For non-U.S. immigrants who are marrying a U.S. American Citizen, the immigration process can be very confusing and difficult to navigate. Fortunately, each year thousands of couples successfully acquire a marriage-based immigrant visa in the United States.  If you or your spouse are seeking a residency visa or if you were granted a marriage-based immigrant visa, understanding the requirements of that visa will help you avoid costly delays.

Types of marriage based visas


The K-1 category is designed for immigrants who are engaged to U.S. citizens. This visa, if issued, will allow the applicant to begin and complete the visa process, and be issued a visa prior to marriage, which allows the immigrant to enter the U.S. and then, marry the U.S. Citizen who applied for the fiance visa. The application process will take approximately 10 months to complete, and then, another 4 months to file for and receive the conditional residency visa. The applicant will be required to travel outside the U.S. during the application process. Applicants must provide background documentation at a U.S. Consulate and submit to an extensive interview process. Once the K-1 visa is granted, the visa is good for a 90 day visit during, at which time the couple must get married. If the marriage fails to take place, the applicant must then leave the country with no further recourse.


Immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens may apply for a K-3 marriage-based immigrant visa either in the U.S. or outside the country. The U.S. Citizen spouse must complete and file form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the supporting evidence. Once that petition has been accepted and granted, the immigrant spouse may then apply for the visa at the consulate or in the U.S. if they are in the U.S. The process takes approximately 6 months to acquire the visa with an additional 6 to 8 months to obtain legal residency, if you are outside the U.S. This process is generally faster than the CR-1 process.


This visa allows the non U.S. citizen spouse who has been married to the U.S. Citizen for at least two years, to gain legal residency status upon entering the U.S. provided the couple is still married prior to the entry. The process takes approximately 8 months to complete, but it can increase separation time.

DCF Processing

Lastly, direct consular filing (DCF) at the U.S. Citizen’s local U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate, is the final option for filing for a marriage-based immigrant visa.  This visa is processed entirely at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where the U.S. citizen has legally resided for at least six months. Proof of overseas residence will be required.

For more information or to have one of our legal representatives contact you regarding your immigration case, visit our website at Goldstein & Scopellite, PC or call us at 214-351-9100. Thank you

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  • American Bar Association
  • American Academy of Trial Attorneys
  • State Bar of Arizona
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