What Is a K-1 Fiance Visa?
The K-1 Fiancé Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a foreign national to enter the United States to marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days of arrival. The fiancé(e) and U.S. citizen must have previously met in person within the past two years and must demonstrate a bona fide intention to marry.
Do You Really Need a K-1 Fiance Visa?
If you are engaged to a foreign national and wish to get married in the US, then you may need a K-1 visa. However, whether you need one or not will depend on your individual circumstances, such as your citizenship status, your fiance's citizenship status, and your specific plans for getting married.
Benefits of a Fiance Visa
The K-1 fiance visa has several benefits for couples who are planning to get married in the United States:
- Legally enter the US: The K-1 visa allows the foreign fiance of a US citizen to enter the United States legally, making it easier for the couple to be together in the US before and after their marriage.
- Time to plan the wedding: The K-1 visa allows the couple to spend time together in the US to plan their wedding and make other necessary arrangements before the wedding day.
- Employment authorization: Once the foreign fiance enters the US with a K-1 visa, they may apply for employment authorization, allowing them to work and earn money legally while they wait for their marriage and immigration process to be completed.
- Eligibility for adjustment of status: Once the couple is married, the foreign fiance may apply for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident of the US. This process is typically easier and faster than other methods of obtaining permanent residency.
- Path to citizenship: If the foreign fiance becomes a permanent resident, they may eventually become eligible to apply for US citizenship, allowing them to live and work in the US permanently.
Who Is Eligible for a K-1 Visa?
To be eligible for a K-1 fiance visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be a US citizen: The petitioner, or the person applying for the K-1 visa on behalf of their fiance, must be a US citizen.
- You must have met your fiance in person within the last two years: The couple must have met in person at least once within the last two years before filing the K-1 visa application.
- You must be legally able to marry: The couple must be legally able to marry, which means they must be of legal age to marry in their respective states or countries, and they must not be closely related.
- You must have a genuine relationship: The couple must have a bona fide, or genuine, relationship, which means they are not entering into a marriage solely for immigration purposes.
- You must meet the financial requirements: The petitioner must meet the minimum income requirements set by the US government to demonstrate their ability to financially support their fiance.
- You must provide evidence of your relationship: The couple must provide evidence of their relationship, such as photos, emails, and other documentation that shows they have a legitimate relationship.
What Is a K-1 Fiance Visa Application Process?
The process of obtaining a K1 visa and then the green card thereafter involves three different phases, as follows:
- Applying with USCIS: The first phase of obtaining a K1 visa is to apply with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This involves submitting a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), along with all required supporting documents. This application must be filed by the U.S. citizen who wishes to bring their fiancé(e) to the United States.
- National Visa Center: After the USCIS approves the I-129F petition, it is then forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is responsible for collecting and processing all necessary information and fees before forwarding the case to the U.S. consulate where the fiancé(e) will be interviewed.
- Filing for Adjustment of Status: Once the fiancé(e) has been issued a K1 visa, has arrived in the United States, and married, the final phase is to file for adjustment of status. This involves filing a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with all required supporting documents. This application must be filed within 90 days of the fiancé(e)'s arrival in the United States though a later filing may be permissible under certain circumstances.
Overall, obtaining permanent residence through a K1 visa is a multi-step process that involves applying with USCIS, working with the National Visa Center, and finally filing for adjustment of status. Each part of the process can take several months to complete, and it is important to provide accurate and complete information throughout the process.
Forms Involved in the Process:
- Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
The I-129F form, also known as the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), is a crucial part of the K1 visa process. The purpose of this form is to provide the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with information about the U.S. petitioner and their foreign fiancé(e), their genuine relationship, and their intention to get married within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)'s arrival in the United States. The I-129F form serves as the first step in the K1 visa process and must be completed and submitted by the U.S. petitioner. The USCIS will then review the form to determine the eligibility of the U.S. petitioner and foreign fiancé(e) and will issue a Notice of Action (NOA) if the form is approved. Once the I-129F petition is approved, the foreign fiancé(e) can then apply for a K1 visa.
- Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support
Form I-134 in this case is used by the U.S. citizen to sponsor the foreign national fiancé(e) who is coming to the United States temporarily. The Declaration of Financial Support is a written declaration that the sponsor promises to financially support the foreign national for the duration of their stay in the United States. The form is used to help establish that the foreign national will not become a public charge (a burden on the U.S. government) while they are in the U.S.
The I-134 Declaration of Financial Support must be completed by the sponsor and submitted with the foreign national's visa application.
The Affidavit of Support includes information about the sponsor, the foreign national, and the sponsor's financial information. The sponsor must provide evidence of their income and financial resources, such as tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements. The foreign national must also provide certain information about their background and immigration history.
The Declaration of Financial Support is an important part of the visa application process, as it demonstrates the sponsor's commitment to supporting the foreign national while they are in the U.S.
- Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
An approved I-129F application is only the first step in the process and does not yet give the foreign fiancé(e) the ability to enter the US. The next step involves the National Visa Center where the Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application is required to continue processing the K-1 Visa. The purpose of the form is to gather information about the visa applicant and to assess their eligibility for a K1 visa. The form includes questions about the applicant's personal information, travel history, employment history, and other relevant details. The information collected on the form, along with the in-person visa interview at the consulate (see Interview Process below for more information), is used by the U.S. Department of State to help determine whether the applicant is admissible to the United States and whether they meet the requirements for a K1 visa. The DS-160 is an important part of the K1 visa process and must be completed and submitted accurately in order to move forward in the visa process.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (if applying for permanent residency after marriage)
Receiving a K1 Visa and entering the US does not give the foreign fiance any permanent benefits or status. In order to complete the K1 process, the couple must marry within 90 days of entry and apply to adjust status from a K1 to a permanent resident. For this process, the application is once again sent to USCIS. The I-485 form, along with other supporting documents, helps the USCIS determine whether the foreign national meets the eligibility requirements for permanent residency, commonly referred to as a green card.
- Form I-765, Application for Work Authorization
Form I-765 as an application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not required but beneficial for the foreign spouse. The purpose of the EAD is to allow the K1 visa holder to work legally in the United States while they are waiting for their permanent residency status to be approved. The EAD is a document that proves the holder's eligibility to work in the United States and is required by employers to verify the individual's immigration status. By obtaining an EAD, the K1 visa holder can legally work in the United States and support themselves while they are waiting for their permanent resident status to be approved.
- Form I-131, Application for Advance Parole
Similar to the EAD, while not required, form I-131 is used by the foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen to request advance parole, which allows them to travel outside the United States and return while their adjustment or green card case is pending. The purpose of this form is to ensure that the foreign national can travel abroad and re-enter the United States without having to obtain a new visa and while preserving the green card application. Otherwise, the pending green card application would be considered abandoned by U.S. immigration when the applicant travels abroad while their adjustment of status is pending.
How Much Does a Fiance Visa Cost?
The fees for the K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa process include the I-129F petition fee ($535), the visa application fee ($265), and the permanent residence and biometric services fee ($1140 and $85). Other costs may include medical examinations, translation services, and attorney fees.
The foreign national fiancé(e) will attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country or country of residence. The fiancé(e) will be interviewed by a U.S. consular officer and the interview will include questions about the relationship with the U.S. citizen, intention to marry, and eligibility for a K-1 visa.
Fiance Visa Timeline
The timeline for the K-1 Fiancé(e) visa process typically involves the following steps:
- I-129F Petition: The U.S. citizen sponsor files the I-129F petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The processing time for the I-129F petition is typically 4 to 6 months.*
- Consular Processing: Once the I-129F petition is approved, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) and then to the U.S. embassy or consulate where the foreign national fiancé(e) will apply and interview for the visa. The foreign national fiancé(e) will need to complete a medical examination and attend a visa interview. The consular processing time can vary but is typically 2 to 3 months.*
- Adjustment of Status: After entering the U.S., the foreign national fiancé(e) has 90 days to get married to the U.S. citizen sponsor. The foreign national fiancé(e) must then apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. The processing time for the adjustment of status is typically 6 to 9 months.*
It is important to note that processing times can vary depending on the workload of USCIS and the U.S. embassy or consulate. Delays can also occur due to background checks, missing or incomplete information, or other factors.
* Please note that the above timeframes have increased significantly, often doubling or tripling, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on government services. In particular, the wait times for the scheduling of the K-1 visa interview at many consulates have been dramatically impacted by the temporary reductions in consular services.
How long does the K-1 Fiancé Visa last?
There are two important dates for a K-1 Visa. First, the foreign fiance has 6 months to make an entry into the US from the date of issuance of the visa. Second, once in the US, the couple has 90 days to get married and file for adjustment of status.
Can the K-1 visa holder work while in the U.S.?
The K-1 visa holder can apply for work authorization once they arrive in the United States.
Can the K-1 visa be extended?
The K-1 visa cannot be extended and must be converted to permanent resident status through the adjustment of status process (also known as the green card process) after marriage to the U.S. citizen.
What happens if the fiancé and U.S. citizen do not get married within 90 days?
If the fiancé(e) and U.S. citizen do not get married within 90 days, the foreign national will be unlawfully present and must leave the United States. Failure to do so may result in immigration consequences. However, if you still marry after the 90 day period, then it may be possible to apply for adjustment of status by filing an additional form, the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.