Learn about the essential steps to follow when applying for a K-1 fiancé visa:
Step 1: USCIS Filing
The U.S. citizen sponsor initiates the process by submitting the K-1 visa petition (Form I-129F) to USCIS along with a $535 fee.
Step 2: Notice of Action 1 (NOA1)
Within two to three weeks after submission, you'll receive a Notice of Action (NOA1) confirming USCIS's receipt of your petition. No further action is needed at this stage.
Step 3: Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)
Typically, between 8 and 10 months later, you'll receive a Notice of Action 2 (NOA2) indicating USCIS's decision on your petition. If approved, proceed to the next step. If denied, explore your available options. If an RFE (Request for Evidence) is received, respond with the requested documentation.
Step 4: NVC Phase
The service center handling your petition will forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC) within two weeks of approval. You won't receive any communication at this point. To confirm the NVC's receipt of your file, contact them at 603-334-0700 or via email at NVCINQUIRY@state.gov. No further action is required in this phase.
Step 5: NVC to Embassy
Upon a successful security check for your fiancé, the approved K-1 visa petition is sent to the U.S. Embassy in your fiancé's home country through DHL. No action is needed from your end during this step.
Step 6: Embassy Letter
The U.S. Embassy will send your fiancé a letter with instructions for scheduling the medical exam and interview. Your presence is not required at the embassy interview.
Step 7: Gather Embassy Documents
Your fiancé will be instructed by the U.S. Embassy to return some documents immediately, while others will be needed for the interview.
Step 8: Medical Exam
Step 9: Embassy Interview
Your fiancé attends an interview at the U.S. Embassy, where they may be asked questions to assess the authenticity of the relationship. You are not required to attend, though it may be allowed and encouraged in some countries.
Step 10: Visa Issued
The K-1 fiancé visa is placed in your fiancé's passport and can be picked up on the same day or within a week. It will be delivered via courier, allowing you to purchase airline tickets for travel to the U.S.
Step 11: Travel to the U.S.
Your fiancé has six months to use the visa to enter the United States. At the Point of Entry (POE), they surrender a package of documents from the U.S. Embassy. You, as the sponsor, do not need to accompany them.
Step 12: Wedding
Marry your fiancé within 90 days of their entry into the United States. Failure to do so will require your fiancé to leave the U.S. The 90-day countdown begins on the date stamped in their passport upon entry. The K-1 visa beneficiary can only marry the petitioner. Subsequently, the foreign citizen fiancé must file an adjustment of status (AOS) petition to obtain a green card. While there is no strict deadline for filing the AOS, the foreign citizen fiancé cannot work or re-enter the U.S. before its submission.
Things You Should Know About the K1 Visa Process
Working in the U.S. with a K1 Fiancé Visa
Once your fiancé arrives in the United States, they can apply for permission to work by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The current average processing time for the I-765 is three months.
Children of K1 Fiancé Visa Holders (K2 Visa)
If your fiancé has children under the age of 21 who are unmarried, they may be eligible for a K2 nonimmigrant visa. To include them in the K1 visa petition process, list their names on Form I-129F.
A K1 fiancé visa application may be denied if the applicant:
- Has committed serious criminal offenses, including crimes involving moral turpitude, drug trafficking, and prostitution.
- Suffers from drug addiction.
- Has a communicable disease other than HIV.
- Exhibits a dangerous physical or mental disorder.
- Is likely to become a public charge.
- Has used fraudulent or illegal means to enter the United States.
K1 Visa for Fiancés Present in the United States Illegally
If your fiancé is currently residing in the United States without legal status, obtaining a K1 visa may not be possible. In such cases, it is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney before leaving the United States to explore potential options.
Multiple K1 Visa Filings
If you have previously filed two or more K1 visa petitions or had one K1 visa approved within the past two years, you will need to apply for a waiver. To request a waiver, provide a detailed letter outlining all pertinent information about your prior filings, state your request for a waiver, and attach the letter to your new fiancé visa petition.
Using a Different Visa Type for Marriage in the U.S. (Not a K1 Visa)
Attempting to enter the U.S. on a different visa type or without a visa (such as through the ESTA program) with the intent of getting married is generally considered immigration fraud and should be avoided. For instance, trying to bring your fiancé to the U.S. on a tourist visa for marriage purposes can lead to severe penalties, including potential imprisonment for up to five years. Following the appropriate legal channels and visa categories for your specific situation is crucial.
Frequently Asked Questions About the K1 Visa Process
How long does it take to process a K1 Visa?
Answer: The processing time for a K1 Visa can vary, but it typically takes around 8 to 10 months from submitting the petition to USCIS until your fiancé receives the visa.
What are the requirements for a K1 Visa?
Answer: Here are the general requirements for a K1 visa:
1. U.S. Citizenship of the Sponsor:
- The petitioner (U.S. citizen) must be a U.S. citizen. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are not eligible to petition for a K1 visa.
2. Intention to Marry:
- The U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign fiancé must have a genuine intention to marry within 90 days of the fiancé's entry into the United States.
3. Legal Capacity to Marry:
- Both parties must be legally free to marry at the time of filing the petition. As such, any prior marriages must be legally terminated through divorce, annulment, or death.
4. In-Person Meeting:
- The petitioner and the foreign fiancé must have met in person at least once within the two years preceding the filing of the K1 visa petition. This requirement has limited exceptions, primarily based on religious or cultural reasons.
5. Financial Requirements:
- The U.S. petitioner must demonstrate the ability to financially support the foreign fiancé upon their arrival in the United States. This typically involves providing an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134) along with evidence of income and financial resources.
6. Background Checks:
- The petitioner and the foreign fiancé are subject to background checks, including criminal and security checks.
7. Medical Examination:
- The foreign fiancé must undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician. The medical examination results are submitted as part of the visa application.
8. Visa Interview:
- The foreign fiancé must attend a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. During the interview, consular officers assess the authenticity of the relationship and the fiancé's eligibility for the K1 visa.
9. Intent to Live Together:
- The U.S. petitioner and the foreign fiancé must intend to live together as a married couple in the United States. The K1 visa is not intended for couples who do not plan to reside together.
How hard is the K1 Visa process?
Answer: The difficulty of the K1 visa process can vary from case to case and depends on various factors, including the completeness of your documentation, your eligibility, and adherence to immigration laws and regulations.
Here are some aspects to consider when assessing the difficulty of the K1 visa process:
1. Meeting Eligibility Requirements:
- The K1 visa process requires meeting specific eligibility criteria, such as being a U.S. citizen, having a genuine intention to marry your fiancé within 90 days of their arrival in the U.S., and ensuring both parties are legally free to marry.
2. Completing the Required Forms:
- The process involves completing and submitting various forms, including Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support), and others. Filling out these forms accurately and providing all necessary documentation can be challenging.
3. Meeting in Person:
- The requirement for the petitioner and the foreign fiancé to have met in person at least once within the two years preceding the petition can pose challenges for some couples, especially if they are in a long-distance relationship.
4. Background Checks:
- Both the petitioner and the foreign fiancé are subject to background checks, including criminal and security checks. Any issues in the background may complicate the process.
5. Financial Support:
- Demonstrating the ability to financially support your fiancé can be a significant aspect of the process. You must provide evidence of your income and resources, and you may need to secure a joint sponsor if your financial situation does not meet the requirements.
6. Medical Examination:
- The foreign fiancé must undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician, and the results must be submitted as part of the visa application.
7. Visa Interview:
- The fiancé must attend a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. The interview assesses the authenticity of the relationship and the fiancé's eligibility for the K1 visa.
8. Processing Times:
- The K1 visa process can take several months, and the timing can vary. Delays in processing or the need for additional documentation can be challenging.
9. Professional Assistance:
- Some applicants find it helpful to seek professional assistance or consult with an immigration attorney to navigate the complex immigration rules and requirements.