Marriage-based green cards and K1 fiancé visas are two common immigration visas obtained by couples to live together in the US. Although they serve the same purpose, which is to enable separated spouses to live together, they are not the same.

On the one hand, a K1 fiancé visa is a special visa that the USCIS allows for a fiancé to visit their US citizen fiancé. Once the fiancé enters the US, they can get married, and then the alien fiancé can apply for a marriage green card.

On the other hand, to obtain a marriage green card, the two individuals must be married. Once married, the US citizen or green card holder can petition the USCIS for a marriage green card for their spouse. The citizen or permanent resident must submit, along with the appropriate immigration forms, the required documents. These documents are to prove that the marriage is bona fide and not a sham.

What Is the K-1 or Fiancé Visa?

A K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa, is an immigrant visa issued to couples yet to get married. The visa is issued by the United States and Immigration Services; the USCIS is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. This visa is only available to couples who are not yet married but already have their wedding date set (or near). To be eligible to file for this visa, the couple must have been together for at least two years.

Furthermore, the alien partner applying for the fiancé visa must get married to their US spouse within ninety days of entry. Either that or the foreign fiancé will need to depart the United States and perhaps reapply for the visa. Note that if your fiancé already resides in the United States, they are not eligible for this visa.

Who Is Eligible for a Fiancé Visa?

Fiancé of US citizens who are living outside the US are eligible to apply for the K-1 fiancé visa. Furthermore, the couple must have the intention to get married within ninety days of entering the United States. Below are the key eligibility requirements for obtaining a K-1 fiancé visa:

  • Both the alien fiancé and the US citizen fiancé must be single and eligible for marriage under US law. This covers same-sex marriages, even if they are not considered legal in the beneficiary’s home country.
  • The couple must provide death or divorce certificates for previous spouses if either of them has been married previously.
  • Only the US citizen partner can apply for the fiancé visa; a green card holder is not eligible to apply.
  • The couple must prove that their relationship is real using photos and written statements from those who know them together.
  • They should have concrete plans to get married in the United States, which they can show through invitations and venue reservations. They can also show any other proof to show that the wedding is a specific, planned event, not a vague dream. Otherwise, they can simply give a signed statement that they intend to get married within ninety days of entry.
  • The alien fiancé must have met their citizen fiancé at least once in the previous two years. However, the USCIS may waive this requirement for couples based on religious practices or extreme hardship to the US fiancé.
  • The US citizen fiancé must meet some income requirements, making at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines at the time of application. Furthermore, this number should have risen to 125% during the green card application.

K-1 Visa or Marriage Green Card: Which Is the Best Option?

There are two options open to fiancés of US citizens for moving to the United States. First, the alien fiancé will enter the US on a K-1 visa, meaning they will get married in the US.

Secondly, the couple can first get married outside the US, and the US citizen will sponsor their new spouse for a green card. Each of these two options has its advantages and disadvantages for engaged individuals and knowing the best option can be difficult.

The choice of which option to go for will depend on a number of factors. These include where you intend to have your wedding and how quickly the alien fiancé wants to come to the US. It will also depend on your budget; the marriage green card process costs $1,200 overall, while K-1 visa costs $2,500.

Are You Unsure of the Best Option for You? Herman Legal Group Can Help

It can be hard to decide whether to get married first and apply for a marriage-based green card or apply on a K-1 visa. This is why we recommend working with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you make an informed decision.

Herman Legal Group’s team of dedicated, expert immigration attorneys can help you understand your situation and choose the best option. Additionally, we can guide you in filling out and filing the required forms and also submitting the right supporting documents. You can book a consultation online today or, if you prefer one-on-one conversations, call us at +1-216-696-6170.


Knowing the best option between a K-1 visa and a marriage green card is a challenge for most couples. Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages, and working with experienced immigration attorneys can help you make an informed decision.

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