Are you a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder) who has a girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancé, husband or wife that is abroad? If you recently got engaged, planning on getting engaged, or getting married, congratulations! You have a lot of exciting things to plan. “What is the quickest way to get my fiancé to the United States?” is probably a top question on your list. As well as questions such as “Should we get married? Is the visa for marriage better compared to fiancé visa?”
Our clients ask our best fiancé visa immigration lawyers all the time about the differences between a fiancé visa and marriage / spouse visa and which one is better. In this article, we will breakdown all you need to know when making this decision. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to both.
If your fiancé, wife, or husband is Muslim or from Iran, Syria, Yemen, or other Middle Eastern countries, there are extra hurdles and strategies to take into consideration. We will address that as well in Question #5 below. For example, the estimated processing times are different depending on your fiancé’s or partner’s country of origin (in other words, their passport country).
Here’s What This Guide Covers:
1. How Is Fiancé Visa Different from a Marriage Visa?
A fiancé visa is a nonimmigrant visa (temporary visa). The fiancé visa is for a U.S. citizen wanting to sponsor a fiancé who is currently abroad. In other words, it is not available to legal permanent residents (green card holders). The fiancé visa (K-1 visa) was created so that fiancés abroad can get a visa quickly to enter the United States. This way, couples could be together and not have to wait out the lengthy green card process in two different countries.
One of the main requirements of the fiancé visa is the two-year meeting requirement. During the two years right before you file the I-129F form (fiancé petition), you must have met your fiancé in person. If in the past two years, you were unable to meet with your fiancé, you must request a waiver of the meeting requirements by showing that a meeting in person would:
The other major requirement for a fiancé visa is that once you are together in the United States, you and your fiancé must get married within 90 days of your fiancé’s first arrival to the United States. You can then apply for a marriage green card through the adjustment of status (I-485) application process.
Keep in mind that when you apply for a fiancé visa, there is technically two separate application processes before your fiancé can obtain a green card. One process occurs abroad to obtain the actual fiancé visa for entering the United States. Once your fiancé is in the United States and you have gotten married, you do the adjustment of status process to become a green card holder (permanent resident).
Because of the two separate processes (fiancé visa then the adjustment of status), the fiancé visa is more expensive than a marriage visa case for getting the ultimate goal of permanent residency (green card status). The good news is the fiancé visa is usually the fastest way for your fiancé to come to the United States, especially compared to the marriage green card process. Overall, the fiancé visa is a great option for couples who want to start their immigration process right away and who do not want to wait until they are married to apply for a visa and wait out the embassy process for a green card.
The marriage visa is also known as IR-1/CR-1 visa (for spouses of U.S. citizens) or F-2A/family-based 2A category (for spouses of green card holders). A marriage visa is an immigrant visa process which means that once approved, your wife or husband will have an immigrant visa and green card status once they enter the United States. This option is for both U.S. citizen and legal permanent residents (green card holders) both.
As the name implies, you can apply for this visa once you are married. Therefore, if you are not already married, you have to make arrangements to get married abroad. The two main requirements for the marriage visa are that (1) the marriage is valid and (2) you have proof of your real relationship. A marriage is valid if the marriage is considered a “legal marriage” in the country where it was performed. One example is that if you perform a religious marriage ceremony only, you must make sure that a religious ceremony makes you legally married in the country where you performed the ceremony. For the proof of real relationship requirement, some good evidence includes ceremony pictures with family members in the pictures, extensive communication history such as phone logs, emails, and texts. You can also provide letters from family and friends describing how they know you and your spouse as a couple. If you prefer to have a wedding in the United States, a fiancé visa would be the best option. Overall, the marriage visa can be a fast route to a green card. Furthermore, a marriage visa is the most cost-effective option, which we explain more in the next section.
2. Cost Comparison: How Much Does It Cost for a Fiancé Visa? How Much Does It Cost for a Marriage Visa / Marriage Green Card?
Fiancé Visa Application Fees
Total government fees are $2,025 (as of August 2022) and are breakdown as follows:
Marriage Visa Application Fees
Total government fees are $1,200 (as of August 2022) and are breakdown as follows:
👉 These breakdowns are for filing fees only. Other potential costs may include medical exams, translations, legal services, photocopying charges, travel expenses, marriage ceremonies, etc. Check the latest USCIS or Department of State pages for each application to see the most current filing fees before deciding: The fiancé visa filing fees can be found here and the marriage visa filing fees can be found here.
As you can see, there is a major difference between the two applications. If you are open to either visa option, but cost is important to you, the marriage visa might be the way to go. On the other hand, while a fiancé visa can be a bit more costly, the huge benefit of the fiancé visa is that it is typically processed faster than the marriage visa so you and your partner can be together as soon as possible and applying for the green card together once your partner is in the United States.
3. Process and Timeline for Fiancé Visa and Marriage Visa: How Long Does It Take for a Fiancé Visa? How Long Does It Take for a Marriage Visa / Green Card?
Processing times can vary greatly depending on where you live, the immigration processing center, and the embassy that handle your case. For each step of the process, there are different agencies involved that have separate processing times. For example, the initial sponsorship application is processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Their processing times can be checked the USCIS processing time website here. After that, the National Visa Center (NVC) processes your application where you must fill out more applications for the consulate/embassy, then the American embassy or consulate abroad evaluates your visa application package and schedules your interview. An embassy interview can be scheduled fairly quickly or be delayed depending on the local country's conditions and the embassy’s caseload. For example, many embassies have severe backlogs because of COVID-related embassy closures and conflicts in nearby countries such as the war in Ukraine. An immigration attorney can advise regarding choosing embassies for the fastest processing times. Below is an approximate estimate of processing times:
Fiancé Visa Estimate Processing Times (As of August 2022)
Marriage Visa Estimate Processing Times (As of August 2022)
👉 These estimates are as of August 2022. For the most up-to-date processing times, check with USCIS and the embassy.
Your process could be in the lower range of these estimates. There are significant differences in processing times because of embassy caseloads and local country conditions. To put it most simply, you can expect at least two years for the processing for either the marriage visa or the fiancé visa. However, remember for a fiancé visa, the lengthiest portion of the processing is when your fiancé is with you in the United States. There are also options to expedite your case for each stage if there is an urgent need or emergency. Our experienced immigration attorneys can help if you need COVID-related emergency exceptions and other exceptions to normal processing times as well.
Here at ImmigraTrust Law, our top mmigration attorneys and our best Persian speaking lawyers have worked with several USCIS offices, National Visa Center, and embassies abroad. We can help you decide what are the best strategies for marriage and fiancé cases. Our best marriage green card attorneys have successfully represented hundreds of couples get marriage visas and fiancé visas. We can help you navigate all the requirements with ease. Based on our experience over the years, the bottom-line regarding processing times is that if you and your fiancé, wife, or husband want to be together, and you want to live in the United States, start the process as soon as possible.
4. Can I Apply for Fiancé Visa or Marriage Visa During COVID-19? Due to Coronavirus, Can I Get a Fiancé or Marriage Visa?
Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided both in the United States and around the globe. The good news is that fiancé visas and marriage visas are currently available. The bad news is that due to office and embassy closures related to coronavirus precautions, there are processing times and case backlogs at both USCIS offices and embassies abroad, which has led to longer waits for embassy appointments. Furthermore, international conflicts such the war in Ukraine has caused long delays in embassies such as in Yerevan, Georgia, which is a main embassy where Iranians/Persians are interviewed for their fiancé visa or marriage visa. Therefore, be prepared for a wait during the embassy stage. That said, we are hopeful that the waits will be getting better as the embassies move forward to process more cases and the Biden administration prioritizes immigration policies.
5. My Fiancé Is from Iran, Lebanon or another Middle Eastern Country – Is the Marriage Visa or the Fiancé Visa Better?
If your fiancé is from a Middle Eastern country (such as Iran, Lebanon, Syria, UAE, Qatar, Egypt Yemen, Libya, or other Arab nations, etc.), deciding between a fiancé or marriage visa requires a few extra considerations. For Iranian fiancés or Syrian fiancés, the fiancé visa is not the fastest or easiest option. Due to processing delays and extensive security background checks (also known as administrative processing), fiancé visas take approximately the same amount of time as a marriage-based application for people from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, etc. Therefore, the fiancé visa’s main benefit (coming to the United States quicker) is defeated for couples from countries like Iran, Syria, Yemen, etc.
There are still some benefits to a fiancé visa for Middle Eastern applicants. For example, if you and your fiancé want more time to get to know one another or you are not ready for marriage. Also, you might not want to have a wedding abroad as many countries have complicated marriage registration processes. Navigating American immigration regulations does not have to be your only consideration; you have to do what is best for you!
If you and your fiancé are ready to get married and are just wondering what is best as far as U.S. immigration processes, the marriage is the better option. A marriage relationship is a “stronger” relationship and shows that you both are truly committed to each other. Your spouse can still be subject to lengthy administrative processing (FBI background checks) in a marriage green card case. However, once the process is completed, it means that your spouse will receive a green card, instead of just a visa initially to enter the United States.
6. How to Choose Between Fiancé Visa and Marriage Visa — Pros and Cons of the Fiancé Visa and the Marriage Visa
Fiance Visa Pros and Cons
✅ Fastest way to enter the United States and to be together (for most nationalities)
✅ Apply for green card while together as a couple in the U.S.
✅ Have time to get to know one another
✅ Marriage ceremony in the America
❌ More expensive
❌ Two separate application processes
❌ Must have met in person in the last two years
❌ Must marry within 90 days of entry to the United States
Marriage Visa Pros and Cons
✅Fastest route to green card
✅Cheaper overall cost (application fees)
❌ Longer processing times (for most nationalities)
❌ Must marry abroad (consider sometimes complicated marriage requirements)
❌ Might not be ready for marriage
Ultimately, you have to consider all the factors and decide what is best for you. Remember, that the immigration process is one factor in your decision, albeit a major one. You also must evaluate what is best for you considering your personal life such as goals, location, finances, and your relationship. If you are not sure that you want to get married yet, then do not rush through getting married. If you know you have found the one and are ready, then get married and start the green card process ASAP. If your main goal is to find the fastest visa process, then typically the fiancé visa is the fastest way, unless your fiancé is from a Middle Eastern country such as Iran, which then both processes have about the same timeline. If cost is the most important factor for you, you can save significantly by applying for a marriage green card, instead of doing the two separate processes for the fiancé visa.
Here, at ImmigraTrust Law, we have helped hundreds of couples successfully get fiancé visas and marriage visas. We have won awards such as Avvo’s “Clients’ Choice Awards” for three consecutive years, Avvo’s “Top Contributor Award,” and “Best Immigration Lawyer in Irvine” from Expertise in 2020. Our office is located in Orange County, California, and we represent clients from all 50 states in the United States and even clients located internationally. Our award-winning lawyer is fluent in Farsi/Persian. All of our staff are Persian/Farsi speaking including our lawyer.
Our award-winning attorney, Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, is considered one of the best immigration experts and lawyers for Persian/Iranian cases. We have helped hundreds of Muslim couples overcome immigration hurdles that other cases do not face. Our best marriage immigration lawyer can help you pursue your immigration dreams with confidence and trust. Our office is located in Orange County, California, and we serve clients from all 50 states in the United States and clients who are located internationally.
We would be happy to help you and your fiancé, wife, or husband navigate the requirements and choose the best option that works for you! You can book a consultation via this link. Please note that when you book a consultation, the consultation fee will count as a credit toward any immigration services with us. For example, if your case costs $1000 and you paid $200 for a consultation, you will only need to pay $800 for the legal service. In other words, the consultation will be free and the fee you paid will be used towards your legal service.
We look forward to helping you reach your immigration success!
For more information on this and other immigration topics, please visit our articles page.
For additional questions, please contact us at www.ImmigraTrust.com or by calling (949) 424-2045. Please subscribe to our Facebook page for updates!
--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, Esq.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law (www.ImmigraTrust.com), an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended and does not constitute legal advice. This article does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not provide an attorney/client privilege. For legal advice about your specific case, please contact an attorney.
Latest posts and news from our top immigration lawyers