As a Chicago immigration lawyer focused primarily on the family immigration, one of the questions I am asked most frequently is – “which is better, to bring my overseas fiancé to the United States and marry in my home state, or marry overseas and apply for an immediate relative visa for my spouse?” Although it depends on the facts of your particular case, all things being equal, the Immigrant Visa overseas route may be best for most cases.

A United States citizen can bring a foreign national spouse or fiancé to the United States in one of two ways: K-1 (fiancé) visa, or by applying for an immigrant visa after marriage and green card processing through the Consulate. In most cases, I recommend the Immigrant visa route for the following reasons:

  • Processing time is about the same. Many people are under the misconception that the fiancé visa route is faster. While this was true in the past, currently the processing times are just about equal for the K-1 and the IV.
  • The Cost of an Immigrant visa is cheaper than the Fiancé visa. The I-129F application fee for the k-1 is $605, however once the applicant arrives in the United States, he/she must adjust status after the marriage, at a cost of $1,070 in application fees alone. The application fee cost of Immigrant Visa processing is around $1,000. Since the applicant arrives in the United States with permanent resident status, there are no further fees. Granted, you must factor in the cost of flying to the overseas destination to get married, however, in order to obtain a fiancé visa, you must have a face-to-face meeting within 2 years prior to the application, which would necessitate a trip overseas anyway. Generally lawyers charge a flat onetime fee for the IV process; however the lawyer fees for the fiancé route can be double.
  • Depending on the Consulate, K-1 Visa applications may be more difficult to obtain. A common misconception is that the K-1 requires less paperwork than an Immigrant Visa. At some Consulates, I have found that the K-1 is scrutinized much more closely. It requires the same amount of forms and documentation as a marriage case, and in some cases, K-1’s are complicated with extra forms in order to obtain the interview at the Consulate. If a fiancé visa is denied at the consulate, your case is usually over. However, an IV or marriage case may be reopened by an attorney at the consulate level, giving the applicant a second chance to submit more evidence.

Kalita Law Group PC specializes in family cases processed at foreign consulates and will evaluate your circumstances to help you make the best decision on bringing over your fiancé/spouse. We have the experience to prepare the most comprehensive K-1 or IV packet to get your application approved.

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