90 Day Fiance Tell All: K-1 Visas-The Requirements, Process, and Avoiding Marriage Fraud

90 Day Fiance Tell All: K-1 Visas-The Requirements, Process, and Avoiding Marriage Fraud

90 Day Fiance is a television series on the TLC channel that follows couples from different corners of the globe embarking on their journey to marriage and immigrating to the United States. Once these couples enter the United States they only have 90 days to decide whether their love story will culminate in marriage. Spanning continents and cultures, the show sheds light on the unique challenges faced by international couples. International lovers need to understand the requirements and the process for a K-1 Fiance Visa in the United States while also avoiding marriage fraud. 

What is a K-1 Visa? 

The K-1 visa, often referred to as the fiancé(e) visa like in 90 Day Fiance, is a unique nonimmigrant visa issued by the United States to foreign citizens engaged to U.S. citizens. This visa allows the foreign fiancé(e) to travel to the U.S. to marry their U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. The K-1 visa serves as a bridge to marriage and, subsequently, adjusting the foreign fiancé’s status to a permanent resident (green card holder). 

90 Day Fiance: What Are The Requirements For a K-1 Visa? 

To qualify for a K-1 visa, both the U.S. citizen and their foreign fiancé(e) must intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s arrival in the U.S, which is why the reality show is called 90 Day Fiance. The following requirements must also be met:

  • You must be a United States citizen in order to sponsor your fiance to come to the country, not a lawful permanent resident. 
  • Both parties must be eligible to marry one another. If either party was previously married, you will need to prove the divorce to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services using a divorce decree, proof of an annulment or a death certificate.
  • You must prove to USCIS that you are in a bona fide (good faith) relationship and that the marriage is not so one party can gain an immigration benefit (marriage fraud).   
  • You must prove that you have met in person at least once within the past two years. However, if meeting your soon-to-be spouse would create extreme hardship or if it would violate cultural, religious or social norms, you may be eligible for an exemption to this requirement.
  • The partner with United States citizenship must be able to prove with a tax return that they meet or exceed 125% of the government poverty guidelines. If the citizen is unable to do so, they can find a joint financial sponsor to complete an Affadavit of Support

The 90 Day Fiance Visa Process 

The application process for a fiance visa is an extensive, time-consuming process that involves the U.S. citizen, the fiance, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and often an immigration attorney. 

The 90 Day fiance visa process begins with the petition for a K-1 visa with Form I-129F where the citizen pays a $535 filing fee. USCIS then reviews the initial petition and passes it along to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC creates a case number and sends the paperwork to the consulate in the fiance’s country or the U.S. embassy in the fiance’s country. 

The next step in the fiance visa process is for the foreign fiance to complete the visa application with Form DS-160 and submit it as instructed by the consulate. There is currently a $265 filing fee which is due at this point in the 90 day fiance visa process. 

The final stage of the fiance visa process includes the fiance attending an interview at their local embassy or consulate. Following that interview, the immigration official usually makes a decision. If approved, the fiance receives a K-1 visa stamp in their passport and can enter the United States at any point in the following six months. 

Once the fiance enters the country, the couple has 90 days to evaluate if they want to get married. 

What Happens If You Do Not Get Married in 90 Days? 

If the marriage does not occur within 90 days, the K-1 visa holder must leave the United States. Failing to do so could result in deportation and negatively impact future immigration benefits. It is crucial to adhere to the 90-day requirement to avoid legal complications. During the 90 Day Fiance visa process but before the marriage, either party can decide to not move forward, resulting in the immigrant having to leave the United States or face deportation. This is not considered marriage fraud since the marriage did not occur yet. Simply deciding not to get married will not be deemed marriage fraud. Only the filing of a fiance visa that was solely for the purpose of  immigration benefits would get this classification. If things just didn’t work out, but it was genuine, there would be no impact to either party. 

Avoiding Marriage Fraud With K-1 Visas 

Marriage fraud, a serious offense, involves entering into a marriage to circumvent immigration laws. To avoid accusations of marriage fraud, couples should provide substantial evidence of their relationship’s genuineness, including photographs together, correspondence, and affidavits from friends and family affirming the relationship’s authenticity. Failure to get married or leave before the K-1 visa expires can impact your 90 day fiance’s eligibility for immigration benefits in the future and risk marriage fraud. 

As seen on the hit reality television show 90 Day Fiance with a contestant named Danielle, sometimes United States citizens get taken advantage of by a foreign fiance who did not enter the marriage in good faith. This can be considered marriage fraud on behalf of the foreign fiance’s actions. However, Daniele did get married within 90 days to her fiance Mohammed, who took the opportunity to use Daniele to get into the country before disengaging from the marriage. Daniele unfortunately did not seek the advice of an immigration attorney until it was too late and she was already married. Seeking legal assistance after the marriage with the 90 day fiance visa is too late. 

If you are found guilty of marriage fraud, whether you are on 90 Day Fiance or not, the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 outlines a penalty of five years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine. 

When Should I Involve An Immigration Attorney? 

Unfortunately for Daniele on 90 Day Fiance, she did not seek out help from an immigration attorney about her concerns with her marriage and Mohammed’s intentions until it was too late. Mohammed did his research in order to fulfill the legal requirements to avoid marriage fraud despite having ill intentions for beyond the 90 day fiance timeframe. Daniele was underprepared to fully understand what sponsoring the 90 day fiance visa meant, seeking for an annulment as a form of resolution which was not granted. 

Considering the complexity of immigration laws and the potential consequences of errors, involving an experienced immigration attorney early in the K-1 visa process is wise, especially to combat marriage fraud. An attorney can help navigate the intricacies of the application process, ensure compliance with all legal requirements, and provide guidance on avoiding pitfalls such as marriage fraud allegations. 

An immigration attorney can benefit both parties throughout the 90 day fiance visa process. They can guide the citizen through any red flags or potential issues they foresee if they marry the person with the 90 Day Fiance visa they sponsored. An immigration attorney can also be an asset to the foreign spouse to understand the requirements and provide guidance through the 90 day fiance visa process. 

At Davis & Associates, with expertise in immigration law and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by couples navigating the K-1 visa process and marriage fraud. We can offer invaluable support and legal counsel. Contact us today for your free consultation.