|Fiance Visa||K3 Visa||Immigrant Visa|
|Sponsor eligibility||Only U.S. citizen||Only U.S. citizen||U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident|
|Marriage place||USA||Outside USA||Outside USA|
|Duration to enter U.S.||Shortest||Not too much slower than Fiance Visa||Longer|
Unlikely to be able to enter U.S. meanwhile
May be faster than K3 sometimes
|Duration to get green card||Longer||Longer||Shorter|
|Chance to get to know your fiance better before marriage||Yes|
|Travel outside U.S. while pending green card||Advance parole required||Advance parole not required||Freely allowed to travel in and out of U.S. as green card holder|
|Work permit||Can work after getting social security card and EAD||Can work after getting social security card and EAD||Can work instantly after arrival in the U.S.|
|Relationship failure before getting green card||No option to adjust status and must leave U.S.||No option to adjust status and must leave U.S.||Can’t get green card|
|Visa extension before filing adjustment of status||Not allowed||Allowed||N/A|
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While the immigrant visa process is overall faster to get a green card (typically, 1 year to 18 months, but it all depends upon the USCIS, consulate, etc.), they (spouse/children) enter the U.S. with a green card.
Through a K3/K4 visa, spouses and children will be able to arrive in the U.S. in around 6 to 8 months (again, it depends). It will take several years to eventually get a green card through adjustment of status.
If you have children between the ages of 18 and 21 who are not the natural children of your U.S. spouse-to-be, choose a fiance visa (K1 or K3). Due to a strange twist in immigration laws, children under 21 can accompany a fiance on their visa, but only children under 18 can accompany a just-married spouse on an immigrant visa – if the U.S. citizen spouse is not the children’s biological parent.
While comparing the choices, where available, Direct Consular Filing (DCF) is preferred as it is quickest. It is similar to an immigrant visa, but several steps are combined into one. However, DCF should be used for straightforward cases only. If there are any adverse factors, such as a criminal record, serious illness, or previous out-of-status time, DCF may not work. Also, the procedures at various consulates keep changing, and they may or may not be allowing DCF at any given time. DCF is available only to U.S. citizen-foreign national marriage and not available for permanent residents.