K-1 Fiancé Visa Statistics & Trends Report

Executive Summary

RapidVisa has commissioned Causal Design, an independent research firm based in Washington D.C., to cull through multiple datasets—both those provided by the U.S. Government as well as our own proprietary data—to examine statistics and trends of K-1 fiancé visa applications. The K-1 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. More specifically, we examine both macro application trends and more granular statistics related to destinations, occupations and demographics of applicants and sponsors. Several interesting trends emerge as vestiges of the visa’s origins. More broadly, this report is intended to shed light on a topic that is frequently misunderstood and poorly reported.

What’s Included in This Report:

Key Findings

  • The K-1 Visa is an important bridge to immigrant status for fiancés of U.S. citizens
  • Annual K-1 entries into the United States are lower than the daily average attendance at a New York Yankees baseball game
  • Filipinos make up a large and growing portion of K-1 visa entrants
  • Most K-1 entrants go to populous U.S. states like California, Florida, New York and Texas
  • Washington, D.C., Alaska and Hawaii receive the most K-1 entrants per capita
  • The average K-1 sponsor is a white male in his early 40s¹
  • The average K-1 applicant is a woman in her late 20s²
  • K-3 visa issuances have been effectively eliminated
  • During the Trump Presidency, denials have slightly increased, approvals have slightly decreased, and pending cases have skyrocketed

The K-1 Visa: A Brief Background

What is a K-type visa?

K-type visas are nonimmigrant visas for foreign fiancés and spouses (and children) of U.S. citizens who wish to enter the United States while waiting on immigrant application adjudication. K-type visa designees are distinguished by law as nonimmigrants who intend to permanently immigrate.³ There are currently four K-type visas.⁴ The K-1 and K-2 type visas are targeted toward foreign fiancés (i.e. not yet married) of U.S. citizens and their minor children, while the K-3 and K-4 type visas are meant to accommodate foreign spouses (already married) and children of spouses currently living abroad.⁵

The K-1, or “fiancé visa,” allows the future spouses of U.S. citizens to enter the United States in order to marry and ultimately apply for and adjustment to immigrant status.⁶ The K-1 limits couples to 90 days, within which they must get married and file the paperwork for adjustment of status.⁷ In practice, the K-1 serves as a nonimmigrant visa bridge to permanent spousal immigration status. In fact, the K-1 visa is listed on the State Department website in the immigrant visa section, just below IR-1 and CR-1 spousal immigrant visa types.⁸ The IR-1 immigrant visa is only applicable to foreign spouses who have been married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for more than 2 years, while the CR-1 visa applies to foreign spouses who have been married to a U.S. citizens less than 2 years.

Fiancé & Spousal Visa Types

CategoryTypeQualificationsLength
Nonimmigrant Visa

(with intent to immigrate)

K-1Fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens90 days
K-2Minor child of K-190 days
K-3Spouse of U.S. citizen (under LIFE Act provision)2 years
K-4Child of K-32 years
Immigrant VisaIR-1Spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (married 2+ years)10 years
CR-1Spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (married for < 2 years)2 years

Why do K-1 visas exist?

K-type visas were created to eliminate unnecessary family separations resulting from delays in immigrant visa adjudication for foreign fiancés and/or spouses (and family members of fiancés or spouses).⁹ The impetus to write the K-1 (and K-2) visas into law can be traced to two key factors related to globalization and the free movement of people. First, there became a growing need to adjust immigration law to facilitate U.S. soldiers trying to bring their foreign-born fiancés into the United States. Second, U.S. citizens were increasingly working, studying, and travelling abroad, which meant that an increasing number of Americans were also meeting, dating and intending to marry non-U.S. citizens.

Japanese War Brides
Japanese war brides – Many American soldiers returned from WWII with wives who eventually assimilated into American culture.

The precedent for fiancé immigration was set after World War II, when temporary laws permitted U.S. soldiers to bring fiancés into the U.S. But by the late 1960s, those laws were long expired and an increasing number of U.S. Vietnam war soldiers were finding it difficult to return home with their foreign-born fiancés and spouses. Because there was no provision in immigration law for fiancés of U.S. citizens to enter the United States to marry, soldiers had to file for marriage in both Vietnam and the U.S., and were often unable to effectively fulfill the requirements of both.¹⁰

Additionally, there existed a need to provide an avenue for the increasing number of non-military individuals who also wanted to marry foreign-born spouses. From the 1960s onwards, globalization, and the international mobility that accompanied it, drove an increase in the number of U.S. citizens marrying (and intending to marry) non-U.S. citizens.¹¹ However, the same issues that made it difficult for soldiers to legally return to the U.S. with foreign fiancés or spouses caused unnecessary delays and family separations.

The K-1 Visa: In Perspective

K-1 visas make up a small portion of annual nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. In 2017, K-1 visa admissions accounted for less than .05 percent of all nonimmigrant admissions into the United States. B-type visas, which provide temporary entry for business and tourism, make up the vast majority of annual nonimmigrant visa admissions.


In 2017, K-1 visas made up about 6 percent of all new arrival immigrant visas.¹³ IR-type visas, which are family-based, make up the majority of annual new arrival immigrant visas. Further, immigrant spousal visas (IR-1 and CR-1) saw significantly more new entries than the K-1.


Total annual K-1 visa grantees would not fill most major sports stadiums. The total annual admissions of all new K-1 visa holders in 2017 (35,000) was just below the average daily attendance of a New York Yankees baseball game (39,400) in the same year. In fact, yearly admissions of K-1 visa holders has been well below the average single game attendance at Yankee stadium for every year since 2006.


The K-1 Visa: Trends in Annual Entries

The overall trend in K-1 visas has remained remarkably consistent over the past 12 years. Annual K-1 visa admissions ranged from a low of 24,000 in 2011 to a high of 37,000 in 2016. There has been some variation from year to year, but the number of K-1 visas issued in 2017 (35,000) was only slightly higher than the number issued in 2005 (just under 33,000). Meanwhile, immigrant spousal visas (such as the IR-1 and CR-1) increased significantly. The yearly number of CR-1 visas issued rose by 58 percent compared to 2005. The IR-1 visa saw a 200 percent increase in issuances compared to 2005. Between 2015 and 2017, the IR-1 issuances have averaged 76,000 per year, which is more than three times the number of issuances in 2005.


Some of the increase in IR-1 and CR-1 visas may be attributed to the phasing out of the K-3 visa. Starting in 2010, the K-3 was essentially eliminated as an option and many of those who would have previously applied for the K-3 may now be applying for CR-1 visas. However, given the size of the spike, the elimination of the K-3 is unlikely to be the only driver of increase in IR-1 visas.

I-129F data shows a decrease in K-1 issuances and a backlog surge during the Trump Presidency. USCIS quarterly data on the I-129F petition¹⁴ shows that approvals were down in 2017 and 2018 (compared to the previous two years). In 2015 and 2016, an average of 49,000 I-129F petitions were approved. In 2017 and 2018 an average of 34,000 petitions were approved. I-129F denials increased—from an average of 7,400 in 2015 and 2016 to 9,300 in 2017 and 2018—but the lion’s share of the decline in approvals can be traced to an increase in pending petitions. In 2015, the average number of pending petitions (by quarter) was 18,000, but in 2018 that number skyrocketed to 29,000.


The K-Visa: Where from? Where to?

The majority of K-1 visa holders are from 1) East and Southeast Asia (particularly the Philippines) and 2) close neighbors to the north and south. The bulk of K-1 Visa holders go to our most populous states: California, Florida, Texas and New York. Filipino K-1 visas dwarf every other nationality. In 2017, Filipino citizens accounted for nearly 7,000 of the 35,000 K-1 entrants. In fact, Filipino citizens acquired more K-1 visas in 2017 than the rest of the top five countries combined.


Top 20 Countries for K-1 Visa Issuances, 2017

RankCountryIssuances (2017)
1 Philippines6,909
2 Vietnam1,980
3 Dominican Republic1,678
4 Mexico1,617
5 United Kingdom1,221
6 China1,189
7 Colombia970
8 Haiti933
9 Brazil875
10 Canada868
11 India791
12 Ukraine767
13 Nigeria728
14 Thailand616
15 Russia589
16 Laos497
17 Cambodia487
18 Japan420
19 Ethiopia397
20 Jamaica381

The number and share of Filipino K-1 visas grew rapidly since 2005. Nearly 2,500 more Filipino citizens entered the United States in 2017 than in 2005, which represents a 63 percent increase over the past 12 years. In 2005, the Filipinos accounted for 15 percent of all K-1 visas; In 2017, Filipinos accounted for more than 20 percent of all K-1 visas.

Citizens of large East European and East Asian countries saw declines in K-1 visas. China, Russia, and Ukraine all saw significant declines in K-1 visas since 2005. Vietnamese and Chinese citizens accounted for 11 and 7 percent of K-1 visas in 2005, but now only account for 5 and 3 percent, respectively.


Western Hemisphere neighbors (and the UK) saw notable increases in K-1 visas. Brazil, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in particular, registered increases in volume of K-1 visas over the past 12 years. In fact, the Dominican Republic nearly doubled its new K-1 visa holders between 2005 and 2017 and now stands as the third highest K-1 country of citizenship for K-1 visas. Mexico and the United Kingdom also saw slight increases since 2005.


California, Florida, New York and Texas are the most common destinations for K-1s. Unsurprisingly, most K-1 entrants go to the states where most Americans live. In 2017, over 15,000 – or 43 percent – of the 35,000 K-1 entrants went to one of those four states.


Top 5 Destination States for K-1 Visa Recipients, 2017

RankStateAdmits (2017)
1California6,312
2New York3,244
3Florida3,144
4Texas2,671
5Washington1,367

However, Washington, D.C., Alaska and Hawaii receive the most K-1 entrants per capita. In 2017, Washington D.C. and Hawaii saw 32 and 30 new K-1 entrants per 100,000 residents, respectively, while Alaska saw about 21 per 100,000 residents. Washington, Nevada and Massachusetts also saw relatively high proportions of K-1 recipients in 2017.


Top 5 Destination States for K-1 Visa Recipients (Per Capita), 2017

RankStateAdmits per 100,000 (2017)
1Washington D.C.32
2Hawaii30
3Alaska21
4Washington19
5Nevada18

The K-1 Visa: Who?

To explore K-1 demographic data, we used information from a sample of recent RapidVisa customers. The RapidVisa dataset used for analysis below is a sample of 8,000 K-1 sponsors and applicants between the years 2014 and 2018. The data are not an unbiased representation of all K-1 sponsors and applicants, but rather a descriptive snapshot of sample of K-1 applicants and sponsors who have enlisted K-1 application assistance services.

The average RapidVisa K-1 sponsor is a middle-aged, white male. Over 80 percent of RapidVisa (RV) sponsors are male. The median age of sponsors is 42, which is two years higher than the median age in the United States. Over 60 percent of sponsors are Caucasian, 15 percent are African-American and 14 percent are Hispanic/Latino.


The average RapidVisa K-1 applicant is a female in her late 20s. Just under 78 percent of RV applicants are female and over 40 percent are from the Philippines. The share of RV applicants who are Filipinos is double the share of total K-1 recipients who are Filipino. Despite that, the distribution of countries in the RV sample is similar to that of total K-1 entrants – seven of the top ten applicant countries in the RV sample are also in the top ten of total K-1 visa entrants in 2017.



Same-sex couples make up a small portion of K-1 visas. Same-sex couples made up only about 6 percent of the total RV K-1 applications. Though it is a very small sample, the demographic characteristics of same-sex couples are similar to those of opposite-sex couples.

The most cited sponsor occupations are drivers, business owners and retirees. Occupational data gives a window into who most sponsors are. The highest are drivers, business owners, and the retired, with set incomes at or near U.S. median wages. However, individuals with high incomes, including doctors, financial advisors and business executives also make up a significant portion of sponsors.



Close to a third of K-1 applicants are in no-wage occupations. Twenty percent of all applicants entered “unemployed” as their job and 8 percent entered “student.” That said, 70 percent of applicants cited a job or occupation; entries ranged from domestic worker to sales executive to zoo-keeper. But, because the occupation range is wide and many applicants entered a unique job title, it is difficult to pull out broader applicant job takeaways. K-1 sponsor average income is on the low end. Median K-1 sponsor income is about 45,000 per year, which is nearly 15,000 less than the United States median income. That said, extremely high-income individuals make up a significant portion of K-1 sponsors—13 percent of sponsors make more than 100,000 per year.


Conclusion

This report provides some of the first analysis of its kind of the K-1 visa regime. Like the U.S. immigration process and visa regime more broadly, it has been historically either misunderstood or stereotyped. The historical origins of the K-1 visa are based in U.S. foreign wars, and efforts to ease the entry of foreign-born spouses. Other than the most glaring trends—like the preponderance of Philippine applicants in absolute numbers, and most notably the sharp increase in “pending cases” during the Trump Administration—results are either predictable, or noteworthy for their insignificance. K-1 visa applications have remained steady but flat over the years. Moreover, they constitute a tiny fraction of overall visa admissions.

Unsurprisingly, the destination for most K-1 visa recipients are those of anyone else — the most populous American cities and states. While many K-1 visas go to fiancés from developing or emerging countries, the United Kingdom and Canada both appear among the top ten countries of origin. Roughly as many K-1 visas went to fiancés from Canada, for instance, as to those from Brazil (which makes Canada a far greater source of foreign future spouses per capita than Brazil).

Demographic data is harder to pin down, but also revealing: on the one hand, both retirees and professional drivers are disproportionately represented among sponsors, while the unemployed or students dominate the pool of K-1 applicants. That said, data suggests a huge sweep of professions and backgrounds among both applicants and sponsors, making type-casting impossible. Finally, the dramatic uptick in ‘pending cases’ during the Trump Administration (approximately doubling over 12 months) may reflect a widely reported effort to limit immigration by creating administrative hurdles.

Methodology & Sources

¹ This finding uses a proprietary sample of RapidVisa data on sponsors and applicants and may not be a representative sample of all K-1 sponsors and applicants.

² This finding uses a proprietary sample of RapidVisa data on sponsors and applicants and may not be a representative sample of all K-1 sponsors and applicants.

³ Nonimmigrants entering the United States are distinguished (by law) as those with immigrant intent (e.g., those seeking to remain in the United States permanently), those who may only have nonimmigrant intent (i.e., those who are not seeking permanent status), and those who may have dual intent (e.g., those who may seek admission for a temporary purpose while independently pursuing a related or unrelated purpose to remain in the United States permanently).

⁴ The K-1 (and K-2) visa type was established in 1970 by Public Law 91-225, which amended the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act to add the H, K, and L-type visas. The K-3 and K-4 type visa were established in 1990 by the LIFE Act.

⁵ The K-3 (and K-4) visa still exists in law, but has, in practice, been nearly eliminated as a viable spousal visa. See article: “The K3 Visa is Obsolete”.

⁶ The K-2 visa is reserved for minors of K-1 applicants and is contingent on K-1 visa adjudication. The K-3 and K-4 visas are reserved for the married foreign spouse of U.S. citizens and the unmarried, minor children of a married U.S. citizen and foreign spouse waiting for permanent visa status adjustments. (TEMPORARY MIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES: NONIMMIGRANT ADMISSIONS UNDER U.S. IMMIGRATION LAW, Research and Evaluation Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of Policy and Strategy, January 2006.)

⁷ U.S. citizens and the foreign fiancés are subject to certain requirements of course — they must have met in-person at some point within the last two years, for instance, and the sponsor must meet a certain income requirement, among others.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/family-immigration/immigrant-visa-for-spouse.html.

⁹ TEMPORARY MIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES: NONIMMIGRANT ADMISSIONS UNDER U.S. IMMIGRATION LAW, Research and Evaluation Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of Policy and Strategy, January 2006. PP. 12

¹⁰ http://www.afsa.org/doing-social-work-southeast-asia

¹¹ Harper, Immigration Laws of the United States, p. 319; Elizabeth J. Harper, “The Act of April 7, 1970,” I & N Reporter, April 1971, p. 47

¹² http://www.espn.com/mlb/attendance/_/year/2017

¹³ New arrivals are only those who arrived in the United States in the same year. Immigrant visas are also issued to individuals already in the United States who qualify and are approved for adjustment of status.

¹⁴ The Form I-129F is the first step in the K-1 visa process. Once approved, applicants must also pass an interview at the U.S. embassy in the country from which they apply.

Primary Data Sources

Publicly available statistics that were used as a source for this report can be seen at Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration Statistics Yearbook and United States Citizenship & Immigration Services. Additional data used in this report are from an internal RapidVisa customer sampling of 8,000 K-1 visa applications from January 2014 through May 2019.

Acknowledgements

This project was commissioned and directed by RapidVisa with significant contribution from Causal Design, an independent research firm based in Washington D.C.

RapidVisa’s team involved with this project include Kyle Marvin, Director of Marketing; Eugene Biton, Senior Developer/Data Mining; Patrick Tabanas, DevOps Engineer; Zadkiel Molina, Spanish Translation; and Isagani Luna Jr., Senior Developer.

Causal Design’s team involved with this project include Matthew Klick, Director of Research & Learning; Alex Porter, Lead Researcher; and Steve Stapleton, Data Analyst/Data Visualization.

For inquiries regarding the contents of this report, contact Kyle Marvin at 800-872-1458. For press inquiries, contact Gina Yager at 702-480-8980.