What’s the Difference Between a Fiancé Visa and a Spousal Visa?


By Jason Shore, Immigration Law Attorney

As an immigration attorney, nothing is more important to me than helping people live together with their loved ones safely and securely. That’s why I work so hard on every single family-based immigration petition—because you deserve to be with the people you love, without the fear of deportation or any immigration-related consequences.

While family-based immigration petitions cover all types of familial relationships, some of the most frequent inquiries I get are about fiancé and spousal visas—or a K-1 (fiancé) and K-3 (spousal) visa. Folks are curious about how to obtain one, which is easier, what to do if their significant other doesn’t have documentation, and how much money they’ll need to invest to secure a visa. At Stern Perkoski Mendez, our team is here to answer all of these questions—so let’s take a look now.

How can I help my fiancé come to the United States?

A K-1 visa, or fiancé visa, can allow your fiancé to live with you in the United States, but you have to meet a few requirements:

  1. You have previously met in person
  2. You have the financial wherewithal to support one another
  3. You have an authentic relationship with long-term commitment
  4. You plan to be married within 90 days

There are, of course, exceptions to these requirements. For examples if you’re not able to obtain a tourist visa and your fiancé can’t travel due to a medical condition, the requirement to have met in person may be waived for you.

Or, if you plan to get married two months after your fiancé arrives but another COVID-19 variant shuts down courthouses, you may be able to obtain an extension longer than 90 days. In any scenario, you must be a United States citizen in order to sponsor your fiancé for a K-1 visa.

How can I get a spousal visa?

If you are already married, you’ll need to apply for a spousal visa, or a K-3 visa. To do so, you must be a permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) or United States citizen. If your spouse currently lives in a different country, a K-3 visa will allow them to come to the United States as a permanent resident.

If your spouse already lives in the United States but doesn’t have documentation, a K-3 visa can provide this documentation. Whether they’ve overstayed a past visa or never had documentation, if you’re married and a United States citizen, you can petition to be forgiven, and your spouse can become a permanent resident.

It can often be scary to seek permanent residence or citizenship if you or your spouse doesn’t have the appropriate documentation to live in the United States. Luckily, there are protections for married couples—and our team is fully committed to helping you stay together in the United States.

Is it better to do a spousal visa or a fiancé visa?

Deciding which visa to pursue depends on your situation, and we’ll help you determine the best course of action. However, there’s no reason to do a fiancé visa if your significant other already lives in the United States—because a fiancé visa only permits residence for 90 days and is dependent upon marriage. A fiancé visa makes more sense if your significant other has never lived in the United States, and/or if you want your marriage to take place in the United States.

Alternatively, if your spouse already lives in the United States, it probably makes more sense to wait to get a spousal visa. And, if you’re already married, then a spousal visa will be the right course for you.

What does the K-1 or K-3 visa process look like?

When you start the visa process, our team will help you put all of the necessary forms together (there are a lot!) and send them to immigration officials. Immigration requires photos, affidavits, birth certificates and several other pieces of evidence. It can be overwhelming, so we’ll walk you through each step. We’ll keep a copy of all evidence and paperwork—and make one for you too, just in case anything gets lost at the immigration offices.

We’ll then work with you to prepare for an immigration interview, where they’ll ask every detail about you and your spouse’s life to ensure that your relationship is authentic. They may ask which side of the bed your partner sleeps on, what color their toothbrush is, when they leave for work and where your first date was.

After your interview, we’ll wait to hear from immigration to see if your partner’s visa was approved—and in most cases, it is.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for a K-1 or K-3 visa?

You’re not required to have a lawyer to apply for either a spousal or a finance visa, but it can ease the stress and uncertainty of the process. Visa application fees are expensive, and the required documentation is complex. If your application is incomplete or inaccurate, you won’t get your fees back and will have to apply again. We always suggest working with a lawyer so that you can apply correctly, have everything you need and be confident in your application.

Contact Our Immigration Law Firm in Cook County and DuPage County

If you’re ready to apply for a spousal or fiancé visa, our team is ready to help. Give us a call at (847) 868-9584 or request a free consultation online. We will happily meet with you at our office in downtown Chicago, Oak Brook, via Zoom or at another location convenient to you.

Talk to an Attorney

For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.