The K1 visa is a visa that allows engaged couples to meet and perform their wedding ceremony in the United States.
This article explains what a U.S. Fiancé(e) visa is, its requirements, the Fiancé(e) visa process, and other relevant details of the K1 visa process.
What is a K1 visa?
The K-1 nonimmigrant visa for fiancé(e) is for foreign nationals who are engaged to be married to a U.S. citizen. The K-1 visa allows the foreign fiancé to travel to the U.S. and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.
The foreign national then applies to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a change of status to permanent resident. Because the fiancé(e) visa allows the fiancé(e) to immigrate to the U.S. and marry a U.S. citizen immediately upon arrival, the fiancé(e) must meet some of the immigrant visa requirements; eligible children of K-1 visa applicants receive K-2 visas.
What Is a “Fiancé(e)”?
Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign fiancé of a U.S. citizen is a recipient of an approved foreign fiancé petition, I-129F, who has been issued a nonimmigrant K-1 visa to travel to the United States to marry a U.S. citizen fiancé.
The U.S. citizen and the K-1 visa applicant must be legally married at the time of the application and able to marry thereafter. They must also be legally able to marry under the laws of the U.S. state in which they wish to marry.
Generally, the foreign fiancé(e) and the U.S. citizen sponsor must have met in person within the past two years, and USCIS will consider whether it would be extremely difficult for the U.S. citizen sponsor to meet in person with the foreign fiancé(e) or whether, for example, it would be contrary to the culture of the U.S. citizen sponsor or the foreign fiancé(e) to meet before marriage. Exceptions to this requirement may be granted in cases where, for example, it would be contrary to the culture of the U.S. citizen sponsor or the foreign fiancé(e).
Can I Apply for a K1 Visa?
In order to obtain a K1 visa and travel to the United States to marry a U.S. citizen, you must first meet some criteria for a fiancé visa. These criteria are designed to prevent unofficial relationships and marriages for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card.
So, if you want to marry your fiancé(e) in the United States, you must meet these requirements:
- You must provide proof of your relationship before you get engaged.
- You plan to marry while in the United States on a K1 visa.
- The marriage will be in accordance with the laws of the United States where the marriage will take place.
- You and the U.S. citizen must have met in person at least once in the past two years. (Exceptions to this requirement may be made if the U.S. citizen can demonstrate extreme difficulty in visiting the foreign fiancé. Extreme difficulty can be demonstrated by conditions such as culture and customs.)
If you do not meet these requirements, you may be told that you are not eligible for a K1 visa. There are many reasons why this may happen, but here are some of them:
- You have been involved in criminal activity in the past (e.g. drug trafficking).
- You have submitted falsified documents.
- You have overstayed in the U.S. on a previous visa or violated other visa requirements.
In addition to the requirements for K1 visa applicants, U.S. citizens who wish to marry a foreign national must also meet the following requirements:
- Must be a U.S. Citizen.
- You and your fiancé(e) must plan to marry within 90 days of the foreign national’s entry into the United States.
- You or your fiancé(e) must have had a previous marriage that was legally dissolved.
K1 Visa Application Process
Applying for a fiancé(e) visa involves several steps that must be followed by both the U.S. citizen and the foreign national; the K1 visa application must be filed first by the U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen must obtain permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to bring the foreign fiancé(e) to the United States.
Once USCIS grants this permission, the foreign fiancé(e) must actually apply for a K1 visa.
To apply for a K1 visa, the following steps must be completed:
Submit the application for foreign fiancé(e).
First, the U.S. citizen must obtain permission from USCIS for the foreign fiancé(e) to enter the United States. This permission is obtained by filing an I-129F Petition for Foreign Fiancé(e) with USCIS. This petition must be filed from within the United States and cannot be filed from abroad.
When the petition arrives at USCIS, an officer will review it for evidence of your relationship, whether you intend to marry, and whether you meet the eligibility criteria. If both the U.S. citizen and the foreign fiancé meet the criteria, USCIS will approve the petition and send it to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC will notify both of you and forward the documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the foreign national will apply for a K1 visa. Approved petitions will be marked with the NVC case number. Foreign nationals cannot apply for a K1 visa without approval of a Form I-129F.
Apply for the K1 visa
Once the Form I-129F is approved, you can begin the process of applying for a K1 visa. This application must be filed with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign national’s country of residence.
Complete Form DS-160
Form DS-160, the online nonimmigrant visa application, is used for U.S. nonimmigrant visas and is also used for this K1 visa. This form contains your personal information and the reason you are trying to come to the United States. Once you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation page and code.
Schedule the US Fiance visa interview
Visa interviews are conducted for individuals between the ages of 14 and 79. To be considered for an interview, you must first schedule an interview. If the embassy or consulate where you are applying is busy, you may experience long wait times. Therefore, make an appointment as soon as possible. Once you have scheduled your interview, you will receive a letter to schedule your appointment.
Complete medical examinations
Regardless of your age, if you plan to travel to the U.S., and especially if you plan to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa in the future, you must have the required medical examination by a licensed physician. The physician must prepare a written report describing any health problems. Also, since your fiancé plans to marry soon and apply for permanent residency, it is recommended that he obtain the necessary vaccinations in the U.S. to fulfill this requirement.
Compile your K1 visa document file
If you have an interview at the U.S. Embassy, you must submit the required K1 visa documents.
You must submit the following documents to obtain a K1 visa:
- A valid passport that is at least six months old from the date you plan to be in the US.
- Two recent photos for the U.S. visa, as listed in the photo requirements.
- DS-160 form confirmation page and code
- Schedule for the interview
- An approved Form I-129F
- Documentation of criminal history
- Divorce or death certificate, if previously married.
- Documentation of your relationship with a U.S. citizen.
- Documentation of medical examination (documentation of immunizations is optional).
- Proof of payment of expenses.
Attend visa interview
At the interview, you will be required to present your documentation and answer questions from the interviewer. The interviewer will also ask questions about your relationship with the U.S. citizen and about your background.
What Are the K1 Visa Fees?
To obtain a K1 visa, there is a certain fee for the K1 visa or fiancé visa. The amounts vary from year to year and from country to country due to the different relationships between the U.S. and other countries, but the main categories of fees are as follows
- Petition fee for Form I-129F
- Form DS-160 filing fee
- Fee for medical examination
- Other fees related to filing documents and translations.
What is the Visa K1 Processing Time?
The processing time for a K1 visa varies from several weeks to several months. There is no defined duration of the processing time. It usually takes several months, so if you are planning a wedding in the US, please plan accordingly to avoid delays.
If your visa is denied, you may not be able to use any tickets you have purchased up to that point. Therefore, please obtain a K1 visa before you begin planning your trip.
How Long is the K1 Visa Valid?
The K1 visa is valid for four months, but can be extended for up to six months. Despite this period of validity of the K1 visa, the foreign national must marry within 90 days of entering the United States.
Can I Work With a Valid K1 Visa?
While you are in the U.S. on a K1 visa, your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) must prove that he or she can support you. However, when you get married and begin the process of changing your status to permanent resident, you can make plans to work.
First, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765 with USCIS. Once approved, you can obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) and may work as long as your K1 visa is valid.
Can I bring my child to the U.S. on a K1 visa?
If a foreign national has unmarried children under the age of 21, they may accompany them to the U.S.; children of K1 visa holders may travel to the U.S. with a valid K-2 visa.
U.S. citizens are not required to file a petition with USCIS for the children of a fiancé(e), but must include them on Form I-129F. Once the petition is approved, each of the children must apply for a separate K-2 visa. The children can then apply for a change of status after marriage to become permanent residents.
What Are the Next Steps After Marriage?
If a foreign national obtains a K-1 visa and marries in the U.S. within 90 days, the process to change status to permanent resident begins. In other words, the foreign national becomes a permanent resident of the United States by obtaining a spouse visa.
This process begins with the filing of Form I-485. For the first two years of the marriage, the foreign national is eligible for conditional status on a CR-1 visa and thereafter for unconditional status on an IR-1 visa.
What if the Couple Does Not Marry After 90 Days?
If a K1 visa holder enters the United States and does not marry, the Fiancé(e) visa cannot be renewed. In this case, the K1 visa holder must leave the United States and return to his or her home country. If he or she does not return, he or she may be deported or prosecuted.