Visa Decision- K-1 Fiance Visa vs. CR-1 Spouse Visa
Visa Decision- Which Type?
Many people ask “What is the best Visa decision.” What should we do, a K-1 Fiance Visa or a CR-1 Spouse Visa? Which is better?
Well, there is no right or wrong answer in your visa decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of visa.
Each couple should review the advantages and disadvantages for each and decide for themselves based on their situation and what it most important to them before making their visa decision.
In this blog post, we will provide a description of both types of visas and summarize their advantages and disadvantages for the following important factors:
- Time frame to complete and enter the U.S.
- Government Fees
- Wedding and family issues
- Bringing children of the beneficiary to the U.S.
- Ability to work in the U.S.
- Travel plans outside the U.S.
- Health Insurance
K-1 Finance Visa
The K-1 Fiance Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to a foreign citizen (beneficiary) that is a fiance of a U.S. Citizen (Petitioner). As such, the purpose of the fiance visa is to allow the foreign fiance(e) entry into the United States to marry his or her U.S. Citizen petitioner.
The couple has 90 days from the date of entry to marry within the United States. Once the couple marries, the foreign citizen can go through the immigration process by adjusting his or her status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The foreign citizen can then receive a green card. However, if the couple does not marry within the 90 day period, the foreign partner must leave the United States within the same 90 day period or risk being barred from returning to the United States.
If the couple does marry before entering the United States, then the K-1 Fiance Visa is not available to them. Conversely, they must use the IR-1 or CR-1 Spouse Visa.
Unmarried children, who are under the age of 21, of the beneficiary may also apply for a visa (K-2) at the same time with the U.S. Citizen as the Petitioner.
CR-1 Spouse Visa
The CR-1 Spouse Visa is an immigrant type visa issued to a foreign citizen (beneficiary) that is a married spouse of a U.S. Citizen (Petitioner). In this case, the purpose of the spousal visa is to allow the foreign citizen entry into the United States to live and stay with his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. Another key point, the CR-1 spouse visa comes with a permanent residency card (green card), unlike the K-1 fiance visa.
The CR-1 (Conditional Relative) type of spouse visa is for a couple that has been married for two years or less. The CR-1 spouse visa entitles the foreign spouse to receive a conditional green card within the United States for a period of two years. Ninety days before the conditional green card expires, the foreign spouse can, through an adjustment of status process, apply to remove conditions and he or she will be issued a new ten year regular green card.
The IR-1 (Immediate Relative) type of spousal visa was not evaluated in this post because it is a visa for people that have been married for two years or longer. If you are already married, then you cannot use the K-1 Fiance(e) anyways, so there is no reason to compare the two.
Unmarried children, who are under the age of 21, of the beneficiary may also apply for a visa (IR-2/CR-2) at the same time with the U.S. Citizen as the Petitioner.
Time Frame to Complete and Enter the U.S.
In fact, time frame is the most important factor that a couple evaluates in making their type of visa decision.
The K-1 Fiance Visa timeline is definitely shorter time frame from the start of the application to receiving the visa and entering the United States at between 4.5 to 7 months with a good application and no Request for Evidence (RFE). On the positive side, you can start your K-1 petition as soon as you have met for real in-person once.
The CR-1 Spouse Visa timeline is definitely longer than the K-1 Fiance visa timeline. This includes from the start of the CR-1 Spouse Visa application to receiving the spouse visa and entering the United States. The CR-1 Spouse Visa timeline is between 7 to 12 months with a good application and no RFEs. On the negative side, You will wait to apply for a CR-1 Spouse Visa until after your wedding.
If you want a thorough, complete, very good petition application, then we recommend using a Visa Consultant like Rapid Visa. Rapid Visa can complete a thorough application for you to reduce your risk of a RFE or denial to help reduce your time frame to enter the U.S.
If the time frame to enter the United States in order to be with your significant other is your most important factor, then the K-1 Fiance Visa may be right for you.
Initially, in order to get the visa and enter the U.S., the K-1 Fiance Visa cost ($800) is less expensive in government fees than the CR-1 Spouse Visa cost ($1,200).
In the long run, the CR-1 Spouse Visa cost ($1,875) is less expensive in total government fees after two years than the K-1 Fiance Visa cost ($2,695). The increase in the future for the K-1 Fiance Visa cost is because of the requirement to Adjust Status after the marriage.
If the initial government fee visa cost is one of your most important factors, then the K-1 Fiance Visa is for you. If the overall government fee cost is one of your most important factors, then the CR-1 Spouse Visa is for you.
One other cost factor is if you are also applying for children of the fiance or spouse. For a K-1 Fiance Visa, children can be piggy backed on the K-1 Fiance Visa application. For a CR-1 spouse visa, children must have a separate application filed which increases the visa cost. Therefore, if there are a children involved, a K-1 Fiance Visa may be better.
K-1 Finance Visa Government Fees
The following are the initial government fees, as of December 2016, to obtain a K-1 Fiance Visa:
Filing Fee $535
Embassy Fee $265
Total Initial Government Fees $800
There are additional government fees after entering the United States for the Adjustment of Status after you marry and the Removal of Conditions after two years. These fees are summarized below:
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS (after Marriage)
USCIS Filing Fee $1,140
Biometrics Fee $80
REMOVAL OF CONDITIONS (2 Yr after Green Card)
USCIS Filing Fee $595
Biometrics Fee $80
Total Future Fees $1,895
GRAND TOTAL FEES $2,695
IR-1/CR-1 Spousal Visa Government Fees
The following are the government fees, as of December 2016, to obtain a IR-1 or CR-1 Spouse Visa:
Filing Fee $535
Immigrant Fee $220
Immigrant Visa (IV) Fee $325 (Paid on-line)
Affidavit of Support (AOS) Fee* $120 (Paid on-line)
Total Initial Government Fees $1,200
There are additional government fees after entering the United States for the Removal of Conditions after two years. These fees are summarized below:
REMOVAL OF CONDITIONS (2 Yr after Green Card)
USCIS Filing Fee $595
Biometrics Fee $80
Total Future Fees $675
GRAND TOTAL FEES $1,875
Wedding and Family Issues
The couple needs to talk about where they want to get married.
Basically, if you choose the K-1 Fiance Visa, then you most likely will be getting married in the United States. If you choose the CR-1 Spouse Visa, then you most likely will be getting married outside of the United States.
For example, does your fiance(e) want to get married in his or her country with his or her family in attendance? On the other hand, do you as a couple want to marry in the United States?
Is your fiance(e) from an exotic and warm place where a beautiful wedding and scenery can make a wedding special?
There is no right or wrong answer here. Ultimately, It is the couple’s decision.
These are all things that the couple needs to discuss and decide on their own.
Ability to Bring Children of the Beneficiary to the U.S.
Both the K-1 Fiance Visa and the CR-1 Spouse Visa allow unmarried children, who are under the age of 21, of the beneficiary to apply for a visa under the same program.
Therefore, there is not really any difference between a K-1 Fiance Visa and a CR-1 Spouse Visa in terms of the ability to bring children of the beneficiary to the United States.
One other cost factor is if you are also applying for children of the fiance or spouse. For a K-1 Fiance Visa, children can be piggy backed on the K-1 Fiance Visa application. For a CR-1 Spouse Visa, children must have a separate application filed which increases the cost. Therefore, if there are a children involved, a K-1 Fiance Visa may be better.
Ability to Work in the U.S.
The CR-1 Spouse Visa definitely is the best choice if your main factor is having the ability to work as soon as possible after entering the United States.
CR-1 Spouse Visa holders are allowed to work in the United States as soon as the the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer at the Port of Entry stamps their spousal visa in their passport. The stamped visa served as their temporary green card until their real green card arrives. The stamped visa is an official means to provide an employer of approval to work in the U.S.
A K-1 Fiance Visa holder is not allowed to work in the U.S. unless they obtain a work permit from USCIS, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain before you marry because it takes 45-90 days for USCIS to issue the work permit permit and you have 90 days to marry anyways. You would need another work permit after you adjust your status.
For K-1 Fiance Visa holders, after you marry, and through adjusting your Status, you can obtain a work permit from USCIS, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is for the time period after you adjust your status, but before you become a Conditional Permanent Resident and get your Green Card. Once you get your Green Card, you can freely work without the need for a work permit.
Therefore, for K-1 Fiance Visa holders, it really takes 45-90 days after you marry, adjust your status, and apply for a work permit to be eligible to work in the U.S. This is on top of the up to 90 days that you have to get married.
Ability to Travel Outside of the U.S.
Your K-1 Fiance Visa or CR-1 Spouse Visa are for a one time allowed entry into the United States.
For the CR-1 Spouse Visa, it is not a big deal as you will probably get your Green Card within 4-6 weeks after entering the U.S. That is if you paid your immigrant fee.
For the K-1 Fiance Visa, you may not get your green card for many months. First you need to marry, then adjust your status and wait for your Green Card. You are always allowed to leave the United States, but to get back in again before you get your permanent resident green card, you need a permit to re-enter. If you do not have a re-entry permit (Advance Parole) or AP, you may be denied re-entry. The AP is the re-entry permit that you must apply for if you wish to re-enter the U.S. after foreign travel while you are waiting for your Green Card. During this time, if you leave the U.S., you need the AP in order to re-enter the U.S. If you want to go out of the U.S. for your honeymoon, before you get your Green Card, you will need to apply for AP. It usually takes 45 – 90 days to get the AP.
You can apply for AP anytime, and even before you marry, in case of emergency. If you do not have the Advance Parole re-entry permit and you leave the U.S., you may be denied re-entry. If applying for AP in case of emergency, you can request USCIS to expedite the application.
Health Insurance Eligibility for K-1 Fiance Visa and
IR-1 CR-1 Spouse Visa Holders
K-1 Fiance Visa Holders
For K-1 Fiance Visa holders and K-2 Fiance Visa children, you typically are not allowed to join your partner’s employer insurance, the government U.S. Healthcare.gov, Medicaid, Medicare, or other government insurance until you Adjust your Status and become Legal Permanent Resident (LPR).
You can purchase private insurance on your own. One way, in the mean time, to get coverage is to purchase temporary visitor’s insurance.
We recommend VisitorsCoverage for your travel and temporary insurance.
IR-1/CR-1 Spouse Visa Holders
For IR-1 and CR-1 Spouse Visa holders and children, you can get insurance through your partner’s employer insurance, the government U.S. Healthcare.gov, Medicaid, Medicare, or other government insurance if you qualify. This is because you fall into several “Qualifying Events”.
It takes a little bit of time, maybe a few weeks to a couple of months, to sign up and have it effective. You may need to get your social security card and there is time to process the application. One way, in the mean time, to get coverage is to purchase temporary visitor’s health insurance.
We recommend VisitorsCoverage for your and temporary health insurance.
There you have it.
In summary, we have provided you with a bunch of information to help you make your decision on a K-1 Fiance Visa vs. a CR-1 Spouse Visa.
Like we said, there is no right way or wrong way. Consequently, evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each visa type.
In conclusion, discuss these important factors and make your decision based on what is best for you as a couple in your particular situation.