To qualify for a fiancé(e) K-1 visa, you must intend to marry a particular U.S. citizen. Whatsmore, you have to do it within 90 days of your arrival in the United States, and this date is not extendable. Of course, it implies that you must be legally eligible to marry and have an intention to establish a bona fide marriage. Also, this visa requires that intended spouses have met each other within the past two years.
What is important to note, a K-1 visa is available only if your spouse is already a U.S. citizen because a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) or green card holder cannot file for this type of visa. Learn are legal requirements for a K-1 visa.
So, in a comparison of K-1 and CR-1, you and your spouse need to prove a bona fide relationship at USCIS and Embassy for both of them. However, if the Embassy does not believe it is a real relationship, they can either ask for more information or, more likely, send the case back to the USCIS.
This will effectively terminate the K-1 case because the I-129F approval duration is only four months from the original USCIS approval date.
In contrast, if the I-130 is denied and sent back to the USCIS, there is no termination date on it, and the petitioner will have an opportunity to respond to the embassy’s concerns.
What can be overwhelming is that it can pass a lot of time until you get the letter from USCIS. In some cases, it will likely take about one year for the notice of intent to be denied indicating that the embassy is not happy with the material you provided. Many people simply re-file the I-130 and include new evidence that is likely to counter the embassy objections.
So, to sum up: to qualify for a marriage-based visa, you must demonstrate that your marriage with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is legal, legitimate, and not established to receive an immigration benefit, as well as that both of you don’t have other marriage, but are married only to each other.
Compared to a fiancé(e) visa, a marriage visa is available to spouses of both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, but with different processing times. Processing time for K-1 was between three and 22 months in mid-2020 while the processing time for CR-1 was at least 12 months and could be up to 18 months.
Certain criminal convictions or other factors can make you inadmissible and prevent you from entering the United States on either visa. These reasons can be membership in a terrorist organization or even certain diseases. Also, some people enter the United States on a tourist visa and then get married, although it is not recommended and can be justified only in specific cases.
There are two reasons why CR-1 takes longer than K-1. One reason is that there are two steps to undertake to get the K-1 (USCIS and Embassy), while there are three steps to the CR-1 (USCIS, National Visa Center, Embassy). The second reason is that the USCIS step can be significantly longer for the I-130 compared to the K-1. It depends on which USCIS service center adjudicates the I-130. They vary a lot.
But do not get frustrated by this information cause there are some tips that you can get from a legal immigration expert and quicken the CR-1 process.
One strategy to quicken the CR-1 process is to pursue a K-3 visa. A K-3 visa is similar to a fiancé(e) visa for married couples — it requires the same form as the K-1: the I-129F. In this case, you can file a petition for a K-3 visa after the I-130 petition is filed, and USCIS issues a receipt. This visa has certain benefits (Link to Article 11) and is intended to help reunite married couples if the I-130 takes too long to adjudicate stateside.
It can take a long time for the I-130 stateside, depending on which USCIS service center handles the case. USCIS can route the I-130 to any of the service centers, and process times vary widely. Some of the service centers take about 5 to 7 months, and others may take 12 months. If the I-130 ends up at one of the slow service centers, we would highly recommend you to file a K-3 petition immediately.
The K-3 petition may take 5 to 7 months stateside. It is then routed to the Embassy for consular processing. However, if the I-130 is approved at any time before the K-3 visa interview at the embassy, the K-3 will not be issued, and the CR1 visa case will proceed as normal. If the spouse enters on the K-3, he can file for adjustment of status once in the United States.