Travel, Teach, Live in Korea
Which visa your new spouse will need to enter the U.S. depends primarily on why s/he is traveling to America. In almost all cases, the spouse of an American citizen needs an immigrant visa (also known as a "green card" [the old ID cards used to be printed on green paper], or "lawful permanent residence" [LPR]). The visa is sometimes known by its number designators, IR-1 or CR-1. All these terms refer to the same thing basically.
This immigrant visa allows your spouse to live, work or study in the U.S. indefinitely. Entering the U.S. with an immigrant visa and establishing a residence there is the first step toward naturalization, the process by which your spouse can become an American citizen.
Immigrant visas do require more time and preparation than a simple tourist visa, but in the end, allow you and your spouse to begin your new life in the U.S. without the worry and hardships that fraud can place on your relationship. If you begin early, and follow the instructions carefully, your new spouse can begin life in the U.S. with lawful permanent resident status (LPR or "a green card") that will allow him/her to live, work or study as desired. LPR status is also the first step toward naturalization, the process by which a foreign person becomes an American Citizen.
Follow this link to begin learning about the immigrant visa process.
But I only want my fiancé/fiancée to meet my family...
Any Korean citizen going to the U.S. for short-term travel, whether married to an American or not, must possess a valid visa of the appropriate type. Visa law requires that applicants for a tourist visa (B-2) must demonstrate sufficiently strong ties to their residence abroad to overcome the presumption of emigration.
Factors which will be considered include family, social, professional, economic and educational ties to Korea. Please note that we cannot accept guarantees or offers of support from third parties, however well-intentioned. Letters or other information given by American citizens on behalf of Korean applicants do not, by themselves, provide the information necessary in evaluating an applicant's eligibility for a visa. Appointments are scheduled online through Visa Information Web Services at www.us-visaservices.com.
Follow this link if you are looking for information pertaining to nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applications for family members of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) personnel of of a U.S. citizen/immigrant living in Korea.
But I was told by a travel agent that immigrant visas are hard to get, and my wife should go into the U.S. with only a tourist visa...
Unfortunately there are people who, usually for a tidy sum of money, will offer inaccurate or bad advice
For example, some travel agents will advise you that a tourist visa is the way for your new spouse to enter the U.S. to begin your new life there. Such advice can, at best, waste time and distract you from the necessary paperwork. At worst, it can lead to fraudulent statements that can see your new spouse found ineligible for any visa to travel to the U.S. It is always the type of travel-- a short visit or a new life living and working in America-- that governs what visa is appropriate.