K-1 Fiancé Visa
What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa
The K-1 nonimmigrant visa is reserved for fiancé(e)s who wish to immigrate to the United States to live with their soon-to-be spouse. This visa is only viable if there is intent to marry within 90 days of entering the U.S to establish a life together—acquiring a green card cannot be the sole purpose of the marriage. If these conditions are met, there is a good chance that the application will be approved. Unfortunately, this visa is not for people who have already married, intend to get married outside of the U.S., or if both parties are already living together in the U.S—this is the main difference between the fiancé and marriage visas. Marriage visas are K-3 visas.
Fiancé(e) Visa Requirements for the U.S.
A foreign fiancé(e) is eligible for a K-1 visa if they meet the following requirements:
- One party is a U.S. citizen
- There is intent to marry each other within 90 days of visa approval and admittance
- Both parties are legally able to marry within the U.S.
- Any previous marriages have been legally terminated
- The couple has met in person at least once within the 2-year period prior to their K-1 petition. This stipulation may be waived if meeting in person would have:
- Violated strict customs of the foreign fiancé(e)’s culture
- Resulted in extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen
Fiancé(e) Visa Process
Acquiring a K-1 visa is a multi-step process involving the purview of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of State (DOS), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Each stage may require the petitioning couple to undergo background checks that ensure that neither of them is a national security threat or a criminal. The total fiancé(e) visa processing time can take between 6 to 9 months, with applications and petitions reviewed in the order they are received, so wait times may vary.
1. Petition (USCIS)
The first step towards obtaining a K-1 visa is to file Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), petition packet, which asks the USCIS to recognize the relationship as valid. The USCIS will review the I-129F and accompanying documents, although more evidence may be requested in the form of a Request for Evidence. If a foreign fiancé(e) is eligible for a K-1 visa, their underlying I-129F petition will be approved and sent to the National Visa Center (NVC)—DOS.
2. Application (DOS)
Next, the NVC sends the approved I-129F to the fiancé(e)’s nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where they must apply for their K-1 visa once they undergo an immigration medical and have secured the appropriate police certificate clearance. The applicant fiancé(e) will be notified once their interview is scheduled, to which they must bring all of their forms and accompanying documents. The DOS interviewer will decide if the applicant qualifies for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. If approved, a K-1 is valid for up to 6 months after admittance and is only valid for a single entry.
3. Entry (CBP)
If the DOS issues the foreign fiancé(e) a K-1 visa, they may travel to the U.S. to be admitted at an approved Port of Entry. Like all other visas, however, a CBP makes the final decision whether they will be admitted into the country—entry is not guaranteed.
If a K-1 nonimmigrant visa is successfully obtained, the couple has 90 days within which to marry.
If the marriage does not take place within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s admittance into the U.S., they cannot petition for an extension. The nonimmigrant fiancé(e) and their children (if applicable) must leave the country immediately, with some exceptions. A failure to leave the U.S. may result in removal (deportation), which may affect future immigration attempts.
5. Green Card (USCIS)
If their marriage occurs within 90 days of their admittance, a new K-1 spouse may apply for an adjustment of status (permanent resident, aka green card).
If the marriage occurred less than two years after adjustment of status is approved, USCIS will grant a K-1 spouse a conditional permanent resident status with a green card that is only valid for 2 years. In order to remove the conditions on residence, one must file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) petition packet within 90 days prior to the expiration of their green card.
A K-1 fiancé(e) applicant that has unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for K-2 nonimmigrant visas for her dependents. Their children may travel with their K-1 parent or after but they cannot enter the country before them. A K-2 child can also apply for a green card by filing for an adjustment of status with USCIS, as long as they will remain under the age of 21 and unmarried throughout the entire process.
Once admitted into the United States on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, a foreign fiancé(e) may begin applying for work authorization in the U.S. by filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Their work authorization is valid for up to 90 days after admittance into the country, but if filed in conjunction with an adjustment of status petition packet, their employment authorization will be valid for up to one year and can be extended in one-year increments, while the adjustment of status case is pending with USCIS.
How Long Do You Need to Stay Married on a K-1 Visa?
In the event that a petitioning couple gets a divorce, it does not necessarily always lead to the foreign fiancé(e)’s removal (deportation). If a divorce occurs before filing for an adjustment of status, they will not be able to proceed with the green card process, with minor exceptions. If a divorce occurs after filing for an adjustment of status and after the following interview, the petitioner will have a 2-year conditional green card and therefore can maintain their residency despite the separation. On the contrary, if they do not attend the interview together, they will be denied permanent residency. These are some of the main reasons that a fiancée visa can be denied.
Let’s Get Started
Navigating international marriage can be a stressful and challenging process. Every step must be performed in a timely fashion and correctly or the K-1 visa process must restart from the very beginning. The easiest and most effective way to acquire a visa for your foreign fiancé(e) is to seek the help of a K-1 visa lawyer. Here at The Batrakova Law Office, we will ensure that every application is filed timely and all of the necessary steps are followed so that you do not have to stress about your family’s future. We’ve got your back!