The K-1 visa or Fiancee visa is available to foreign citizens who would like to marry American citizens and reside permanently in the U.S. The K-1 visa allows the foreign national to come to the U.S., marry his or her American Fiancee and then apply for permanent residence without having to return back to their home country.
Nigel’s romantic situation is typical of many who find love overseas, so let’s take a closer look…
My Case Scenario
Nigel met Lucie three years ago, while he was vacationing with friends in Italy. Delighted with each other, Lucie and Nigel stayed in touch after he returned to the U.S. and developed a romantic relationship. Last Christmas, Lucie made a short trip to the U.S. where she had the chance to meet Nigel and his family and spend some quality time with the man she loves. They announced their engagement after which Lucie returned to Italy after the New Year. They are planning a wedding in New York. Nigel and his family are eager for Lucie, an Italian citizen, to live in the U.S. after the wedding. Nigel, a U.S. Citizen, is trying to get information about their next steps. He would like to have Lucie enter the U.S. legally to get married, and be able to remain permanently after their marriage. His friends have told him about the K-1 visa, and he’s also done some online research. However, neither of these sources can provide the full spectrum of information he needs to decide if a K-1 visa is right for his particular situation. In fact, much of the material he finds on the Internet is confusing, and sometimes contradictory. He is not sure where to turn, but he knows he needs answers to these questions:
What is K-1 visa?
What are the K-1 visa requirements?
How do you apply for a K-1 fiancee visa?
A. Introduction To K-1 Visa
What is a K-1 visa, exactly? The K-1 Fiancee visa is a special nonimmigrant visa that allows a foreign national to travel to the United States as the Fiancee of a U.S. citizen and marry that Fiancee within 90 days of arrival into the U.S. After the wedding, the visa holder can apply for permanent residency through Adjustment of Status instead of returning home and interacting with the U.S. Consulate through the immigrant visa process.
- K-1 Fiancee visa allows the foreign national Fiancee of a U.S. Citizen to enter the U.S. temporarily so that he/she can get married in the U.S.
- If a foreign national enters the U.S. on another visa category with the intent to marry a U.S. Citizen while in the U.S., it may be deemed immigration fraud. There are severe penalties for attempting to obtain a visa under false pretenses.
In some ways, K-1 Fiancee visa may seem like a hybrid visa. While technically a nonimmigrant visa, recipients of a K-1 visa must meet most of the requirements of an immigrant visa before the K-1 visa can be issued. Because a K-1 visa allows a foreign national to enter the United States and marry a U.S. Citizen after his or her arrival in the United States, and then apply for legal permanent residency, the bar for admission is set relatively high.
B. K-1 Visa Requirements
The K-1 visa application and its supporting documents must show that:
- The U.S. Citizen Fiancee, called the “Petitioner”, is in fact a U.S. Citizen
- The Petitioner intends to marry the foreign national Fiancee, called the “Beneficiary”, within 90 days of his or her entry into the U.S.
- Both the Petitioner and the Beneficiary are legally able and eligible to marry
- If either party was previously married, all prior marriages have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment
- The parties have met each other – in person – at least once within 2 years of the date of filing of the K-1 visa application
NOTE: In some cases, the couple can have the final requirement waived. If meeting each other in person would violate the strict and long-established customs of either the U.S. Citizen’s or foreign national’s culture or social practices, or arranging to meet each other would create extreme hardship to the U.S. Citizen, the K-1 visa petition may still be granted even if the couple has not met face-to-face during the past two years.
My Case Scenario
Here’s a question: Michael, a U.S. Citizen, met Ms. Yeo, a South Korean Citizen, while attending a business conference in Sydney. It was love at first sight. Almost instantly, they announced their engagement. Ms. Yeo has never visited the U.S. before, but the couple would like to marry there. However, Michael is currently in the process of ending a previous marriage and is working through a divorce. He is hoping his divorce decree will be granted in the next couple of months. Michael would like to file a Form I-129F immediately to allow Ms. Yeo to enter the U.S. on a K-1 Fiancee visa, and then get married in the U.S. once the divorce is finalized. Is he permitted to do so?
The Answer: Sadly for Michael, the answer is no. One of the main K-1 visa requirements is that at the time the Form I-129F is submitted, both the U.S. Citizen and the foreign national must be legally free and eligible to marry each other. If either party was previously married, all prior unions must have been legally terminated by divorce, death or annulment before the form is filed. Because he is still legally married, Michael cannot file Form I-129F for Ms. Yeo. He must wait until a final divorce decree is issued before he can file a Form I-129F to bring Ms. Yeo to the U.S. on a K-1 Fiancee visa and have a beautiful wedding.
C. The K-1 Visa Process
1. Filing Form I-129F
To begin the K-1 visa process, the U.S. Citizen Fiancee must file a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancee, with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
It cannot be filed at a U.S. Embassy, Consulate or USCIS office abroad.
In some cases, the USCIS is not able to approve the initial application. If this happens, USCIS may request additional documentation or deny the application.
If the foreign national Fiancee is the parent of unmarried children under the age of 21, a K-2 visa may be available for his or her children. The U.S. Citizen Fiancee must be sure to include the names of all eligible children when completing the Form I-129F.
2. Processing At The National Visa Center
After the Form I-129F and its supporting documents are filed with the USCIS, the immigration officer will review the application. If approved, the petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for additional processing.
The NVC will process the file, and then send it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the foreign national Fiancee will complete the K-1 visa application process.
DID YOU KNOW?
All immigrant visa pre-processing for the U.S. Consulates and Embassies located around the world is handled at one location – The National Visa Center, or NVC. This Department of State office is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
3. The K-1 Visa Interview At The U.S. Consulate
An invitation to apply for the actual K-1 visa will be sent to the foreign national Fiancee after the application file is delivered to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate serving the Beneficiary’s local area.
In most cases, the final step of the K-1 visa process is the in-person Fiancee visa interview. The foreign national Fiancee will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if the couple’s relationship is legitimate. Approval of the petition is at the discretion of the consular officer. He or she may approve the request, ask for additional information or documentation, or deny the K-1 visa outright.
Learn more about the K-1 visa interview and the questions that are often asked.
DID YOU KNOW?
Foreign national Fiancee will be given a K-1 visa checklist by the U.S. Embassy or consulate where they will complete their application. The checklist will give the foreign national Fiancee specific instructions on what to prepare and what to bring to the interview. The foreign national will need to undergo a medical examination, fill out and submit the DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) before appearing at the interview. Each K-2 visa applicant must undergo a medical examination and complete their own DS-160.
D. Entering The U.S. on A K-1 Visa
If the U.S. Consulate or Embassy approves the K-1 visa application, it will send the foreign citizen Fiancee the passport back with the K-1 visa and a sealed packet.
The K-1 visa is a single-entry visa. It can only be used one time, and in most cases, is only valid for 6 months after the date it is issued. The foreign citizen Fiancee uses his or her K-1 visa to apply for admission at any U.S. Port-of-Entry during the period of time the visa is valid.
The U.S. Consulate or Embassy will send the foreign national a sealed packet that must not be opened by anyone other than the Customs & Border Protection Officer at the Port-of-Entry.
E. After Admission Into The U.S. – Getting Married
The foreign citizen Fiancee is authorized to stay in the United States for 90 days after they arrive with their K-1 visa. The wedding between the U.S. Citizen and the foreign national Fiancee must take place during this 90 day period.
DID YOU KNOW?
The K-1 Fiancee visa is a ‘single-entry’ visa. This means that the visa can only be used once for entry. If the K-1 Fiancee visa holder leaves the U.S., he or she cannot use the K-1 visa to re-enter.
F. Applying For A Green Card
After the couple is married, the foreign national spouse applies for Permanent Residence status, commonly called a “Green Card”, by completing an application for Adjustment of Status, or Form I-485.
He or she can also apply for work authorization (EAD) and Advance Parole (a travel document). The foreign national spouse must remain in the U.S. until the application for Advance Parole is processed and approved. Learn more about filing an application for Adjustment of Status for a K-1 visa Fiancee.
DID YOU KNOW?
The K-1 visa automatically expires 90 days after it is used to enter the U.S. The clock begins ticking the moment the foreign national arrives in the United States. The foreign national Fiancee status cannot be extended; if the wedding does not take place within the 90-day window, the foreign national must return home.
While filing an application for Adjustment of Status (AOS) within the 90 day K-1 visa period is strongly recommended, it is not required. It is important to remember, however, that once the 90 day period expires, the K-1 visa holder will be out of status.
My Case Scenario
Let’s check in with Nigel…
After speaking with a VisaPro attorney, Nigel discovered that he and Lucie had met every requirement for a Fiancee visa. Nigel is a U.S. Citizen and the couple can get married in the U.S. within 90 days of Lucie’s arrival. Both are legally able to marry each other, and neither have been married previously. Last but not least, Lucie’s Christmas visit proved that they had met each other face-to-face once within the last two years. Feeling confident in his new-found knowledge, Nigel is collecting the documentation required to file the Form I-129F on behalf of Lucie.
The K-1 Fiancee Visa is a special purpose temporary non-immigrant visa. It gives the foreign national Fiancee of a U.S. Citizen the opportunity to enter the United States so that he or she can marry the U.S. Citizen. The wedding must take place no later than 90 days from the date of the foreign citizen Fiancee(e)’s entry into the U.S., after which the foreign citizen spouse may apply for legal permanent residence through the Adjustment of Status process instead of returning home.
At VisaPro, we’re always delighted to help couples start a new life together! If you need help filing a K-1 visa application, or have questions regarding the Fiancee visa process, contact us today! Our experienced immigration attorneys will be happy to assist you.
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I would have no hesitation recommending Visapro. They dealt with my [K-1 Visa] case professionally and I appreciated the way they made themselves available over the phone when I needed clarification or to ask a question………. I am very happy I chose them to manage my visa application and grateful for their support right through to successfully acquiring my Green Card.”