This is a common question raised by many couples. There is no right or wrong answer but there are a number of considerations to take into account.
First of all, I have no personal preference which process to follow. What is more important is does the couple want to get married in the U.S. or do they want to get married outside the U.S.? In terms of the time it takes to bring someone from outside the U.S. to the U.S. either process will take about the same time, given that a fiancee visa is processed for the most part in the same way an immigrant visa is processed.
I generally tell people it is taking 12-18 months to process for the time it takes to get a fiancee to the U.S. The same is true for marriage abroad and processing for an immigrant visa. Processing times may vary depending on processing backlogs and may also be affected by Covid-19 conditions in the country abroad.
Having said that, I would say the majority of my clients who are considering filing a fiancee visa, decide to get married abroad and file a relative visa petition and visa process for an immigrant visa. Note that the time it takes from the start of the process to bringing someone to the U.S. is approximately the same. Why do marriage abroad and immigrant visa processing? It’s cheaper and the immigrant immediately has work and travel authorization and conditional permanent residency upon admission to the U.S. Whereas with the fiancee visa, no work authorization upon entry to the U.S., you have to get married and then file for work and travel authorization with USCIS and wait for an adjustment of status interview. Work and travel authorization has been taking 6-8 months to process after filing, and it takes 12-14 months from filing to get to a green card interview and approval.
Why would someone now choose a fiancee petition over marriage abroad? Coronavirus travel restrictions. As long as the U.S. citizen petitioner has met the fiancee in person within the last two years, one could get started right away by filing the I-129-fiancee petition without regard to travel restrictions. (There are also waivers for the “in-person” meeting requirement, but they are difficult to obtain). It’s anyone’s guess but given the current uncertainty with the Coronavirus pandemic and variant outbreaks, the Fiancée petition may have an advantage in the time it takes to bring someone to the U.S. if the U.S. citizen does not have the ability to travel abroad to get married.
Note, it does not matter to me which process you choose. However, I like to give clients full information so they can make an informed decision. Obviously, these factors can change as U.S. Consulates overseas reopen and as Covid vaccination rates improve in countries outside the U.S. If you have further questions, please reach out today or visit our website.