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Marriage Visa USA—Guide On Marrying A Non-US Citizen In 2021

Marriage Visa USA—Guide On Marrying A Non-US Citizen In 2021

After getting a foreign spouse became more accessible with the introduction of IT, the number of Americans wanting to marry a partner from abroad exploded. Only in 2019 there were 35,881 fiances that got a K1 visa and that’s only the one of many visa types associated with immigration marriage. Keep on reading and find out everything about marrying a non-US citizen.

Peculiarities of marriage and fiance visa types

A desire to start a family is a natural step that many international couples want to make. But marrying a foreign national is not the same as tying the knot with a citizen. You need to get a fiance visa or spouse visa, depending on your personal case. Here are all the types of visas that immigration law marriage issues for fiancees and spouses in order to get to the US:

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  • K-1 visa—also known as fiance visa USA, is issued by USCIS. If you wonder ‘Is K1 visa immigrant or nonimmigrant?’—it’s a non-immigrant visa that is obtained in order to marry an American citizen in the US. The marriage must happen within 90 days after entering the country as a K-1 nonimmigrant. After 90 days and valid marriage, a K1 visa allows one to apply for adjusting status to a permanent resident, but it doesn’t guarantee US citizenship through marriage.
  • CR-1 or IR-1—also known as a marriage visa, is obtained by the foreign spouse at their home country after marriage to the US citizen. Such visas are issued to spouses who intend to immigrate to the US to live permanently with their American husbands or wives. The difference between the two lies in the period of your union. CR-1 is for couples who have been married for less than 2 years at the time, and IR-1 is for couples after two years of marriage.
  • K-3 visaa visa that a fiance or spouse can get while waiting for USCIS to make a decision on issuing a K1 or CR-1/IR-1 visas. K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visas exist to shorten the time a soon-to-be family or spouses living apart.

Previously, family members or fiancees might have been separated for some time while waiting for a visa decision. That’s how K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visas appeared. However, as USCIS now takes less time to make a decision, the current need for K-3 visas is rare.

Marrying a foreigner on a tourist visa

Initially, B-1/B-2 tourist visas or a visa waiver program are not designed for creating a family, but marrying a foreigner on a tourist visa is still possible. There are no laws that say that people who come to the US as visitors are not allowed to get married. But to apply for the adjustment of status, you’ll need to file an application and prove that you came to the US as a tourist and the decision to tie the wedding knot and/or stay permanently was made well after the entry. It might be more difficult if compared to getting a K1 or CR-1/IR-1 visa, but not impossible. However, getting married for Green Card is considered a fraud.

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Fiance visa vs Marriage visa

The choice between visa types usually confuses many couples. Each of the options has its own benefits, but not all couples are eligible for both. Couples who want to marry in the US apply for K1. And in 2020 there were 21,992 of such applications. And for spouses that choose marrying a US citizen abroad, CR-1 or IR-1 is suitable. And in 2020, 16,956 CR-1 and 18,921 IR-1 were issued to couples who applied to get a marriage visa USA.
Both types of visas are fundamentally different. In making your decision between the two, you’ll need to consider the speed of the process, expenses you’ll have, and, of course, your eligibility to apply for each of them.

How to get a fiance or spouse visa?

The K 1 fiance visa is available to foreign fiances of US citizens who are not living in the country and want to tie the knot within 90 days after arriving in the USA. To get the visa you need:

  • Check if you are eligible to apply for a K-1 fiance visa.
  • File a Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e).
  • Wait for approval
  • Once the petition is approved, visit the visa interview at the US consulate office abroad and pay the visa fees.
  • After a successful interview, get a visa and use it within six months of its issuance.

If you have already married a US citizen in your country, you cannot apply for a K1 visa and need CR-1 or IR-1.

  • Check if you are eligible to apply for a CR-1 or IR-1 spouse visa.
  • The US citizen or permanent resident should file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • Wait for consular processing and National Visa Center (NVC) review.
  • Visit an interview at the US consular office and pay related fees.

Visa processes may take some time, and while your approval is pending, you can apply for a K3 visa. To receive this visa, the US citizen spouse should file Form I-130. After getting the receipt notice, the US citizen must file Form I-129F to request the K-3 visa. Also, note that the US citizen filing to sponsor a K3 visa must meet certain income requirements.

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Difference between marriage visas in the USA

Visas differ not just in who can file them or the application process. They have differences in duration, cost, time of obtaining, and more. To choose your visa type correctly, let’s compare the main differences between all types of marriage visas.

Place of marriage

Couples applying for a K1 visa with a sole desire to marry inside the US are given 90 days for that. But if a couple wishes to marry anywhere else in the world but still live in the US, CR-1 or IR-1 will help in that situation. Also, note that an unofficial reception or church ceremony that is not legally binding is allowed before coming to the US to be legally married.

Time you need

If you want to get married as soon as possible and the place is not essential for you, then it will generally be quicker to legally marry outside the US. Getting a K1 visa usually takes 5 up to 10 months, making traveling abroad to your fiance much faster.

Visa expenses

Each visa type requires slightly different documents that differ in costs.

  • K-1 Non-Immigrant Visa—$2,020
  • CR-1 or IR-1 Immigrant Visa—$1,200
  • K-3 Non-Immigrant Visa—$535

However, there is no filing fee for a K-3 spouse filing Form I-129F as the spouse of a US citizen.

Factors K1 CR1 IR1 K3
Place of marriage The USA Anywhere but the US Anywhere but the US Waiting for marriage in the US or already married outside the country
How long does it take? approximately 5-10 months 12-18 months 12-18 months 6-8 months
Can it be used for immigration? nonimmigrant immigrant immigrant nonimmigrant
Expiration Period 90 days 2 years 10 years 2 years
Filing Fees around $2,020 around $1,200 around $1,200 $535

So, obtaining a spouse visa (CR1 or IR1) will generally be less expensive if the cost of a visa can be a deal-breaker for you, but it takes longer to get. Deciding on which one is better depends primarily on your particular situation, needs, and wants.


As you can see, there is no one universal visa that can help you bring your foreign spouse to the country. You need to be aware of the laws and consider the peculiarities of your situation to choose and apply for the right visa type. By double-checking all your application forms and documents that you need to file, you help yourself to have trouble-free visa approval.

Susan Winter
A recognized relationship expert, a motivational speaker, a bestselling author. She knows everything about the relationship models and challenges, and she understands how to help her readers make relationships successful. A one-day intensive course with her costs $1,900, but here, you'll get some precious relationship advice from her for free!

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