The Complete Guide to K-1 Fiancé Visas

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What is a K-1 Visa?

The K-1 visa, often referred to as the K-1 fiancé visa, is a special visa issued by the United States to the foreign-citizen fiancé of a U.S. citizen. This visa allows the recipient to travel to the U.S. to marry their U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.

Guide to Fiancé Visas

If you want to apply for a K-1 fiancé visa to come to the U.S., you cannot do it alone. Your partner, who must be a U.S. citizen, needs to ask the government for you. This is because only U.S. citizens can request a K-1visa. So, if your partner has a green card and is not a U.S. citizen, they will not be able to sponsor you for a fiancé K-1 visa. 

Petition for Alien Visa

This petition is proof of the sponsor's intent to marry the foreign fiancé and is the first step in the K-1 visa process. This petition establishes the legitimate relationship between the U.S. citizen and their foreign fiancé, setting the foundation for the entire visa process.

K-1 Visa Requirements

Obtaining a K-1 visa requires meeting specific criteria to ensure that the process is genuine and follows U.S. immigration law. The requirements are designed to protect both parties and the immigration system. These include:

Citizenship: Only U.S. citizens can sponsor a fiancé for a k-1 visa.

Marital Status: Both partners must be legally free to marry; this means any previous marriages must have ended.

Genuine Relationship: Couples must prove their relationship is real, not just for the sake of immigration benefits.

Meeting in Person: Generally, you must have met in person at least once in the last two years, unless meeting would cause extreme hardship or violate cultural norms.

Financial Requirement: The U.S. citizen sponsor must demonstrate the ability to financially support the fiancé, meeting at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines.

What Documents Are Needed for a K-1 Visa?

The documentation for a K-1 visa is extensive, ensuring that both the U.S. citizen and their fiancé are well-qualified. Essential documents include:

  • A completed Form DS-160.
  • Valid passport for the non-U.S. citizen.
  • Birth certificates for both parties.
  • Divorce or death certificates for any previous spouses.
  • Police certificates for countries lived in since age 16.
  • Medical examination records.
  • Evidence of financial support.
  • Two 2-inch-by-2-inch passport photographs.
  • Proof of a bona fide relationship, like photographs together, joint bank statements, and travel itineraries.

The Fiancé Visa Process

The application process for a K-1 visa can take quite some time. Everyone – the U.S. citizen, the fiancé, and USCIS has a role to play. The process generally looks like this:

  • Petition Submission: The U.S. citizen (often with the help of an attorney) completes the appropriate petition (Form I-129F) and files it with USCIS. The citizen must also pay the filing fee, which is currently $675.
  • USCIS Review: After review, the petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  • Case Number Assignment: NVC forwards the case to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the fiancé's country.
  • Visa Application: The foreign fiancé completes Form DS-160 – that is the actual visa application – and submits it in accordance with his or her consulate’s instructions. The filing fee, which is currently $265, is also due at that time.
  • Interview: An interview is conducted at his or her embassy or consulate, where the fiancé provides supporting documents, including those that the U.S. government has requested. Typically, the official conducting the interview will make a decision that same day.
  • Visa Issuance: If approved, the fiancé receives a K-1 visa stamp on his or her passport.
  • Travel and Marriage: The fiancé may enter the U.S. within the 6 months immediately following approval, and the couple must marry within 90 days of arrival.

The Interview Process

One of the key steps in getting a K-1 visa is the interview process. This happens at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the fiancé’s home country. Here is what to expect:

Preparation: Before the interview, the foreign fiancé must gather all required documents, such as proof of the relationship, financial documents from the U.S. citizen sponsor, and any other paperwork the embassy has requested.

The Interview: During the interview, a consular officer will ask questions to both the U.S. citizen and the foreign fiancé. These questions are meant to verify the legitimacy of their relationship and ensure that all K-1 visa requirements are met. The couple may be asked how they met, details about their relationship, and their plans for the future.

After the Interview: If the interview goes well and the consular officer is satisfied with the answers and documents provided, the K-1 visa will be approved. However, sometimes the officer may ask for more information or documents, which can delay the process.

K-1 Visa Timeline

The timeline for processing a K-1 visa has notably stretched, with couples now often waiting between one to one and a half years before the foreign fiance can enter the United States. Once inside the country, the step of changing status to obtain a green card further extends this timeline, and varies by where the applicant is located within the United States. For instance, in Dallas, applicants may anticipate approximately 11 months for this phase to conclude. However, the timeline can vary due to different factors, so it's crucial to quickly respond to any requests from immigration officials and not miss any interviews or deadlines.

K-1 Visa Costs

K-1 Fiancé Visas - Davis & Associates

The journey to bring your fiancé to the U.S. comes with its set of costs. Applying for a K-1 visa totals around $2,025 in fees. This includes various fees that the U.S. citizen partner pays in the U.S. and fees that the non-citizen fiancé pays from abroad. But there might be more expenses along the way, such as paying for an attorney, translating documents, medical exams, and traveling to the consulate or embassy.

An experienced immigration attorney from Davis & Associates can help, ensuring you understand all the fees involved and helping to streamline the process. Having a professional by your side can make the complex process of applying for a K-1 visa much smoother and can assist in managing costs and expectations throughout the journey.

The Entry Process

After the K-1 visa is granted, the foreign fiancé can then travel to the U.S. This is known as the entry process. Here is what it involves:

  • Travel to the U.S.: The K-1 visa holder must enter the United States within the validity period of the visa, which is typically within six months from the date it was issued.
  • At the U.S. Border: Upon arrival, the K-1 visa holder will go through customs and immigration. They will present their visa and other necessary documents to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. The CBP officer will ask questions similar to those during the visa interview to confirm the purpose of the visit.
  • After Entry: Once admitted, the foreign fiancé has 90 days to marry the U.S. citizen sponsor. After the marriage, the next step is to apply for an Adjustment of Status to become a lawful permanent resident.

Do You Need A K-1 Visa If You Are Already In The United States?

If you are in the United States and plan to marry a U.S. citizen, you might not need a K-1 visa. The K-1 visa is specifically designed for the foreign fiancés of U.S. citizens who are outside the United States, to allow them to enter the U.S. to marry. For individuals already within the borders of the United States, even if out of status, the process involves adjusting their status from within the country, bypassing the need for a K-1 visa. 

If you are already in the U.S. and entered legally, like on a tourist or work visa, and marry a US citizen, you can apply to change your visa status without needing a K-1 visa. However, if you get married within 90 days of coming to the U.S., the government might think you planned to marry all along and didn't tell them. This is known as the "90-day rule." It's a good idea to talk to a lawyer before getting married, especially if you are on a visa.

Do You Need a Fiancé Visa if You Are Already Married?

If you and your U.S. citizen partner are already married, you do not need a K-1 visa, unless there is a question about whether your marriage is recognized where it happened. If you are in this situation, talking to a Davis & Associates immigration lawyer could be really helpful. Instead of a K-1 visa, you can apply for a green card to show you are allowed to live in the U.S. permanently. Being married puts you at the front of the line, which means you can start your green card application right away.

Can You Bring Your Fiancé’s Children to the U.S. on a K-1 Visa?

Your fiancé’s kids may come to the U.S. with them if they are not married and are under 21 years old. They will be in K-2 nonimmigrant status during their stay (unless you petition to adjust their status). The kids can not come to the U.S. before your fiancé, but it is fine if they arrive after. To stay in the U.S., they need to be unmarried and under the age of 21 on the day they enter the United States. If the visa holder turns 21 prior to entry, they can be denied entry even with a valid visa. After you and your fiancé get married within 90 days of their arrival, you can ask the government to adjust their status.

Can a K-1 Fiancé Work While in the United States?

Your fiancé can ask for permission to work as soon as they get to the U.S. by filling out Form I-765, which is an Application for Employment Authorization. This permission is only valid for 90 days at first. But, if your fiancé also applies to become a permanent resident (gets a green card), they can get work permission for a year, and then keep extending it year by year if needed.

What Happens if You Do Not Marry Within 90 Days?

U.S. immigration law is very clear when it says that you must marry within 90 days of your foreign fiancé’s arrival in the U.S. on a K-1 visa. If you do not marry within that time, the fiancé (and his or her children) must leave the U.S. immediately.

Failure to leave before the K-1 visa expires is a violation of immigration law, and that can result in deportation. Even worse, it can affect your fiancé’s future eligibility for immigration benefits.

Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Lawyer About a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

If you are a U.S. citizen – or if you are engaged to a U.S. citizen – we may be able to help you with the K-1 visa process, which will enable you to come to the United States to be married. Call our office to schedule your free consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney now.