Out of all of the types of family-based immigration petitions, the K-1 fiancé(e) visa seems to generate the most questions and confusion. This type of petition allows a US citizen to petition for a significant other abroad after making the commitment to marry them within 90 days of their entry into the US.
The K-1 visa is a bit more complex than other family-based visas due to the fact that it straddles the line between an immigrant and nonimmigrant visa. Similarly, the process for obtaining one is somewhat of a hybrid between applying for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa and applying for a immigrant visa (which results in obtaining permanent resident status immediately upon entering the US). A K-1 visa is technically a nonimmigrant visa, but, of course, it implies immigrant intent and eventually results in receiving immigrant benefits.
The important thing to understand about the K-1 visa process is that it requires several steps in order for your significant other to become a Permanent Resident of the United States and it is important to keep track of all deadlines and expiration dates. The timeline can be a bit overwhelming, but it goes something like this:
- You and your significant other meet in person and eventually decide to get engaged and make the commitment to get married soon;
- Within 2 years of your meeting, you file Form I-129F along with the required supporting documents to USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services);
- In approximately 6-9 months, USCIS approves your petition and transfers it to the National Visa Center (NVC) where it undergoes initial processing;
- The NVC then transfers your case on to the specific consular post abroad where your fiancé(e) resides;
- You and your fiancé(e) complete additional requirements, including the online form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and submit preliminary documents to the US embassy or consulate abroad when prompted;
- Your fiancé(e) attends an interview at the consulate/embassy abroad and is issued a 90-day K1 visa to enter the US;
- Your fiancé(e) enter the US and you have your official wedding ceremony within 90 days of their entry.
The above steps describe the entire K-1 visa process, but after this process is completed, there are a number of additional steps necessary in order to complete the required Adjustment of Status process and then the required Removal of Conditions process, as described below:
- As soon as you are married and have your marriage license in hand, you file for an “Adjustment of Status” with USCIS, which includes Forms I-485, I-864, I-131, and I-765 and additional supporting evidence of your relationship;
- Once your petition is submitted, you wait about 1 year for USCIS to schedule an Adjustment of Status interview at the local USCIS field office (during this time your partner can potentially receive temporary authorization for employment and international travel);
- You attend your scheduled interview as a couple and answer questions about your relationship;
- The interviewing officer evaluates your case and then issues a 2-year “Conditional Permanent Resident Card” to your spouse;
- 1 year and 9 months later (before your conditional card expires), you file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence with USCIS, along with supporting evidence;
- USCIS processes your petition for 18-24 months, after which time they issue a 10-year Permanent Resident Card (without conditions) to your spouse;
- Approximately 1-1.5 years later (3 years after they became a permanent resident), and on the condition that you remain married, your spouse becomes eligible to file to become a naturalized U.S. citizen!
While this may seem like a lot of steps, for many couples, the K-1 visa process is the best route toward being able to live together and have a wedding ceremony in the US. The good news is that our office is very experienced in handling these types of visas and we are here to assist you through each step of the process.