EP1: CR1 vs K1: Which Visa Should You Choose?

Today we’ll talk about the pros and cons between the CR1 spouse visa and the K1 fiance visa. Not sure which to choose? I’m going to breakdown the complete comparison between the CR1 vs K1 so you can make a better decision on which application to apply for.

What is a K-1 Visa?

The K1 visa is for the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen. You are allowed to fly to the U.S. to marry your fiance(e) within 90 days of arrival and then you must file form I-485 adjustment of status.

K1 visa

K1 visa benefits:

  • Faster processing
    • The K1 visa is taking about 7-11 months to approve. When you compare this to the CR1 which takes almost a year to process, the K1 definitely has the advantage here.
  • You can marry in the US
    • If you really have your heart set on an American wedding, then you may want to go with the K1 visa. You’ll be able to plan a great wedding in any U.S. state that you want. The only problem is that you can’t leave the U.S. after entering the country until you adjust status.
    • Let me be more clear. You can leave the U.S. but you won’t be able to enter the country again on the same K1 visa.
  • Live together after marriage
    • This was a big plus in my own case. I didn’t wanted to be separated from my husband after getting married which is why we chose the K1 visa.
  • Lower initial costs
    • I don’t know about you, but I hated spending all that money to file paperwork but it was a must. The nice things about the K1 visa is that the visa costs are lower than the CR1 spouse visa. The reason for this is due to the fact that you are not applying for a green card.
    • But, when you adjust status (form I-485) you will be required to pay additional filing fees so that you can get a green card and have permission to work.

K1 visa disadvantages:

  • Must get married in 90 days
    • If you are procrastinator, this may be a problem for you (ha-ha)! Having to plan a wedding will be difficult in such a short period of time. Most venues want you to book a year out so forget about 90 days, right? But I will say that if you are going to the courthouse, this may not be such a disadvantage for you.
  • Can’t work after entering US
    • Yup, you will be in forced unemployment until your work permit (form I-131) is approved by USCIS. Take this time to read a good book, catch up on Netflix or volunteer at local charities. Anything to keep you busy during the day to you don’t drive yourself nuts checking your case status every hour.
  • Risky for beneficiary
    • This is one disadvantage that you may not have thought of. What I mean by “risky” is that the K1 visa only gives you legal status for 90 days after which you will have no status in the U.S. Now, if you get married and adjust status, everything will be okay. But, if you breakup with your American fiance or you get married and they refuse to file the I-485 adjustment of status, you are pretty much stuck without many options.
  • Harder to get approval from some countries

    • You  may not believe this but the K1 visa can be really hard to get from certain countries in the Middle East or Africa. Why? It’s due to the level of fraud that each consulate or embassy seeing happening in these countries. Since you don’t need to marry before filing the K1 visa, it’s easier for scammers to try to use this route as a way to get into the United States.

What is a CR-1/IR-1 Visa?

The CR1 visa is given to the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The U.S. citizen must marry their partner abroad and then apply for the visa while their spouse waits in their home country.

CR1 visa

CR1 visa benefits:

  • Immediate permanent resident (green card holder)
    • This is a huge benefit of the CR1 spouse visa. After entering the U.S., you will be a permanent resident right away and don’t need to file anymore paperwork with USCIS for at least 2 years. How awesome is that?
  • Less risky for beneficiary
    • This benefit relates to the one above because as a permanent resident, you have immediate legal status in the country. No matter what happens in your marriage, it’s likely that you will keep your green card even in the event of a divorce. As long as you didn’t enter the marriage for the purpose of getting a green card, you will not be deported from the U.S.
  • Can be easier to get in some countries
    • Nothing related to U.S. immigration is easy but if you are applying from a high fraud country, it’s better for your to submit the CR1 application than the K1. The reason it can be easier to obtain is that with the spouse visa, you actually need to get married and this shows that you are more serious about the relationship. This isn’t always the case but you definitely have more skin in the game if you get married than if you get engaged.
  • Wedding abroad, beneficiary family can attend
    • If you’ve had your heart set on a foreign wedding, then here’s your chance! You can get married in any country outside the U.S. as long as the marriage is legal there (this is specifically for same-sex couples). Another benefit is that the beneficiary’s family can attend the wedding in their home country. Many times the foreign family can’t get a visa approved to attend the wedding in the U.S.

CR1 disadvantages:

  • Takes longer to process
    • It’s true that the CR1 spouse visa takes longer to process than the K1 fiance visa. Why? it’s because there is more paperwork to complete. You are applying for a green card after all. Basically, you are doing all the hard work upfront instead of doing half now and half when you enter the U.S.
  • More upfront costs
    • With more paper work comes more expenses. The CR1 visa fee is higher and you need to pay for the affidavit of support processing. These cots can definitely add up especially if you are bringing a number of children along.
  • More paperwork to fill out
    • The I-130 (CR1/IR1) is a little longer than the I-129F (K1). Also, the online visa form DS-260 is much longer than the nonimmigrant visa application that K1 applicants fill out (DS-160). This can mean more time needed to complete and process.
    • The affidavit of support form I-864 is also considerably longer than the I-134 and is legally binding.
  • You’re separated after marriage
    • Finally, the last disadvantage of the CR1 visa is that you and your spouse will be separated after getting married. Some of you may be lucky and can stay in the same country to wait for the visa to be processed but the majority will remain in a long distance marriage.

Final Thoughts On CR1 vs K1 Visa

Now that you are familiar with the pros and cons of the CR1 vs K1 visa, which would you choose? It’s definitely a personal decision that you and your partner need to make.

I looked a many of the advantages and disadvantages of both visa types before my husband and I made the final decision. We don’t regret any part of the process and would do it again just the same if we had to start over again.

What’s important is that you have all the information in front of you to make a decision that’s right for you. Consider what’s more important to you as a couple and choose the path you want to take.

I totally get that the waiting period is tough and it feels like it will never end but I promise you that it will. You will soon be approved for your visa and well on your way to moving to the United States.

Then you will look back at all the fuss you made of waiting an extra few months when you have the next few decades to be with the person you love most and living happily in the U.S.

Did you find this CR1 vs K1 comparison helpful? If you’ve made a decision on which visa you want to apply for, let me know in the comments below.

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