What is the difference between a marriage based green card and a fiancé visa? The difference between a marriage based green card and a fiancé visa is essential and makes the difference between a successful green card application and a rejected one.
In this video, Immigration lawyer Kaushik Ranchod of the Ranchod Law Group in Sacramento, CA, offers advice based on experience that can help those of you seeking to file for a green card and need to understand the difference between these two visas.
Kaushik illustrates your best options for filing to avoid undergoing denials in your immigration application. Kaushik dives into the most frequently asked questions many couples have regarding these complex immigration applications.
By listening to this video, you will gain insights on when you should apply for the marriage based green card, the k-1 visa, or the immigrant visa. In this video, Kaushik explains why the strategy is so important and how it can influence the outcome and ultimately receive an approval or a denial. Not only will you learn which visa option is the safest and will not get you banned, but you will also learn which is the fastest way that leads to approval.
Which is the fastest immigration process that leads to permanent residence?
Let’s examine which immigration process is typically the fastest. The fiancé visa is the situation where you’ve met your fiancé, and you’ve decided to get married within the next three months.
Choosing to marry is different than already being married. If you are already married, things change significantly. If you are already married, the procedure you need to undertake is different. You’ll undergo either the immigrant or the marriage based green card process, which I will describe in detail after describing the fiancé visa process.
The Fiancé Visa Process
When we talk about the fiancé visa process, it is implicit you are not already married. It is essential to understand that you need to stay in the fiancé visa process lane if you start the fiancé visa process. You want to stay in that lane until the end of the process and then apply for the marriage based green card.
After you enter the U.S., you get married to your U.S. citizen. The requirement is to marry within 90 days. Now, if you don’t marry within 90 days, that’s a whole other topic for another video. However, suffice it to know that, should you not marry your fiancé within the 90-day window of opportunity, this could create some problems for you. Assuming you get married within 90 days, you apply for the marriage based green card.
One of the key differences between the marriage based green card and the fiancé visa is that the fiancé visa does not get you a green card. With a fiancé visa, you can enter the country to marry and eventually stay permanently.
Speaking about the difference between these visas, I often get the question:
“well, why would I want to apply for a fiancé visa rather than a green card?”
That is a great question! You would want to apply for a fiancé visa rather than a green card because the fiancé visa is typically faster than an immigrant visa. The I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, now requires anywhere from 13 to about 17 and a half months to be approved.
The processing times for the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative immigrant visa are constantly changing. On the other hand, the fiancé visa will typically be approved in less than a year. Again, these times are continually fluctuating, and they’re dependent upon U.S. government processing times.
No immigration lawyer has control over how fast those times move. Processing time is entirely up to the government. If you have an application prepared correctly initially, that’s going to prevent a request for evidence that could slow down your case and could even avoid denial, in which case you would have to start all over.
An essential requirement for the fiancé visa is that you have met within the last two years. You can prove you have met with your fiancé through passport entry stamps or plane tickets. Travel documentation is a primary evidence you can use to demonstrate that you’ve met within the last two years.
You also want to prove that you have a real relationship. Proving your actual relationship with your fiancé is extremely important: this is where I see many mistakes happen. Many tend to think: well, I’m a U.S. citizen, so that’s enough. It’s not! You have the burden of proof to demonstrate that you have a real relationship with your fiancé. So you might ask: “well, how do I do that?” A typical example of proof would be, for example, having photos of you and your fiancé together when visiting her. Other valid forms of evidence are correspondence and gifts you may have sent. Wedding preparations are also good supporting evidence. You also need to have a statement explaining what happened with your entire relationship and how it progressed.
If you or your fiancé have criminal issues, you’ll want to talk to an immigration lawyer. In fact, there may be some grounds that prevent you from entering the U.S. and you may need a waiver.
Suppose you, as a U.S. Citizen, have certain particular types of criminal records. In that case, you will want to talk to an immigration lawyer to see if you can get a waiver to overcome those specific criminal issues.
With the fiancé visa, your fiancé is outside the U.S., so at the beginning of the process, the first step in that process is the k-1 petition (Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé). The I-129F, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is filed with the USCIS. After USCIS approves the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé, it then goes to the National Visa Center.
The National Visa Center will perform background checks and will require additional documentation. Furthermore, the U.S. Embassy may require other documentation, for example, the I-134 Affidavit of Support. Another requirement often foreseen at U.S. embassies is the DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form). I recommend you consult the U.S. Embassy website to see what those specific requirements are because every embassy has particular requirements.
You will need police clearance documents. It is general practice to produce police clearance documents to demonstrate you do not have any criminal issues. Immigration authorities require police clearance documents from places where you’ve resided for more than six months during the fiancé visa process.
Then, at the very end of the process, you go to the interview. Joint documents are crucial for the interview. It is during the interview that you will demonstrate that you have a relationship. In fact, they will review the documents and ask you questions about your relationship. After approval, you can get married and then apply for adjustment of status, triggering the green card process.
The marriage based green card process
Now let’s examine the marriage based green card process. So the marriage green card process is for when you are already married and you live in the U.S. with your spouse. You could consider this option if your spouse is already here. There’s no reason you would apply for a K-1 Visa – you could also consider applying for an immigrant visa.
If your spouse is in the United States, you would want to go ahead and apply for the marriage based green card unless your spouse came in with the intent to stay in the United States permanently. In this case, you need to follow the immigrant visa process.
Fiancé Visa Adjustment of Status vs. The Immigrant Visa
Let’s compare the fiancé visa adjustment of status to the immigrant visa. The immigrant visa is the green card process where your spouse is abroad. In this case, the first step in the process is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, where you demonstrate you have a real relationship. You’ll want to provide joint documents in that I-130. As an immigration lawyer based in Sacramento, CA, I see increased scrutiny on these joint documents. In fact, ten years ago, I recall authorities being more tolerant about having these joint documents at the I-130 petition stage. They were required only at the end of the immigration process. Nowadays, I’m noticing they want to see them attached to the initial filing of the I-130 petition where you demonstrate you have a valid marriage and submit that I-130 petition.
The entire process requires approximately 13 to 17 months which is a long time. We hope to see those times go down soon. Processing timelines are constantly changing. For up-to-date information, consult the uscis.gov website under processing times. On the uscis.gov website, you’ll find the specific service center dealing with your geographical location. For instance, say you live in California and find the service center near you where you would apply. The uscis.gov website, depending upon where you live, will determine where to present your application, and this will depend upon the current processing times.
Moving on, after the I-130 process, once the case is approved, you will file the additional required documentation at the national visa center. At this point of the immigration procedure, it’s imperative to demonstrate that you can sufficiently support your spouse. Now the key difference here is that you, as a U.S. citizen, can apply for your spouse abroad and as a permanent resident, but if you’re a permanent resident, what’s important to note is that you’re going to be also subject to the visa bulletin. Therefore, you want to look at the visa bulletin to determine whether or not your priority dates are current.
Now let’s go back to the affidavit of support and the public charge requirements. You need to demonstrate that your spouse is not going to be a public charge. So there’s the affidavit of support I-864 form, and there’s also supporting documentation that you need to provide and prove that your spouse will be self-sufficient. So some of the things that they look at are health insurance or, for instance, a credit report: this is an additional requirement. They will investigate whether or not the applicant has taken certain types of public benefits in the past.
About the interview
During the interview, the immigration officer will determine whether or not you have a real relationship. Keep in mind these interviews are essential: they go very fast. Bring your joint documents to the interview. As I mentioned earlier, they will most likely review your financial documents again to determine whether or not you’re going to be a public charge or you can prove to be self-sufficient. In addition to all this, the immigration officer will look for instances that may constitute a ground of admissibility. A ground of admissibility would make you ineligible to reside in the United States. For example, let’s say you have committed a specific crime type or any misrepresentation fraud or misrepresentation in the past. In that situation, you may be eligible for an I-601 waiver. You may also qualify for an I-601 Waiver if you’ve entered the U.S. without inspection. In this situation, you have the interview, and then, after the interview, you are allowed to enter the U.S., and you are admitted as a green card holder.
Another key difference between the immigrant visa and the fiancé visa
The critical difference between the immigrant visa and the fiancé visa is that you are admitted to the U.S. with a green card. With a green card, you’re able to permanently live in the United States, provided you don’t violate the terms of the green card. You can work with the green card, and you can also travel on the green card. With a fiancé visa, you need to apply for work authorization if you want to work. The requirement to apply for work authorization doesn’t make sense because you’re going to get married to a U.S. citizen right away.
So you apply for the marriage based green card, which allows you to apply for work authorization.
For more information on this subject, consult our marriage based green card page, or you can contact us now for a consultation at (916) 613-3553 or use the following contact form and explain your situation without any obligation.