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List of differences between the US Fiance visa and the US spouse visa

The United States issues two different kinds of marriage visas for foreign citizens. Both K1 and K3 (fiance and spouse) visas are immigrant visas that offer a pathway to citizenship in the US. However, to qualify for the visas, you must have a US fiance or husband who will sponsor you. Depending on your relationship status, i.e., whether you are married or engaged, you qualify for the fiance or spouse visa. 

What are the Differences Between the K1 Visa and the K3 Visa?

The main difference between a finance (K1) visa and a spouse (K3) visa is that a fiance visa is issued to a foreign citizen who is not yet married to a US national, while the spouse visa is for legally married couples (a US citizen plus a foreign citizen).

Additionally, there are several differences between the K1 and the K3 visa: 

Fiance Visa (K1)Spouse Visa (K3)
Eligibility CriteriaBe engaged to a US citizenBe married to a US citizen
Validity PeriodFour months Two years
RenewalNot possible but can be extended for six monthsRenewable in two years
Application fee$325$265
Processing timesFive to seven monthsFive to seven months

Difference in Requirements Between the K1 Visa and the K3 Visa

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the eligibility criteria for the K1 and K3 visa: 

K1 VisaK3 Visa
You must be engaged to a US citizen.You and a US citizen must be legally married.
You must marry your fiance 90 days after you enter the US.Your US spouse must have filed a Form I-130 from a foreign country. 
You must provide proof your relationship is genuine.You and your spouse must provide proof that your marriage is legal.
You and your fiance must have met at least once during the last two years— unless exceptional circumstances apply.You and your spouse must prove that any prior marriages you had are legally over. 
You must not be legally married to someone else. 

Diference in Fees: Fiance Visa VS Spouse Visa

Depending on which K visa you apply for, there are some fees you must submit:

Fiance Visa (K1)Spouse Visa (K3)
UCIS filing fee: $535UCSI filing fee: $535
Application fee: $265Application fee: $325
Medical exam fee: $200Medical exam fee: $200

For both these types of visas your spouse is required to submit an affidavit of support after you enter the US, for which the fee is $120.  Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the fees can go up to $2,000 or more if you and your spouse decide to hire an immigration lawyer. 

See the fees required for US visas.

Which Visa Should I Apply for: Fiance or Spouse Visa?

The visa you need depends on your personal situation— if you are not yet married, you don’t qualify for a spouse visa (K3), in which case you are automatically required to apply for a fiance visa (K1). However, don’t forget: you must marry in the US while your fiance visa is still valid. 

What Happens if I Don’t Get Married?

If you don’t get married to your fiance after receiving a K1 visa, you must leave the United States and go to your home country. You won’t be able to extend your stay, and if you stay illegally, you will be fined and deported. 

Getting a Green Card With a Fiance Visa VS Spouse Visa

After you get married with a fiance visa (K1), your spouse can sponsor you for a Green Card based on marriage. On the other hand, with a spouse visa, you are automatically qualified for a Green Card once you enter the country— all you need to do is apply with the USCIS. 

Working With a Fiance Visa VS Spouse Visa

Under a fiance (K1) visa, you cannot work unless you apply for permission after you enter the US. To obtain permission for employment, you must submit Form I-765 for Employment Authorization, after which the permit is valid for only 90 days. Additionally, you have the option to apply for an Employment authorization the same time you apply for your Green Card— in this case, your work permit is valid for a year, and you can renew it yearly. 

Compared to the K1 visa, your spouse visa allows you to work immediately after entering the US. But, you are still advised to file an employment authorization to provide evidence that you are allowed to work. 

Can My Fiance Sponsor Me for the K1 Visa if They Hold a Green Card?

If your fiance is a Green card holder but not a US citizen, they cannot sponsor you for a fiance visa. However, if they applied for citizenship, you may be eligible for the K1 visa. Still, in this case, you need to consult with a legal counselor to help you with your application, as it can be very complicated. 

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