Here at Antonini & Cohen Immigration Law Group, we’re regularly asked to explain the difference between a fiancé petition and a spouse petition when someone has married while abroad or plans to marry an individual who is outside of the United States. Before going into more detail it is helpful to understand that only U.S. citizens can petition for a fiancé, while both U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents can file for a spouse. As a U.S. citizen, choosing which to file will depend on your circumstances:

Filing a fiancé petition

The fiancé petition is filed on a Form I-129F and is used when the future spouse (the non-citizen) is outside the United States. First, the U.S. citizen files the form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once it’s granted, the application is sent to the U.S. State Department for scheduling of an interview at the foreign consulate in the non-citizen country of origin. 

The foreign consulate will then conduct an interview and decide whether a fiancé visa can be issued. The fiancé visa is a non-immigrant visa, which permits entry to the United States for a limited period of time. The visa recipient then has 90 days from entry to marry the U.S. citizen who petitioned for them. Once married, the non-citizen files for a green card. This option is generally preferred when the couple has not yet married and hopes to marry in the United States. 

Filing a spouse petition

Spousal petitions are options when the non-citizen spouse remains abroad after marriage. A U.S. citizen can choose between a non-immigrant K3 spousal visa or an immigrant visa. 

A K3 visa is obtained by filing Form I-129F and attending a consular interview at the foreign consulate. It is a non-immigrant visa, which permits entry to the United States so that the non-citizen spouse can file for a green card upon arrival in the United States.  

In contrast, the immigrant visa process allows the non-citizen spouse to enter as a permanent resident. This process is known as a marriage based family petition and requires filing of Form I-130 with USCIS. Once approved, this petition is forwarded to the U.S. State Department for an interview at the foreign consulate. If approved, the non-citizen receives an immigrant visa and enters as a lawful permanent resident.

We are here to help you navigate your options, understand these differences and help you choose the best option for your family. Visit us online or call us at (404) 850-9394 to schedule your consultation.

Marshall Cohen
Marshall Cohen

Marshall Cohen is one of the founding principals of Antonini & Cohen. Admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1989, he has practiced immigration law exclusively for over 30 years. Mr. Cohen practices all areas of immigration law including family and employment cases, temporary and permanent visas, naturalization, deportation defense, and federal litigation.

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