The movement of people from country to country makes it possible for those of different nationalities to meet and decide that they want to start a life together by getting married. In this case, the marriage would be between a U.S citizen and a citizen of another country. Before the couple can get married, they will need special permission for the foreign citizen to go to the U.S for the ceremony. This permission is in the form of a visa for couples who are engaged.
Otherwise known as the Fiance Visa USA, the K-1 visa allows engaged couples to meet in the U.S to perform the ceremony of marriage. This article will go through the U.S fiancé visa, what it is, its requirements, the fiancé visa process and other relevant K-1 visa process details.
What is a K-1 visa?
As mentioned, the K-1 visa will allow the foreign citizen who is engaged to a U.S citizen to go to the U.S. While in the U.S, the couple is expected to get married legally within a specific period of time. This K-1 fiance visa is the first visa that a foreign citizen marrying a U.S citizen must have. Without having had the K-1 visa, the fiancé of the U.S will then have difficulty adjusting the status to become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. A LPR of the U.S means that the foreign citizen has an immigrant visa and can stay in the U.S permanently.
The K-1 visa holder will get this visa so that they can marry the U.S citizen within 90 days of arriving in the U.S. The ceremony and the legal marriage certificate must be performed and submitted as proof to the Department of Homeland Security in order to initiate the permanent move of the foreign citizen in the U.S to join their spouse.
What are the K-1 Visa Requirements?
To be allowed to get the K-1 visa and travel to the U.S to marry the U.S citizen, there are first a few fiancé visa requirements that you must fulfill. These requirements are in place to prevent unofficial relationships and marriages to only obtain Green Cards.
So if you want to marry your fiancé in the U.S, you must fulfill these eligibility criteria:
- You must have proof of your relationship before the engagement
- You plan on getting married while you are in the U.S on a K-1 visa
- The marriage will be performed according to the U.S laws where the marriage will be done
- You and the U.S citizen must have met in person at least once in the past two years (Exceptions to this requirement will be granted if you can prove that the U.S citizen faced extreme hardship to come and visit the foreign citizen fiancé. Extreme hardship can be proved on conditions of culture, customs, or other factors)
If you do not fulfill these conditions, you could be notified that you are ineligible for the visa. There are various reasons that this could happen, and some of them might be:
- Involvement in criminal activities in the past (ex. drug trafficking)
- You have submitted falsified documents
- You have overstayed in the U.S on a previous visa or broken other visa rules
Besides requirements for the K-1 visa applicant, there are also requirements for the U.S citizen who intends to marry the foreign citizen, as follows:
- You must be a U.S citizen
- You intend to marry the foreign citizen within 90 days of them entering the U.S
- Any previous marriages that you or your fiancé have had are legally terminated
How to Apply for the K-1 Visa?
The fiancé visa application has a few steps which both the U.S citizen and the foreign citizen must follow. The K-1 visa application must be first initiated by the U.S citizen. The U.S citizen must obtain permission from the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to bring and sponsor their foreign citizen fiancé to the U.S. If USCIS grants this permission, then the foreign citizen fiancé must apply for the actual K-1 visa.
Step 1: File Petition for Alien Fiance
The U.S citizen will first need permission from USCIS for the foreign citizen fiancé to visit in the U.S. This permission is obtained by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance to USCIS. The petition must be filed from within the U.S and cannot be filed from abroad.
When the petition arrives at USCIS, the officials will go through it and review the evidence of the relationship, whether the parties are allowed and intend to get married, and whether they fulfill the eligibility criteria. If both the U.S citizen and the foreign citizen fiancé fulfill the requirements, then USCIS will approve the petition and send it to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC will then inform the couple and will forward the documents to the U.S Embassy or Consulate where the foreign citizen will apply for the K-1 visa. The approved petition is identified with its NVC case number. The foreign citizen is not allowed to apply for the K-1 visa without obtaining the approval of the Form I-129F.
Step 2: Apply for the K-1 visa
The K-1 visa application must be done after the Form I-129F approval. This must be completed by the foreign citizen in a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.
Complete Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is used for U.S nonimmigrant visas and in this case for the K-1 visa too. The form will inquire on your personal information as well as reasons why you are planning to go to the U.S. When you submit it, you will get a confirmation page and code.
Schedule visa interview
Your visa interview will be conducted if you are between 14 and 79 years old. To complete the interview, you must first schedule it. You must schedule it as soon as possible due to the fact that you might have to wait too long if the Embassy or Consulate you are applying from has a high workload. When you schedule the interview, you will get an interview schedule letter.
Complete medical examinations
No matter your age, if you are travelling to the U.S and especially planning to apply for a U.S immigrant visa in the future, you must have a licensed physician conduct the necessary medical examination. The doctor must write the report stating any health issues. Since the fiancé will get married soon and apply for permanent residence, it is also advisable to get the necessary U.S required vaccination so as to complete that requirement.
Compile your document file
When you go in for your interview at the U.S Embassy, you will be required to have the following documents:
- Valid passport for more than 6 months after your intended stay in the U.S
- Two photographs according to the Photo Requirements
- Form DS-160 confirmation page and code
- Interview schedule letter
- Approved Form I-129F
- Criminal background documents
- Divorce or death certificates in case of previous marriage
- Evidence of the relationship with the U.S citizen
- Medical examination documents (and optional for vaccination documents)
- Proof of payments of fees
Attend visa interview
During the interview you will be asked to show your documents as well as answer any questions that the interview officials will have. You will be asked about your relationship with the U.S citizen as well as other details about your background.
What Are the K-1 Visa Fees?
To obtain the K-1 visa there are certain K-1 visa fees or fiancé visa costs. The amounts vary by year as well as by country due to different relationships that the U.S has with other countries, but the main categories for which you will be asked to pay fees are as follows:
- Petition fee for the Form I-129F
- Form DS-160 submission fee
- Medical examination fees
- Other costs related to filing documentation and translation
How Long is the Visa K-1 Processing Time?
The K-1 visa does not have a definite length of processing time. It can vary from weeks to months. It is most likely that it will take a few months, so plan ahead for any delays if you are planning the wedding in the U.S. When the K-1 visa is processed, you and your fiancé in the U.S will be notified.
Only after you get your K-1 visa can you start making travelling plans, since if your visa is denied, you might end up not using any tickets purchased up to that point.
How Long is the K-1 Visa Valid?
The K-1 visa is initially given for 4 months, but can be extended for up to 6 months. Despite the fact that the K-1 visa might be valid for this length, the couple is expected to be married within 90 days of the foreign citizen’s entrance in the U.S.
Can I Work With a Valid K-1 Visa?
While you are in the U.S with a K-1 visa, your U.S citizen fiancé must prove that they can support you. However, since you will get married and will start your process to adjust your status to a permanent one, you can plan ahead to work.
Initially, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765 to USCIS. If approved, you are allowed to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) and even work for the period of time that your K-1 visa is valid.
Can my Children Accompany me to the U.S With a K-1 Visa?
If the foreign citizen has unmarried children under 21 years old, they can accompany the foreign citizen to go to the U.S for the marriage. The children of the K-1 visa holder can travel to the U.S with a valid K-2 visa.
The U.S citizen does not need to file petitions to USCIS for the children of the fiancé, but they must be mentioned in the Form I-129F. After the petition is approved, each one of the children must apply for the K-2 visa individually. The children will then have the opportunity to also obtain permanent residence after the marriage is performed by filing for adjustment of status.
What Are the Next Steps After Marriage?
If the foreign citizen obtains a K-1 visa and the couple gets married in the U.S within 90 days, then the process to adjust status to a permanent one begins. This means that the foreign citizen will become a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S by getting a spouse visa.
This process is initiated by filing Form I-485. Within the first two years of marriage, the foreign citizen will have conditional status with the CR-1 visa and afterwards can obtain unconditional status with the IR-1 visa.
What if the Couple Does Not Marry After 90 Days?
If the K-1 visa holder enters the U.S and the marriage is not performed, then the K-1 visa cannot be extended. The K-1 visa holder is expected to leave the U.S and return to their home country. If the K-1 visa holder does not return, they could face deportation and legal consequences.