The K-1 Fiancé(e) visa is a convenient way for a U.S. citizen to bring a foreign national fiancé(e) living abroad to the United States to marry within 90 days of his/her arrival to the United States.
Petitioning as a FIANCEÉ vs SPOUSE
One of the most common questions in reference to this visa is whether the U.S. citizen should submit a Fiancé(e) petition versus a spouse petition. The answer to this question varies according to the following points:
1. Processing time: Processing time varies between both options, but typically it is faster to process a petition as a Fiancé(e) than as a spouse. While both processing times may vary significantly depending on the country as well as other conditions, typical average processing times for a Fiancé(e) can be around 6 months while the processing time for a spouse can be close to 1 year from the time the petition is filed to the date the spouse will be interviewed at the US consulate in their home country. It is important to note that processing times can vary extensively between countries.
2. If your Fiancé(e) has children: The K-1 visa allows for the children of the Fiancé(e) under 21 years of age to be included in the same petition without having to file for separate petitions. On the other hand, a spousal petition is more restrictive for children as it requires 1) that the US Citizen and foreign beneficiary be married before the child turned 18 (in order for them to recognize an official step parent/child relationship) and 2) that the step parent file separate petitions for each child they wish to bring to the U.S. Depending on the age of the foreign beneficiary’s children, the Fiancé(e) visa could bring additional benefits not offered by the immigrant (spouse) visa.
3. The state of your relationship: With the technology increasing sources of communications, there are many new couples that have met online and kept communications primarily online via apps like Skype, Badoo, Facebook, etc. This type of relationship that has very little physical contact sometimes has the US citizen wanting to bring their Fiancé(e) and having the option to change their mind if the person turns out to be different. While each application requires a good faith intention to marry within 90 days of the Fiancé(e) entering the US, if a US citizen petitioner changes their mind, the Fiancé(e) will have to return to their home country at the end of the 90 days if the marriage does not take place.
4. Cost: Government costs for the filing fees in both cases are a bit similar and should not be the deciding factor. Still, you could state that the average cost for a Fiancé(e) petition is a bit higher than a spouse (only if there are no children involved) since the Fiancé(e) will need to file an additional petition after entering the US and getting married. The cost for a K-1 visa plus green card application later (known as Adjustment of Status application) comes out to be $1,675: $340 for the Fiancé(e) petition +$265 for the nonimmigrant visa (K-1 visa) + $1,070 for the green card application to be filed after entering and marrying). The government costs for an immigrant petition as the spouse of a US citizen are $1,030 ($420 immediate relative petition + $325 Immigrant Visa application fee (DS 260) + $120 Affidavit of Support Fee + $165 immigrant visa fee (to be paid after entering the US with immigrant visa). Please note: these fees are subject to change by the government and are accurate only as of April 26, 2016. Also, these costs do not include a required medical exam or traveling expenses.
The most important documentation to submit with any fiancée petition will have to be the following-
1) Proof that the U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign beneficiary fiancé(e) have physically met within the two previous years of filing the petition
2) Proof that the U.S. Citizen petitioner and the fiancée are planning on marrying within 90 days of entering the U.S.
In order to correctly submit this petition and avoid delays in processing, it is very important to consult with an immigration attorney so you may be best informed about your options and any possible issues with your individual case.