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Difference Between A K-1 Visa and A Marriage Based Green Card

By: Patricia Elizee, Esq.

What is a fiancé visa?

A K-1 Visa is filed by a U.S citizen who wants to bring their foreign fiancé(e) to the U.S in order to get married. The foreign partner applying for the fiancé visa must marry their U.S. citizen partner within 90 days of entry, or depart the U.S. After marriage he or she may apply for lawful permanent resident status in the United States (a Green Card).

Fiancé Visa (K-1 Visa) Requirements

The petitioner of a K-1 visa must:

1. Be a U.S. Citizen

2. Be Legally Free to Marry

  • Both are legally able to marry in the United States and any previous marriages have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.

3. Intend to Marry Within 90 Days

4. Have Physically Met their Fiancé Within 2 Years

  • You may request a waiver of this in-person meeting requirement if you can show that meeting in person would:

  • Violate strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice; or

  • Result in extreme hardship to you, the U.S. citizen petitioner.

5. Meet the Income Requirement

  • Options if you don't meet the income requirement:

  • Assets: Can use 1/3 of the dollar value of certain assets, such as real estate, stocks and bonds.

  • Joint Sponsor: Have someone willing to co-sponsor, such as a family member or friend, you can use their income.

K-1 Visa Process

Step 1. USCIS Filing

Step 2. Notice of Action 1 (NOA1)

  • USCIS has received your petition.

Step 3. Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)

  • USCIS has approved, denied or requests additional evidence for your petition.

Step 4. National Visa Center Phase

  • The NVC will run a security check on foreign fiancé.

Step 5. National Visa Center to Embassy

  • If the security check comes back clean the Bureau of Consular Affairs will send the approved file to the U.S. Embassy in foreign fiancé’s country.

Step 6. Embassy Letter

  • The U.S. Embassy (usually in the country of origin) sends the fiancé a letter with instructions for scheduling the medical exam and interview.

Step 7. Gather Embassy Documents

Step 8. Medical Exam

Step 9. Embassy Interview

Step 10. Visa Issued

Step 11. Travel to the U.S.

  • The fiancé has 6 months to use the visa to enter the United States. He or she will be given a package of documents by the U.S. Embassy which he or she will surrender at the Point of Entry (POE) into the United States.

Step 12. Wedding

  • The petitioner must marry the alien fiancé within 90 days of entry into the U.S. The 90 day clock starts on the date of entry in the United States. If the alien wants work authorization or re-entry into the U.S they must file an adjustment of status petition to receive a green card.

Marriage Based Green Card

If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you can become a lawful permanent resident (get a Green Card) based on your family relationship.

How to Apply:

If you are currently in the United States and have been “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by an immigration officer, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to apply for a Green Card without leaving the country. This is called “adjustment of status.”

As an immediate relative, you may file your Form I-485 together (“concurrently”) with the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative filed on your behalf, while the Form I-130 is pending, or after the Form I-130 is approved (and remains valid).

Required Documentation:

To complete the process, the petitioner must submit:

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with all required documentation, including:

  • A copy of civil marriage certificate

  • A copy of all divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees that demonstrate that all previous marriages were terminated

  • Passport style photos of both parties

  • Evidence of all legal name changes for both parties (may include marriage certificates, divorce decrees, court judgment of name change, adoption decrees, etc.)

  • If you are a U.S. citizen, you must demonstrate your status with:

  • A copy of your valid U.S. passport OR

  • A copy of your U.S. birth certificate OR

  • A copy of Consular Report of Birth Abroad OR

  • A copy of your naturalization certificate OR

  • A copy of your certificate of citizenship

  • If you are a Green Card holder (permanent resident), you must demonstrate your status with:

  • A copy (front and back) of Form I-551 (Green Card) OR

  • A copy of your foreign passport bearing a stamp showing temporary evidence of permanent residence

What to Submit:

You should submit the following documentation and evidence to apply for a Green Card as an immediate relative who is already in the United States:

  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the Form I-130 petition filed on your behalf (unless you are filing Form I-485 together with the Form I-130);

  • Two passport-style photographs;

  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;

  • Copy of your birth certificate;

  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);

  • Copy of your passport page with your admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable);

  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable)


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