Here are the main steps involved when applying for a K-1 fiance visa:

Step 1. USCIS Filing

The United States citizen sponsor files the K1 visa petition with USCIS by mailing the completed I-129F petition package along with a check to the Department of Homeland Security for $535.

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 USCIS has received your petition. You do nothing at this step.

Step 3. Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)

Usually, between 8 and 10 months after mailing your petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA2) in the mail indicating 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 fiancé. You will not receive anything in the mail at this point. If you want to verify that the NVC has received your file, call them at 603-334-0700 or email them at [email protected] You do nothing at this step.

Step 5. NVC to Embassy

If your fiancé'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 fiancé’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 fiancé 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 fiancé to return some of the documents immediately. Other documents will be kept until the interview.

Step 8. Medical Exam

The fiancé must do a medical exam. The package sent to the fiancé 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 fiancé must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy. All applicants must bring their passport. If children are joining on a K-2 visa, they must also attend the interview. The package sent to the fiancé 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 if the relationship is genuine.

Step 10. Visa Issued

The alien fiancé 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 fiancé 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 the U.S.

The fiancé 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 fiancé within 90 days of entry into the United States. If a wedding doesn't take place within this time, the fiancé 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 fiancé Visas (K2 Visa)

The fiancé'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 fiancé Visa

After your fiancé 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 fiancé 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.

Disqualifying Events

A K1 fiancé 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.

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 fiancé 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 fiancé 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 Fiancé is in the United States Illegally

If your fiancé 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.