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Fiance Visa or Spousal Visa in the Philippines? That is the Question


American nationals who find love in the Philippines may petition their fiancé or spouse through either a K-1 visa (fiancé) or IR-1 visa (spousal). While both serve similar goals of relocating their loved ones to the United States along with their dependent children (K2or IK-2 respectively), there are advantages and disadvantages for each type of visa.




With the U.S. Embassy in Manila issuing over 11,000 per year, the K-1 visa is by far one of the most common categories of visas that comes out of the Philippines. In order for a fiancé visa to be approved, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen (Lawful Permanent Residents/ Green Card Holders are unable to avail of this option), the foreign fiancé/ beneficiary must seek to enter the United States solely to conclude a valid marriage with the petitioner, and the parties must marry within 90 days after entry. In addition, no legal impediments to marriage may exist, and they have previously met in person within two years before filing the petition although this requirement may be waived if a showing of extreme hardship or long established customs can be proven.

If done properly, an American fiancé can have their foreign fiancé on U.S.soil in as little as four months from the time the petition is approved by the United States Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS). Specifically, some of the advantages of a K-1 visa in addition to the process being relatively short include not requiring the parties to be married immediately (90 day window upon arrival in the United States), the petitioner/ petitioner’s attorney is able to interact exclusively with the U.S. immigration system and U.S. immigration officials in the United States as opposed to going through a third-party, not having to deal with local foreign procedures of marriage in a foreign country, and the parties have the chance to interact and get familiar with U.S. customs and language before marriage.

While the advantages of securing a K-1 visa are clear, disadvantages due arise. Specifically, close family and friends of the foreign fiance will not be able to attend the wedding in the United States unless they are able to secure a B1/B2 Visitor Visa which can be quite difficult for Philippine nationals. Also, the visa is valid for one entry only which places restrictions on honeymoons or any kind of travel outside the United States. Also, parties need to factor in additional filing fees and costs as well as the fact that it could take up to two years before permanent residency is issued which essentially “locks” the foreign fiancé in the United States until residency is obtained.


Unlike a K-1 visa which is a non-immigrant visa, an IR-1 (or CR-1 if the parties have been married for less than two years at the time of application) is an immigrant visa which grants permanent residency of an American national immediately upon arriving in the United States. Advantages of an IR-1 visa include the spouse’s family and friends being able to attend the wedding and since the permanent residency is obtained immediately, future immigration work is substantially reduced (unlike a K-1 visa which requires much more paperwork after marriage in order for the foreign spouse to obtain residency). Considering that marriage in the Philippines can take place within 14-21 days, the IR-1 visa remains an attractive option for those who would like to be married locally before their eventual move to the United States. However, disadvantages with an IR-1 include the time it takes to issue an IR-1 can be up to one year compared with as little as 4 months under a K-1. Also, American nationals must be made aware of marriage restrictions in the Philippines such as extensive documentation supporting proof of U.S.citizenship as well as obtaining “Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” from the U.S. Embassy in Manila. In addition, Philippine law requires a Certificate of Attendance in a pre-marital counseling and family seminar conducted by the Division of Maternal and Child Health at the Municipal/ City Hall in the same municipality or city where the contracting parties applied for the marriage license.

Conclusively, the decision whether to go with a K-1 or an IR-1 has both its strengths and weaknesses.



Kindly contributed by Ryan Barshop 

*This article was also published in the April 1 – 14, 2012 issue of Expat Newspaper

  1. it could take up to two years before permanent residency is issued which essentially “locks” the foreign fiancé in the United States until residency is obtained. – That could just be the worst case scenario. Normally, once immigration interview is done with no fraud indicators, conditional permanent visa will be issued, then you can go anywhere out of US. Note: if you need to leave the US for some vacation right after interview, immigration can even provide you a temporary permanent resident visa stamp on your passport.

  2. Paolo,
    You are right on the money!

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