A K-1 fiancé visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. citizen to bring their foreign fiancé to the United States for the purpose of getting married. This guide explains what these family immigration visas are, who can apply for them and how they work.
What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
A K-1 fiancé visa a nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. citizen to bring their foreign fiancé to the United States so the couple can get married. They’re often referred to as fiancé visas or K-1 nonimmigrant visas.
There are two main requirements for applying for a K-1 fiancé visa: You must be a U.S. citizen. You must have met your fiancé in person within the last two years, and you must be able to prove that you intend to marry them within 90 days of their arrival in the United States.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a K-1 fiancé visa by filing a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After your petition is approved, your fiancé will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.
If the visa is approved, your fiancé will be able to travel to the United States for a 90-day period. During this time, you must get married. If you don’t, your fiancé will have to leave the country.
Who Can Apply for a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
To apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Have met your fiancé in person within the last two years, though there is a waiver for this available (see the later section, “K-1 Fiancé Visa Waivers for In-Person Meeting,” for more information)
- Be able to prove that you intend to marry them within 90 days of their arrival in the United States
- Be legally free to marry (and so must your future spouse)
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a K-1 fiancé visa by filing a petition with USCIS.
K-1 Fiancé Visa Waivers for In-Person Meeting
Sometimes you can get a K-1 visa for your future spouse without having met them in the past two years. You can request a waiver for this requirement if meeting in person would violate strict and long-established customs of your fiancé’s foreign culture or social practices, or if it would result in an extreme hardship to you (the U.S. citizen petitioner).
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How Does the K-1 Fiancé Visa Process Work?
The process for applying for a K-1 fiancé visa starts with the U.S. citizen filing a petition with USCIS. After the petition is approved, your foreign fiancé will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.
If the visa is approved, your foreign fiancé will be able to travel to the United States for a 90-day period. During this time, you must get married. If you don’t, your fiancé will have to leave the country.
After you’re married, your spouse can apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process.
Many people choose to work with an immigration attorney throughout the K-1 visa process. That’s because it can be a bit complicated, and because filling out and filing government forms is just one more thing to worry about when you already have a wedding to plan. An attorney can simplify the whole process for you by handling all the paperwork and information requests so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
The Process for Bringing a Fiancé to the United States on a K-1 Fiancé Visa
There are several stages to the process of bringing your fiancé to the U.S. on a visa. First, you must file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). USCIS will review the form and your supporting documentation (see the later section, “Supporting Documentation You May Need for a Fiancé Visa,” for more information). If USCIS determines that you and your future spouse are eligible for this type of visa, the agency will forward your approved form to the National Visa Center (NVC). If the agency determines that you’re not eligible, it’ll send you a notification of your denial and explain its reasoning.
The National Visa Center and Your Future Spouse’s K-1 Visa
After the NVC receives your approved Form I-129F, it forwards it to the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest your fiancé (or wherever they plan to apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa).
Then, the embassy or consulate will notify you when your fiancé’s interview is scheduled. Your fiancé will then apply for the K-1 visa and bring all the required forms and supporting documentation to their interview.
The consular officer working on behalf of the U.S. government who interviews your fiancé will determine whether they’re eligible for the visa and decide whether or not to grant it.
If the official grants your fiancé’s request for this visa, the visa is valid for up to six months for a single entry to the United States.
If the official denies the visa request for any reason, they will let your fiancé know and return Form I-129F to USCIS. The most common reason these visas are denied is that the consular officer doesn’t find the relationship to be bona fide; that means the official doesn’t think the relationship is genuine and may suspect that you’re only applying for the visa to commit immigration fraud. This sometimes happens when a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen for the sole purpose of getting a green card.
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Supporting Documentation You May Need for a Fiancé Visa
When you file Form I-129F, you’ll also need to submit various documents as evidence of your relationship. This is important because, as we mentioned earlier, the whole point of the K-1 fiancé visa is to allow foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to marry their American fiancés — not just any American citizen they happen to know. The following are some common examples of evidence you may need:
- Photos of you and your fiancé together
- Copies of communications between you, such as emails, chat transcripts and love letters
- Documentation indicating that you’ve met in person within the past two years, such as hotel receipts or airplane tickets
- Proof that any prior marriages (for either of you) have ended, such as a divorce decree
- Evidence of financial support, such as bank account statements or affidavits from friends or relatives
What Happens After Your Fiancé Gets to the United States?
After your fiancé arrives in the U.S. on their K-1 visa, you have 90 days to marry. If you fail to get married within that timeframe, your fiancé will need to leave the country. If that happens, you must reapply for the visa at a later date, when you are ready to get married. Your other alternative is to get married outside the United States; in that case, you can simply apply for a green card on your spouse’s behalf.
If you do get married within the 90 days, however, your spouse can then apply for permanent residency (a green card). An immigration attorney can help you with this process, as well.
Do You Need to Speak to an Immigration Attorney About Getting a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
If you want to bring your foreign fiancé to the United States so you can get married, we may be able to help you. Call our office today to schedule a consultation with a caring, experienced immigration attorney who can answer your questions and explain the entire process to you.
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U.S. immigration law can be incredibly complex – and for most people, the best course of action is to work with an immigration attorney who understands the process and federal immigration laws.