The fastest way to bring your spouse to the U.S. depends on several factors like the immigration avenue appropriate to your situation (K-1, K-3, or an immigrant visa), USCIS caseload, NVC caseload, and U.S. Consular caseload, and therefore the fastest (and the best) method for you might be different than that for another petitioner.

Other articles on the topic,

We understand that it’s difficult to be separated from your husband or wife for a long time. Communicating over FaceTime, Facebook or WhatsApp comes in handy, but there is no doubt that you want your significant other with you here in the U.S. If you are a U.S. citizen with a spouse who currently lives abroad and anxious to bring him or her to the U.S. to complete your “happily ever after,” this article is for you. If you would like to learn more about the sponsorship process for a spouse who is currently abroad, please click here to read another article on that topic.

Or if you need help completing Form I-130 Petition for your spouse, click here for a step by step instructions; and click here for a complete list of I-130 supporting documents. My name is Vivid Niroula and I am an Immigration Attorney based in Oklahoma City. My passion is helping people like you, by making the immigration process less daunting, as you anxiously wait to bring a family member to the U.S.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a fast immigration process, however, selecting a proper avenue appropriate to your situation can help achieve your immigration goals and avoid unnecessary delays. I aim to explain the various immigration routes available and the circumstances appropriate to each route so you may have a better idea as to what route is the best and fastest for you.

Please note that every case has a unique set of facts, this article can’t cover all of them and is therefore written for information purposes only. If you are seeking legal advice that is unique to your situation please consult an immigration attorney.

What is a K-1 Fiancé(e) visa?

A K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that is granted to a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen who currently lives abroad to travel to the U.S. and get married to the U.S. citizen within 90 days. This visa is applicable where you and your fiancé(e) are engaged but have not been married yet. Although the K-1 is a non-immigrant visa, it’s adjudicated like an immigrant visa by the U.S. Embassy visa section, therefore requiring police clearance and medical examination for the foreign spouse.

If you are already married to your spouse, then you are no longer a fiancé(e) and thereby making the K-1 visa inapplicable in that situation. The various stages associated with the K-1 Fiancé(e) visa include (1) filing of Form I-129F, petition for the Alien Fiancé(e) by you the U.S. citizen, (2) case sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) after Form I-129F approval, (3) case transferred to a U.S. Consular or Embassy and interview scheduled, (4) complete Form DS-160 and appear for the visa interview at the U.S. Consular or Embassy, (5) entry into the U.S. and marriage to you, the U.S. citizen within 90 days, and (6) complete and file Form I-485, adjustment of status by the foreign spouse.

Every immigration case is unique and the processing time depends on many variables like the facts of the case, USCIS backlogs, NVC backlogs, and  Embassy backlogs, however, in most cases it takes approximately 12 to 15 months from filing the I-129F to the receipt of the K-1 Fiancé(e) visa.

What is a K-3 visa?

A K-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa that is granted to a non-citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen and created to reduce the time the married couples had to spend away from each other. Congress created this visa category to offset the sometimes very lengthy visa wait times, by allowing the non-citizen spouse to come and live in the U.S. for 2 years as a non-immigrant while the Form I-130 Petition is pending.

In essence, the K-3 visa allows the alien spouse to travel to the U.S. and wait for the adjudication of a pending I-130 Petition here instead of waiting for it in a foreign country. However, the K-3 visa hasn’t lived up to the expectations of reducing the time spent apart between the spouses because the processing times for the K-3 visa in most cases is almost the same as a spousal green card application.

In other words, the I-130 is usually approved before the K3 visa is granted, and the Department of State stops K-3 visa processing and turns to the approved I-130 instead. Thereby nearly nullifying the utility of the K-3 visa in its intent to help married couples unite sooner.

The various stages associated with the K-3 spousal visa include (1) filing of Form I-130, along with Form I-129F by you the U.S. citizen, (2) case sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) after Form I-129F approval, (3) case transferred to a U.S. Consular or Embassy and interview scheduled, (4) complete Form DS-160 and appear for the visa interview at the U.S. Consular or Embassy, (5) entry into the U.S. after K-3 visa granted, complete and file Form I-485 to adjust status.

The K-3 visa processing time depends on many variables like the facts of the case, USCIS backlogs, NVC backlogs, and  Embassy backlogs, however, in most cases it takes approximately 12 to 20 months from filing of the I-129F to the receipt of the K-1 Fiancé(e) visa. Every immigration situation is different and whether the K-3 visa is a suitable avenue depends heavily on the facts of your case, but in most cases, you may be better off pursuing a green card instead of the K-3 visa for your spouse.

What is a Form I-130 immigrant visa petition for a spouse?

Form I-130 is a Petition for Alien Relative that a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident may file on behalf of his or her spouse, which after approval allows the alien spouse to apply for an immigrant visa. Congress prefers some family groups over others in that it does not subject this group to an annual numerical visa limit, and an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen falls under such group.

Since the spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes, there are unlimited immigrant visas available for alien spouses. In other words, the alien spouses of U.S. citizens have much shorter visa wait times as compared to some other family members, siblings of U.S. citizens for example. The various stages associated with sponsoring a spouse for a green card include (1) filing of Form I-130, Petition for the Alien Relative(spouse) by you the U.S. citizen, (2) case sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) after Form I-130 approval, (3) case transferred to a U.S. Consular or Embassy and interview scheduled, (4) complete Form DS-260 and appear for the visa interview at the U.S. Consular or Embassy, (5) entry into the U.S., may live and work in the U.S. permanently.

The spousal green card processing time depends on many variables like the facts of the case, USCIS backlogs, NVC backlogs, and  Embassy backlogs, however, in most cases it takes approximately 12 to 14 months from filing of the I-130 to the receipt of the spousal immigrant visa. Because the spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen and an immigrant visa is always available, filing an I-130 Petition on behalf of your spouse and then having them apply for an immigrant visa is the fastest and most preferred avenue to bring your spouse to the U.S.

Can my spouse come on a visitor visa while waiting on a green card?

While it is possible for your foreign spouse to apply for and visit with a visitor visa, he or she may face heavier scrutiny at the visa interview and the port of entry as to the true intent of the visit. Please note that the visitor visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa granted to a foreigner who intends to visit the U.S. for a short period and return to their country after the trip.

When there is a pending I-130 Petition filed on behalf of your spouse or even if that wasn’t the case, your husband or wife’s intent to return after the visit may be suspect. As a result, the visa officer at the U.S. Embassy or the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry may believe your spouse’s true intent is to stay in the U.S. while awaiting a green card and not to visit.

Therefore entering the U.S. on a visitor visa may lead the CPB officers to believe that trip is taken with fraudulent intent to come to the U.S. and adjust to permanent resident status here. In case you have a pending I-130 on behalf of your spouse, and your spouse is planning to visit you in the U.S. on a visitor visa, please consult an immigration attorney. In most cases, it takes approximately 2 to 4 months from filing the DS-120 to the receipt of the visitor visa.

Immigration Lawyer in Oklahoma City.

Vivid Niroula is an immigration attorney and a visa lawyer based in OKC who has a solid understanding of immigration laws. He is a green card attorney who provides a personalized and exceptional service making your search for a green card attorney in Oklahoma less daunting. If you are a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident whose spouse is currently abroad and is seeking the best path to bring your husband or wife to the U.S., call the Law Office of Vivid Niroula at (405) 456-9250, or contact us by filling out the contact us form.