Know The Difference Between Fiancé Visa & Marriage-Based Green Card

USCIS seeks to promote family unity for couples by issuing a K-1 Fiancé Visa and Marriage-Based Green Card (CR-1 Spouse Visa). Immigration Law Firms like Salinas Law Firm have helped countless of individuals obtain Visas according to USCIS requirements.

However, couples often have doubts and questions regarding both visas. In this blog, we will explain the difference between K1 Fiancé Visa and Marriage-Based Green Card.

What is K1 Fiancé Visa and Marriage-Based Green Card?

A K1 Fiancé Visa is part of the temporary visa category and issued to couples who are engaged (not married) to a U.S. Citizen partner living in the U.S. and intends to get married within 90 days after the foreign couple's arrival in the U.S.

The marriage must be legitimate and in good faith, or else your Visa will be revoked if it is found to be fraudulent and for immigration purposes. After marriage, the foreign Fiancé can apply for a Marriage-Based Green Card.

In contrast, Marriage-Based Green Cards (CR-1 Visas) are issued to applicants married to U.S. citizens for less than two years, and the other partner resides abroad. CR1 Visas are issued on a conditional basis.

Two years after the applicant's (foreign spouse) arrival in the U.S., the couple can apply for removal of conditions. After that, the applicant will receive an updated 10-year Permanent Resident Green Card.

The timelines, costs, eligibility criteria, and process to acquire these two visas differ.

Processing Time for K-1 Fiancé Visa and CR-1 Spouse Visa

USCIS will process the petition for the visa and the processing time for both varies. If your case is not convincing and the relationship evidence is not sufficient, they might request additional documents.

USCIS releases processing time for both visas, including their forms: Form I-129F for Fiancé Visa & Form I-130 for Spousal/Marriage-Based Green Card Visa.

The approximate time taken for processing a K1 Fiancé Visa is 10.5-19 months, calculated from the moment you apply for it until you receive your visa approval. It varies depending on which National Visa Center (NVC) handles your case, and you can check on the bulletin list on the USCIS website. You must enter the U.S. within six months after your Visa approval.

The time taken for processing CR1 Spousal Visa varies depending on whom you are married to, a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident. The petition processing time for CR-1 Spousal Visa can be 13 to 16 months for a U.S. Citizen spouse and 27 to 32 months for Green Card Holder spouse. The time duration varies depending on which center handles your case. Check the visa processing time on the USCIS Website bulletin list.

Eligibility Criteria for K-1 Fiancé Visa

  • Sponsoring individuals must be a U.S. Citizen.  Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) can't sponsor their Fiancé for K1 Visa.
  • The couple must get married within 90 days of the Foreign Fiancé's arrival in the U.S. The marriage should be legitimate and in good faith, not solely for Immigration purposes.
  • Both partners must be unmarried. Any past marriages must be legally terminated.

You can read more about Eligibility Criteria & the Process in Detailed in our other blog, “A Complete Guide for Getting a K-1 Fiancé Visa.” for your reference.

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Eligibility Criteria and Requirements for CR-1 Spousal Visa

  • The Sponsor must be a U.S.
  • The couple must be lawfully married and provide their official Marriage Certificate.
  • The legitimacy of the marriage must be proven with evidence, such as photographs of each other, flight itineraries of visiting each other, or any other documents to show that the marriage was conducted in good faith.
  • The Sponsor must sign an undertaking to support their spouse financially & must file an Affidavit of Support. The Sponsor must have the means to support at 125% of the Federal Poverty Level. If the Sponsor fails to meet the necessary income requirements, they may use a Joint Sponsor to meet the income requirements.
  • The Sponsor must prove their domicile (legal residence of the U.S.) or a piece of evidence that they plan to return to the U.S. with their Foreign Spouse.

Learn more about Eligibility Criteria & the Process in Detailed in our other blog, “A Comprehensive Guide on Obtaining a CR1 and IR1 Spouse Visa.” for your reference.

K-1 Visa vs. CR-1 Spousal Visa: Which is less costly and has a better approval rate?

Though the processing time for both visas differs by substantial months, a CR-1 Spouse Visa may have a higher approval rate depending on the length of the marriage.  A K-1 Visa may require the submission of additional documents to prove the legitimacy of the relationship.

In a CR-1 Visa, the marriage has already been established, and may be more straightforward to prove it is a bona fide marriage.

CR-1 Visa Holder has the benefit of working in the U.S. after they arrive in the U.S. They aren't required to apply for a work permit. Also, as lawful permanent residents, CR-1 Visa Holders can travel outside the U.S. for leisure and work. However, they shouldn't leave the U.S. for over a year, as it will affect their Marriage-Based Green Card Eligibility and re-entry into the country.

Obtaining a Marriage-Based Green Card via the CR-1 Visa route can be less costly than the K-1 Visa route because the latter has to opt for a work & travel permit, which the CR-1 Visa Holder does not require a permit.

To summarize, if circumstances allow it may be wise to marry outside the U.S. and apply for a Marriage-Based Green Card to save time and money.

We recommend reading our other blog, "How to Change Your Status from a K-1 Visa to a Marriage Green Card?" for your reference.


After reading the blog, you will have outstanding clarification of the difference between the K-1 Fiancé Visa and a Marriage-Based Green Card (CR-1 Spousal Visa), their eligibility criteria, processing time, and which is less costly and has a better approval rate. However, if you have questions or need assistance, feel free to contact us.

At Salinas Law Firm, we provide comprehensive assistance with obtaining both K-1 Fiancé Visa and CR-1 Spousal Visa. As one of the most experienced Immigration Law Firm in Houston, we have helped countless of couples and individuals acquire Immigrant Visas and Marriage-Based Green Cards.

Our experienced Houston Immigration Visa Attorneys are proficient in completing the paperwork & documents required for faster approval.

We can also help you with Citizenship and Naturalization to ensure you fulfil the U.S. citizenship requirements.

Call us at 713.518.1711 for a consultation with our Houston Immigration Visa Lawyer.