Marriage-Based Green Card or K1 Fiancé Visa: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

Marriage-Based Green Card or K1 Fiancé Visa: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself


In our practice at Ashoori Law, clients frequently ask us about whether it makes more sense to apply for a marriage-based green card or a K1 fiancé visa.  It is an understandable area of confusion.  In fact, there are a number of considerations that come into play in deciding which is the best course for you and your significant other.


Accordingly, in this article we are going to provide you with 4 questions to ask yourself that will guide you to the right answer about whether you and your significant other should pursue a marriage-based green card or a K1 fiancé visa.


If, after reading this article, you have more questions about getting status in the United States if you are planning on getting married, then we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law.  Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.


Pinning Down Our Immigration Law Terminology


Before we delve into the 4 questions, it is important to make clear what we mean by “marriage-based green card” and “K1 fiancé visa.”  So, here are definitions of those terms for your reference:


  • Marriage-Based Green Card.


If you are already married to your significant other, and he or she is a United States citizen or is a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. (i.e., is a green card holder), then you may be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card. A marriage based green card is when a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitions for their spouse’s green card based on the couples marital relationship.


  • K1 Fiancé Visa.


If you are not married to your significant other, and you are not living in the U.S., then your significant other may potentially be able to apply for a K1 fiancé visa in order to bring you to the U.S.


There are some basic requirements attached to the K1 fiancé visa.  First, your significant other must be a U.S. citizen in order to petition for you to obtain a K1 fiancé visa.  Also, you and your significant other must intend to get married within 90 days of you being admitted to the U.S. under the K1 fiancé visa.


If you are married within the 90-day time frame, then you, as the K1 fiancé visa holder, can apply for an “adjustment of status” in order to get a green card within the U.S.

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With the relevant terminology out of the way, let us get to the 4 questions to ask yourself to determine whether a marriage-based green card or K1 fiancé visa is the best option for you.


Question 1 – Are you already married to your significant other?


If you are already married, then you are not eligible for a K1 fiancé visa.  As noted above, the K1 fiancé visa process is only available to those who have not yet married their significant other.


So, if you are already married, then as the spouse seeking legal status in the U.S. you may be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card.


Question 2 – Is your significant other a U.S. citizen or green card holder?


As noted above, only a U.S. citizen can apply for a K1 fiancé visa in order to bring a foreign fiancé into the U.S.  Thus, if your significant other is a green card holder (i.e., a lawful permanent resident), then he or she cannot petition for you to come to the U.S. under a K1 fiancé visa.  In that case, you may have to go through the marriage-based green card process after you get married.


Question 3 – Are you lawfully present in the U.S.?


If you are lawfully in the U.S., then there may be no point in applying for a K1 fiancé visa.  As discussed above, the purpose of the K1 fiancé visa is to allow a U.S. citizen to petition for a foreign fiancé to come to the U.S. in order to get married.  However, if you already have legal immigration status in the U.S., then there is likely no point in getting the K1 fiancé visa.


Once you are lawfully in the U.S. it probably makes more sense for you to go through the marriage-based green card process after you get married.


Question 4 – What is your timeline?  How quickly do you want to come to the U.S.?


If the three questions above do not guide you to which option is best for you, then you should consider how quickly you want to get to the U.S.  In fact, in some way, the K1 fiancé visa process is faster than the traditional marriage-based green card process, to initially gain entry to the U.S.  United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes K1 fiancé petitions more quickly than traditional marriage-based immigrant petitions.


Thus, if you are outside of the U.S. and you would like to come to the U.S. sooner, then the K1 fiancé visa process might be the better option for you.




The choice of whether to go through the K1 fiancé visa process or the marriage-based green card process depends on your specific circumstances.  By answering the 4 questions above, you and your significant other should be able to better determine which is the best option for you.


My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.  If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.

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Michael Ashoori Headshot

Michael Ashoori, Esq.

President of Ashoori Law

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.