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Should you apply for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa or marriage-based Visa?

When you're in love with a non-U.S. citizen, you have options for bringing them to the U.S. The fiancé(e) visa is a well-known option, but you can also consider marrying first then obtaining a marriage visa. Explore the pros and cons of each to decide what's right for you and your fiancé(e).

Pros and cons of a K-1 visa

A K-1 visa is the easiest way for lower-income couples to obtain a visa for the non-U.S. resident. Your fiancé(e) visa only requires your income and assets to be above the federal poverty line. However, it is important to know that the K-1 visa may come with hidden fees. For example, some applicants find upon entry to the U.S. that their medical exam has an error related to the vaccination part of the health check. This could be something as minor as a paperwork error, or it may require an additional vaccination. Whatever the error, it means your fiancé(e) will need to pay for an American doctor to do another medical exam-and U.S. doctor visits are pricey.

Additionally, to qualify for a K-1 visa, you must show that you and your fiancé(e) have met at least once in person in the two years prior to filing the visa application. If it's been a long time since you've seen your intended spouse, or if you have only met online, this means making plans to visit in person-and all of the added expense that entails.

Pros and cons of a marriage-based visa

The major benefit of a marriage visa is that you don't need to wait to get married, and you don't have to worry about quotas. While you will still need to apply for the visa, pass a health screening and wait for the paperwork to be processed, the timeframe much shorter. The other benefit of a marriage visa is that the non-U.S. citizen will be legally allowed to stay in the U.S. as a permanent resident and won't have to continue submitting visa applications, as they would with the K-1 visa.

With the marriage visa, you must show that your income and assets exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. If you can't prove this, the K-1 visa may be easier to obtain.

Note that there is an alternate path to a marriage visa for low-income couples who are under the federal poverty line (making them ineligible for a fiancé(e) or traditional marriage visa), but it requires finding a joint sponsor to vouch for you and your spouse.

If you have questions about the visa process, look for an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney can explain the process in clear language, so you understand exactly what is required. Since any mistakes can delay the process or lead to a denial of your request, working with a knowledgeable lawyer is essential.

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