Potential clients always ask, “What should I do, a fiancé visa or marry in my spouse’s country and file that paperwork?" This is a personal decision which an attorney should not answer for you. All an attorney can do is explain the differences and it is ultimately the clients decision, which is best for them. Below is some more information on both options and some of the differences.
What is a fiancé visa? A fiancé visa is first and foremost a visa. A visa is not a green card, thus it does not confer a permanent status. The fiancé visa allows the alien to enter the United States to marry their fiancé. Generally they have 90 days to marry. Upon marriage the alien fiancé (now spouse) can file to adjust status to that of a green card holder. The main requirement for a fiancé visa is that the couple has met in person and that they intend to marry within 90 days of entry. The main advantage is that it allows the couple to marry in the United States and have their ceremony here. This may be advantageous if it is what the couple wishes to do. The current filing fee (as of February, 2013) is $340 for the fiancé visa and $1070 for the adjustment of status. Attorney fees vary and you must contact the attorney directly for a quote.
What is consular processing? Consular processing requires the couple be already married. It too results in an immigrant visa, however, as long as you are deemed admissible upon entry to the United States you will be a permanent resident and should receive your green card shortly after admission in the mail. The green card gives you the authority to live and work in the US permanently. The main advantage of consular processing beside it resulting almost immediately in a green card, is the filing fees are less. The current filing fees total $738, almost half that of the fiancé visa. Again, attorney fees vary.
The length of time for each petition is similar for both consular processing and the fiancé visa. It really depends upon a number of factors such as the consulate you apply to, whether there are any red flags, and whether your application is properly prepared. The general time frame I tell clients, whose case is filed by an attorney, is they will have a decision within 6 to 12 months. Some cases are a little faster, most are not longer, although some are.
In order to insure your application is properly prepared you should always work with a US licensed immigration attorney. Many couples inadvertently raise red flags with their applications when they try to file it themselves or file it improperly resulting in denial and significant delays. If red flags are raised or an improperly filed case is denied, this can make it more difficult