Choosing the Best U.S. Visa Strategy for a Spouse


Choosing the Best U.S. Visa Strategy for a Spouse

As a U.S. citizen, you can choose from several U.S. visa strategies for a foreign spouse or fiancé. The most commonly used options are the K-1 fiancé visa, the CR-1 spousal visa, and the K-3 nonimmigrant visa for spouses. Here we will cover the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

K-1 Fiancé Visa

The K-1 visa can be used in situations where a U.S. citizen is engaged to marry a foreign national. With this visa, your foreign-born fiancé can come into the United States for up to 90 days to get married. Afterwards, your spouse can apply for a U.S. green card through an Application to Adjust Status.

CR-1 Spousal Visa

A CR-1 spousal visa is a type of immigrant visa that is granted to a foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen. Unlike the K-1 fiancé visa, the entire process takes place outside the United States. After approval, the foreign spouse can enter the U.S. and will immediately become a Permanent Resident.

K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa for Spouses

Instead of waiting abroad during the visa application process, it is possible for the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the country as a nonimmigrant. After arriving in the United States, your spouse must file a separate Application to Adjust Status. This type of visa is designed to shorten the physical separation between couples during visa processing.

Choosing the Right Visa Strategy

In choosing between these possibilities, you will want to consider the following factors:

  • Marriage Location
    With the K-1 visa, your marriage must take place in the United States within 90 days of approval. If you would prefer to get married abroad, the CR-1 or the K-3 visa would be a more appropriate option.
  • Are you ready to get married right now?
    When choosing a visa strategy, the timing of your marriage is important. One advantage of the K-1 visa is that it gives you the opportunity to spend time with your fiancé in the United States before your marriage ceremony. If you are already married, you will have to choose between the CR-1 and K-3 visas.
  • Processing Time
    The K-1 visa is generally the fastest. It typically takes 5-10 months to gain approval. The CR-1 visa usually takes 10-16 months, while the K-3 visa falls somewhere in between. If you are not already married, the K-1 visa is usually the fastest option.

Employment Considerations

With the CR-1 visa, your spouse will be eligible to work in the United States immediately. In contrast, foreign-born spouses with a K-1 or K-3 visa must apply for an employment authorization card, which typically takes about 90 days to obtain.

International Travel

A K-1 visa is only valid for a single entry. Your spouse may not travel internationally until filing an Application to Adjust Status. In contrast, an immigrant visa holder becomes a permanent resident immediately. A K-3 visa is valid for two years and multiple entries into the United States are permitted.

Legal Fees

The CR-1 visa typically has lower legal fees because it only involves filing one visa application. In general, the legal fees for a K-3 are higher because a second application must be filed. The legal fees for a K-1 visa are slightly higher yet because an Application to Adjust Status must be filed.


There may be other strategies available, such as an H-1B or L-1 work visa. An immigration attorney can help you choose the right option for your situation. Family-based immigration can be a complex process. It is common for visa applications to be delayed, which means that you may be separated from your spouse for a significant amount of time. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible. Contact us today for a consultation.

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