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Pros and Cons of Applying for a K-1 Visa versus a CR-1 Visa

May 4

While the K-1 Visa is designed for partners who plan to get married in the US, a CR-1 visa applies to couples who are newly married who wish to enter the country. While one visa makes it possible for you to marry where you plan to live, the other visa gives you an edge, as you can marry in Thailand before you enter the US.


The Major Differences

Both the K-1 visa and CR-1 visa are classified as visas that are used by couples of different nationalities. To apply for either visa in Thailand, one of you must be a US resident and the other from Thailand. Consider the K-1 visa a fiancé/fiancée visa and the CR-1 visa a marriage visa.

Whether you apply for a K-1 visa or CR-1 visa depends on whether you wish to enter the US as a married couple and marry in Thailand, or want to get married when you arrive. Both visa applications have certain requirements that you need to follow.


The Marriage Green Card

In each case, you will follow the same basic approach when applying for a green card. For example, you can apply for a marriage green card once you arrive in the US and can show proof of marriage. The marriage green card permits the Thai wife or husband of a US citizen to live and work as a permanent resident. This card allows the foreign spouse to apply for US citizenship after three years.

Receiving a marriage green card after applying for a CR-1 visa and entering the US involves a three-step process. First, you need to establish the marriage by filing a Form 1-130. Next, your need to apply for the green card by filling out and filing Form I-485 or Form DS-260. Finally, you will be asked to attend an interview as a couple.

However, that being said, there are differences in processing when you apply for a K-1 fiancé/fiancée visa and CR-1 marriage visa. On average, the K-1 visa takes about six months to get while the CR-1 spousal visa takes around seven months. Therefore, you will receive a K-1 visa sooner.


A US Non-immigrant Visa

The K-1 visa is different than the CR-1 visa too, as it is called a non-immigrant visa. Therefore, you don’t necessarily have to stay in the US after you receive the visa. While most couples do settle in the US after they receive this card, it is not a requirement.


An Immigrant Spousal Visa

The CR-1 visa, however, represents an immigrant visa. Therefore, when this visa is issued to a married Thai national, he or she plans to live with his or her US-resident spouse. In fact, “CR” stands for Conditional Resident. Therefore, the goal is to eventually get a green card or become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The CR-1 visa is designed to accommodate newly married couples or couples who have been married for less than two years.


A Faster Way to US Residency – If That Is What You Want

If you have been married longer and you are a Thai citizen and your spouse is from the US, you would apply for an IR-1 spousal visa. With a K-1 visa, you can join your loved one in the US more quickly. However, you will pay more for the privilege.

You just need to make sure that your application for either visa is correct or error-free, as receiving a denial can be time-consuming, if not frustrating.

One of the advantages of being married and receiving the CR-1 visa is that you can get to work faster. In fact, your stamped passport serves as a temporary type of green card. Therefore, can use the visa to apply for work upon entry. Your permanent green card will usually arrive after about three months.

If you have a K-1 visa and want to work in the US, you need to have your US resident spouse, after you marry, petition and sponsor you for a green card. You will not be able to work until you receive a combo card – a card that represents your authorization to work and to travel. You will need to wait on this card for about two months after you go through a required interview. You will receive your official green card after about six months.

As you can see, you have a longer wait time for working in the US if you choose to go into the country using a K-1 fiancé/fiancée visa. A CR-1 visa, or spousal visa, allows you to seek employment immediately. What you choose for entry will depend on your economic circumstances, where you prefer to marry, and how soon you want to take the step toward US residence.

To make sure you are on the same page in this respect, you should consult a US immigration attorney about your decision. Make sure you receive the needed advice before you move forward with your plans of living and working in the US.