K-1 Fiancé Visa Overview
A K-1 visa, or a fiancé visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to an alien who wishes to enter the U.S. for the purpose of marriage to a U.S. citizen. The “K” visa category for fiances of U.S. citizens and their accompanying minor children (K2 visa) was created to speed up the immigration process of bringing a fiance to the United States for marriage. The K1 visa was established by Public Law 91-225 in 1970.
This K visa spares fiances a long separation from their intended spouse, while continuing their processing for permanent resident status, or immigrant status, after the marriage takes place through adjustment of status.
The K-1 Visa Process
The K1 visa process is quite the undertaking, as it is composed of several phases/steps that span several months.
The basic steps to the process are as follows:
- USCIS Filing – Petition is mailed to the USCIS.
- Notice of Action 1 (NOA1) – Petition is received by USCIS.
- Notice of Action 2 (NOA2) – Petition is approved or denied by USCIS.
- NVC Phase – USCIS forwards your case to the National Visa Center.
- NVC to Embassy – NVC forwards your case to the U.S. embassy in the nation of origin.
- Embassy Letter – Embassy contacts you with further instructions.
- Gather Embassy Documents – Follow instructions given by embassy.
- Medical Exam – Alien schedules and completes required medical exam.
- Embassy Interview – Alien is interviewed by consular officer at the U.S. Embassy.
- Visa Issued – The visa is placed into the passport and passport returned to alien.
- Travel to U.S. – Alien has 6 months to enter the U.S.
- Wedding – Alien has 90 days after entry to marry.
K-1 Visa Timeline
Prior to 2018, the K-1 visa timeline was much faster. Due to the new administration’s immigration focus, the timelines for all visa types have been extended greatly. Currently, as of 2020, the average timeline from the initial application to the time the visa is granted is between 6 and 9 months. The time can be shorter or longer depending on your situation.
Some of the factors that can affect your timeline are:
- The alien’s country
- The current USCIS workload
- The quality of the petition you submit
- Natural disasters/war/terrorism
- Most of what makes a K1 visa take longer is in the petitioner’s hands, and there are some things you can do to speed it up.
The K-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements
Before starting down the K-1 path, you’ll need to determine if you’re even eligible for the visa. To petition your fiance for a K-1 visa, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen aged 18+
- Intend to marry within 90 days
- Be legally free to marry
- Met in person within 2 years of application date
- Meet the fiance visa income requirements
For full details about the K1 visa requirements, go here.
K-1 Visa Costs & Fees
The cost of the K-1 fiancé visa process is not insignificant. Government fees are fixed, but other costs will vary depending on your unique situation.
|Everyone pays these.||Varies based on your situation.|
|USCIS Filing Fee: $535||Travel Costs|
|Embassy Fee: $265||Medical Exam (Usually around $200)|
|Total Government fees: $800||Assistance (ie. RapidVisa or an attorney)|
The above fees don’t include the adjustment of status cost, which comes after marriage for the green card.
There are several forms that are submitted/filed at different times to different government agencies along the way. Some people choose to DIY. It can be quite cumbersome to navigate all the K-1 fiancé visa forms yourself, which is why many people opt for assistance.
|I-129F||Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)|
|DS-160||Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application|
|G-1145||e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Optional)|
After your case has been approved by both USCIS and Homeland Security, the alien will need to take a face-to-face interview with a consular officer. This is usually done in the country of origin, but may be in a nearby country if the U.S. embassy in that country doesn’t process nonimmigrant visas.
The alien will be asked a series of questions to make a determination of approval or denial. The main goal of the interviewer is to determine if your relationship is legitimate, and to make sure there is no fraud going on. After the interview, the consular officer will approve or reject your visa. If approved, the passport (along with the issued visa) will be returned to the beneficiary within a few days.
After K-1 Visa Issuance
After issuance, the K-1 fiancé visa is valid for 6 months. However, once an entry stamp is made, the clock shortens to 90 days. The alien must marry the original petitioner within this 90 day period. There is no way to extend the 90 day period. A K-1 fiancé visa is only valid for one entry. Usually, a wedding is planned by the time the alien enters, so there are no surprises with the time shortage.
After marriage, the alien will need to file an adjustment of status. This process converts the alien from a non-immigrant to an immigrant, and grants permanent residency (green card). With the green card, the alien can stay in the U.S. legally, work, and exit and re-enter the U.S. without the need for further visas.