Step 1. USCIS Filing
The United States citizen sponsor files the K1 visa petition with the USCIS by mailing the completed I-129F petition package along with a check to the Department of Homeland Security for $510.
Step 2. Notice of Action 1 (NOA1)
Two to three weeks after mailing your petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA1) in the mail indicating the USCIS has received your petition. You do nothing at this step.
Step 3. Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)
Usually, between 5 and 7 months after mailing your petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA2) in the mail indicating the USCIS has approved, denied or requests additional evidence for your petition. If approved, you do nothing at this step. If you are denied, there are a few options you can take. If you receive an RFE, you need to respond to it with the evidence requested.
Step 4. NVC Phase
The service center that handled your petition (either Vermont or California) forwards your case to the State Department’s NVC (National Visa Center). This will happen within two weeks of your approval. The NVC will run a security check on your fiance. You will not receive anything in the mail at this point. If you want to verify that the NVC has received you file, call them at 603-334-0700 or email them at NVCINQUIRY@state.gov. You do nothing at this step.
Step 5. NVC to Embassy
If your fiance's security check comes back clean, your approved K1 visa petition will be routed to the Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Bureau of Consular Affairs will send your file to the U.S. Embassy in your fiance’s country via DHL. You do nothing at this step.
Step 6. Embassy Letter
After receiving your visa petition, the U.S. Embassy (usually in the country of origin) sends the fiance a letter with instructions for scheduling the medical exam and interview. You (the U.S. citizen) do not have to attend the embassy interview.
Step 7. Gather Embassy Documents
The U.S. Embassy will instruct the fiance to return some of the documents immediately. Other documents will be kept until the interview.
Step 8. Medical Exam
The fiance must have a medical exam. The package sent to the fiance by the U.S. Embassy will explain how to schedule the medical exam. You must pay a fee for the medical exam. The fee is usually paid in the local currency and varies depending on the location. You (the U.S. citizen) do nothing at this step. This fee can’t be paid from the United States.
Step 9. Embassy Interview
The fiance must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy. All applicants must bring their passport, including children of all ages. If children are joining on a K-2 visa, they must also attend the interview. The package sent to the fiance by the U.S. Embassy will explain how to schedule the interview. The U.S. citizen sponsor is not required to attend the interview. However, the sponsor is allowed and encouraged to attend in some countries while other countries will not allow the U.S. citizen to attend. The $265 embassy fee is paid directly to the embassy. A consular officer will ask a series of questions to determine the relationship is genuine.
Step 10. Visa Issued
The alien fiance may be able to pick up the actual visa the same day. However, there will usually be a wait of up to one week. The visa will be delivered via courier. The actual K1 fiance visa is a self-adhesive decal that is placed in the beneficiary's passport. At this point, airline tickets can be purchased for travel to the United States.
Step 11. Travel to U.S.
The fiance has 6 months to use the visa to enter the United States. He or she will be given a package of documents by the U.S. Embassy which he or she will surrender at the Point of Entry (POE) into the United States. The sponsor does not need to travel with the beneficiary when they travel to the United States.
Step 12. Wedding
The petitioner must marry the alien fiance within 90 days of entry into the United States. If a wedding doesn't take place within this time, the fiance must leave the United States. The 90 day clock starts on the date you enter the United States, which is normally stamped in your passport. The K1 visa beneficiary can only marry the person who submitted the petition. Eventually the alien must file an adjustment of status petition to receive the green card. There is no deadline for filing the AOS, and it does not need to be filed within 90 days of arrival. However, the alien will not be able to work or re-enter the United States before it is filed.
Additional Items Related to the K1 Visa Process
Children of K1 Fiance Visas (K2 Visa)
The fiance's children who are under 21 and unmarried may be eligible for a K2 nonimmigrant visa. All that is necessary to include them during the K1 visa petition process is to include their names on the I-129F.
Working in the U.S. with a K1 Fiance Visa
After your fiance arrives in the United States, he or she may apply for permission to work by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The current average processing time for the I-765 is 3 months.
K1 Fiance Visa and HIV/AIDS
HIV is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. This rule was changed on January 4, 2010. Applicants are no longer required to file Form I-690 if HIV infected.
A K1 fiance visa will be refused if the applicant:
- Has committed serious criminal acts including crimes involving moral turpitude, drug trafficking, and prostitution.
- Is addicted to drugs.
- Has a communicable disease other than HIV.
- Has a dangerous physical or mental disorder.
- Is likely to become a public charge.
- Has used fraud or other illegal means to enter the United States.
When applying for a K1 fiance visa, you must notify the USCIS if you meet your fiance through an international marriage broker. An international marriage broker is a corporation, partnership, business, individual or other legal entity that charges fees to provide dating, marriage, matchmaking or social referrals between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.
The following are not considered International Marriage Brokers:
1. Matchmaking organizations of a cultural or religious nature that operate on a non-profit basis and comply with the laws of the country they are in.
2. Dating services, including online dating services, if their primary business is not to provide dating services between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. They must also charge the same rates to men and women, offer the same services to men and women, and do not base fees or services on the individual’s country of citizenship. For example, they can’t charge U.S. men to be a member, but allow foreign women to join for free.
Multiple K1 Visa Filings
If you have filed two or more K1 visa petitions in the past, you must apply for a waiver. You will also need a waiver if you have had one K1 approved within the past two years. To request a waiver, you simply write a letter stating all available facts about your previous filings. You will state that you are requesting a waiver, and attach the letter to your new fiance visa petition.
Using a Different Type of Visa to Come to the U.S. for Marriage (not a K1 Visa)
Coming to the U.S. on a different visa (not a K1 visa) or no visa (ESTA), with the intent of getting married would usually be considered immigration fraud. This situation should be avoided. For example, you should not attempt to bring your fiance to the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intent to get married. The penalties for immigration fraud are steep and can even result in up to 5 years in prison.
K1 Visa if Fiance is in the United States Illegally
If your fiance is in the United States illegally, you will not be able to get a K1 visa. If this is your situation, you should talk to an immigration attorney before you leave the United States.