There are many factors to consider when choosing an immigration path, such as timeline, cost, travel and marriage plans. The main difference between the K-1 fiancé vs. the CR-1 spousal visa is that the CR-1 grants legal permanent residence (green card holder status), whereas the K-1 visa does not. We've expanded on the differences between the two below:
Legal Permanent Residence
- Once you obtain your CR-1 visa, you are a U.S. green card holder or legal permanent resident and you are able to immediately live and work in the U.S., as well as travel in and out of the country freely.
- The K-1 is a temporary, one-time-entry visa that does not permit you to work or travel in the U.S. Once married, K-1 visa holders must apply for adjustment of status (AOS) in order to obtain legal permanent residence, which is another long and expensive immigration process.
- CR-1 applicants must be married before they apply and K-1 applicants must get married after they’re approved and move to the U.S.
- If you and your partner are ready and able to get married outside of the U.S. right away, the CR-1 visa has a host of benefits that the K-1 does not. The CR-1 is more affordable and allows you to enter the U.S. as a green card holder with the ability to live and work freely.
- If you are not ready or able to get married abroad, the K-1 visa is the right path for you. Once you enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa you must get married within 90 days – you are then required to apply for adjustment of status (AOS) from within the U.S.
- For decades, the K-1 fiancé visa took significantly less time to process than the CR-1 spousal visa (marriage green card), however, according to the most recent government data from applications processed in July – September 2022, USCIS processing times for both visa types is now 14 months.
- Ultimately, government processing times are backwards-looking, fluctuate regularly, and are influenced by many unpredictable factors. While the latest data suggests that CR-1 spousal visas and K-1 fiancé visas are being processed at the same speed, we cannot predict what will happen a year from now. In recent months, more K-1 fiancé visas were being processed each week, an indicator that processing times could go back down later this year, but we cannot know for sure.
- The total cost to obtain a CR-1 visa or marriage green card is $1,200. The total cost to obtain a K-1 visa plus AOS (marriage green card) is $2,025.
- USCIS recently announced they plan to increase the cost of filing for a number of immigration forms, including the K-1 visa , CR-1 visa and AOS, as soon as May 2023. The proposed fees would increase the cost of the CR-1 visa to $1,485 and the cost of the K-1 visa plus AOS to $2,260 – $3,540.
- Both the K-1 and the CR-1 visas require travel, either to the U.S. or abroad (assuming you don’t live together outside of the U.S.).
- The K-1 visa requires the sponsor and beneficiary to have met each other in-person in the last two years. This typically means that the sponsor must visit the beneficiary in their home country before filing the K-1 visa application.
- The CR-1 visa requires the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident sponsor to be legally married to the beneficiary before they submit their application. The couple must also have met, in person, at some point on or after the date of marriage, and they must be able to prove that they met in-person with the evidence they submit to USCIS. This means that proxy and virtual marriages performed in the United States, while considered legal for immigration purposes, must be followed by an in-person meeting to meet USCIS requirements to file.