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Marriage-Based Green Cards vs. Fiancé Visas for LGBTQ+ Couples

Pride Month is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, honor the strides made towards equality, and recognize the challenges that still exist. For many LGBTQ+ couples, one significant challenge is deciding on going through the complexities of immigration laws, particularly when one partner is not a U.S. citizen. Two common pathways to legal residency in the U.S. for couples are marriage-based green cards and fiancé visas. Here, we'll explore both options, their requirements, benefits, and how they compare to help you make an informed decision.

Marriage-Based Green Cards

A marriage-based green card allows a non-U.S. citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to live and work in the United States. This process involves several steps and requirements.


  1. Legal Marriage: The couple must be legally married. This includes same-sex marriages, which have been recognized for immigration purposes since the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.

  2. Genuine Relationship: The marriage must be bona fide, meaning it’s not solely for immigration purposes. Evidence such as joint bank accounts, lease agreements, and photographs together can support this.

  3. Sponsorship: The U.S. citizen or permanent resident must sponsor their spouse, demonstrating the ability to financially support them.


  1. Form I-130: The U.S. citizen or permanent resident files a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) to establish the relationship.

  2. Form I-485: If the non-citizen spouse is already in the U.S (and qualifies)., they can file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). If outside the U.S., they will undergo consular processing.

  3. Biometrics and Interview: The non-citizen spouse will attend a biometrics appointment and a possible interview to verify the authenticity of the marriage.


  • Work Authorization: The non-citizen spouse can apply for a work permit while their application is pending.

  • Path to Citizenship: After receiving a green card, the non-citizen spouse can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years if married to a U.S. citizen.

Fiancé Visa (K-1 Visa)

The K-1 fiancé visa allows a non-U.S. citizen engaged to a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married.


  1. Intent to Marry: The couple must intend to marry within 90 days of the non-citizen fiancé’s arrival in the U.S.

  2. In-Person Meeting: The couple must have met in person at least once within the two years prior to filing the petition, though exceptions may apply for extreme hardship or cultural reasons.


  1. Form I-129F: The U.S. citizen files a Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) (Form I-129F).

  2. Visa Interview: After approval, the non-citizen fiancé attends a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

  3. Entry to U.S. and Marriage: Upon receiving the K-1 visa, the non-citizen fiancé enters the U.S. and the couple must marry within 90 days.

  4. Adjustment of Status: After marriage, the non-citizen spouse applies for a green card through Form I-485.


  • Quicker Entry: The K-1 visa process can be quicker than the marriage-based green card process for bringing a fiancé to the U.S.

  • Time to Plan Wedding: The K-1 visa allows the couple to plan their wedding in the U.S. without the stress of immediate separation.

Marriage-Based Green Cards VS and Fiancé Visas


  • Fiancé Visa: Typically quicker for initial entry into the U.S. (4-6 months for visa processing).

  • Marriage-Based Green Card: The total process can take longer (6-12 months or more), especially if the spouse is outside the U.S.


  • Fiancé Visa: Requires marriage within 90 days of entry, which can be challenging for some couples.

  • Marriage-Based Green Card: Allows the couple to marry at their own pace, but requires the marriage to have already occurred.

Work Authorization:

  • Fiancé Visa: Non-citizen can only apply for work authorization after marriage and during the adjustment of status process.

  • Marriage-Based Green Card: Non-citizen can apply for work authorization concurrently with their green card application.


  • Fiancé Visa: Typically involves two separate applications (K-1 and then adjustment of status), which can be more costly.

  • Marriage-Based Green Card: Generally involves fewer separate applications, potentially reducing overall cost.

Choosing between a marriage-based green card and a fiancé visa depends on your specific circumstances and priorities. This Pride Month, as we celebrate love and equality, it's important to acknowledge the legal pathways that enable couples to build their lives together in the U.S., ensuring that love transcends borders.

For personalized advice contact our office today at 678-250-5449 or fill in the 'Contact Us' form below.

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