The K1 fiancé(e) visa is an option for someone who is engaged to a US citizen and would like to get married and live in the US. The K1 visa is technically a nonimmigrant visa, but it is processed alongside immigrant (spousal) visas since the applicant ultimately intends to live permanently in the US with their future spouse.
To be eligible to file an I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), you and your fiancé(e) must have met in person within the past two years, and you must have evidence of your meeting. You must also be able to prove to the government that you have a genuine relationship and that you intend to marry within 90 days of arriving in the US.
The K1 visa process is similar to the Immigrant Visa process in that it requires consular processing and an in-person interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad. However, it is handled more directly with the embassy or consulate rather than the National Visa Center (NVC). This means that the specific requirements and steps depend heavily on the country from which the beneficiary is applying. Once the foreign fiancé(e) is approved, enters the US, and gets married, they must then file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, in order to obtain permanent residency in the US.
In order to file a K1 fiancé(e) petition on behalf of your foreign fiancé(e), the following must be true:
There are several documents that will be required when filing your fiancé(e) visa petition, and more will be needed before the beneficiary attends their interview abroad.
Here is a basic overview of the required items that you will need to collect:
Note all documents must be translated into English.
One of the most exciting things about the immigration process is its ability to move people closer to the ones they love. Family-based immigration enables people all over the globe to come closer together and spend more of their lives in the same place.
If you’re applying to citizenship based on three years of marriage to a US citizen, part of the process will be proving to the government that your relationship is still genuine. This is usually not an issue for couples who have been together for several years and who live together. However, it can be a big project to collect documentation of your relationship over several years and to know what types of things that the government is looking for.
Sometimes relationship evidence can seem very personal, but you must be able to show the government that your marriage or engagement is legitimate. Click here for some helpful tips.
Our immigration system has always been a challenging maze to navigate. However, in recent years, the roadblocks to receiving a green card, a visa, or U.S. citizenship have increased dramatically.
For example, a USCIS policy rolled out in 2018 allows petitions to be immediately denied without first giving the applicant the chance to fix any issues. This “sudden death” policy mirrors a string of other recent changes to the immigration system: processing times are slower than ever, more couples are being separated at interviews, and immigration officers are making unannounced visits to applicants’ homes.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure your case is approved. Clickherefor some helpful pointers.
Out of all of the types of family-based immigration petitions, the K1 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 K1 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 B1/B2 visitor visa and applying for an immigrant visa (which results in obtaining permanent resident status immediately upon entering the US). A K1 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 K1 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:
While this may seem like a lot of steps, for many couples, the K1 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 an experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate this process!
The Fiancé(e) visa process is consistently one of the most confusing immigration paths to take, but it is a great option for couples who wish to be able to be together as soon as possible and want to get married in the US.
Once your I-129F petition is approved by USCIS, your case will be transferred to the National Visa Center and then on to the US embassy or consulate where you will attend your interview. The purpose of the interview is to prove to the officer that your relationship with your fiancé(e) is genuine, and that you’re not getting engaged solely for the benefit of receiving this visa. If your relationship is genuine and you’ve prepared well, it should be relatively easy to have a successful interview.
To prepare, go over sample questions to make sure that you will be confident answering them and go over all of the paperwork you’ve submitted so far. Discuss any questions or concerns with your immigration attorney. Make sure to bring all necessary documents to the interview, including the completed I-129F form, your medical examination, and original copies of civil documents such as your birth certificate and passport. If you have evidence of wedding plans, such as wedding invitation designs or receipts for wedding-related purchases, it can be helpful to print them out and bring them as additional evidence.
You may or may not be able to have your fiancé(e) with you at the interview, depending on the embassy your interview is held at. Check with the embassy, and if your fiancé(e) can attend, it can be comforting to have them there supporting you; it may also be another way to show the strength of your relationship to the officer.
You should dress nicely for the interview. You don’t need to wear a full suit-and-tie or a fancy dress, but nice pants or a skirt and a nice button down shirt or blouse is a good idea.
The officer will ask you basic questions about your place of birth, family, and criminal background, as well as basic questions about your fiancé(e) that will prove how well you know them. Then, they will move on to questions about your relationship, which may include questions such as:
They will also go over your application with you and ask you the security questions. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, remember that it is better to be honest rather than lie by making up an answer.
After the interview, it is possible that the officer may approve your visa on the spot, but don’t be concerned if they do not; oftentimes background checks or other administrative processes need to be completed before official approval. The consular officer will take your passport and, if you are approved, return it with the K-1 affixed to the passport via mail. Sometimes, your passport will be accompanied by a sealed envelope of documents. If that is the case, it is very important that you do not open the envelope. Recently, it seems that the consulates are moving more toward uploading the additional travel electronically so CBP can just pull it up when they scan your passport. If your travel documents were issued electronically, your passport will arrive with a letter explaining that.
Depending on your home country, you may have special requirements or extra steps to complete during or before the interview; check with your immigration attorney and your consulate.
After the interview, the consular officer will take your passport and, if you are approved, return it with the K-1 affixed to the passport via mail. Sometimes, your passport will be accompanied by a sealed envelope of documents. If that is the case, it is very important that you do not open the envelope (this envelope is only to be opened by DHS officers at the U.S. border). Recently, it seems that the consulates are moving more toward uploading the additional travel electronically so CBP can just pull it up when they scan your passport. If your travel documents were issued electronically, your passport will arrive with a letter explaining that.
Once you receive your visa, you will be able to apply for a one-time entrance into the United States at any date within the validity of your visa. Your visa will expire 6 months at most after its issuance.
You are required to marry your fiancé(e) within 90 days of your arrival into the U.S. If you fail to do so, you must leave the country to avoid being in violation of U.S. immigration law, which could result in deportation and negatively affect future immigration eligibility. The visa cannot be extended beyond 90 days.
As soon as you are married and have your marriage license in hand, in order to stay in the U.S. you are required to 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. The approval of an Adjustment of Status case is what gets you a legal permanent resident card, or a “green card.”
Approximately one year after your Adjustment of Status is filed (processing times vary widely by region), you will be called in for another interview — this time with your spouse included. The USCIS officer at your local field office will ask you specific questions about your application and about your relationship in order to determine if you are eligible to receive immigrant benefits in the US (i.e. a green card). All K1 recipients are required to complete this step in order to remain in the US.
When you enter the US on a K1 visa, you are technically a non-immigrant. As such, your rights and abilities are limited until you file for Adjustment of Status, which you are required to do after marrying your US citizen partner.
Here are a few commonly asked questions regarding life in the US on a K1 visa:
Immediately upon entrance into the U.S. on your K-1 visa, you may apply for evidence of work authorization by filing form I-765. If your application is approved, your work authorization is only valid up until 90 days after your initial entrance. Due to long processing times for employment authorization (Form I-765), it is extremely unlikely the application will be processed before it is time to file for Adjustment of Status.
Once you and your fiancé(e) have gotten married, you can apply for work authorization at the same time that you apply for your permanent resident card, submitting both the I-765 and I-485 together. If your work authorization is approved at this time, it will be valid for one year, and eligible for continuous one-year extensions. Generally, this is a wiser option than applying for work authorization based on the K1 visa. Waiting to file the I-765 with the I-485 will save you money, time, and a headache.
For more information about working or volunteering with a K-1 fiancé(e) visa click here.
To obtain a driver’s license, you’ll need valid legal status, which can be your evidence of work authorization. Therefore, as soon as your work authorization is approved, you can take the next steps to be able to drive. When your driver’s license is issued, it will have the same expiration date as the expiration date of your current legal status. Therefore, waiting to get a license until after you receive your 2-year permanent resident card might be a better option than using your 1-year work authorization (EAD) card, in order to avoid the extra hassle and double the license fees.
Your K-1 visa is only valid for a one-time entry into the United States. Therefore, if you leave the United States on your K-1 visa, you will not be allowed back into the country. However, you are certainly allowed to travel within the borders of the U.S. while on your K-1 visa. While Puerto Rico might seem like a great honeymoon destination, its status as a U.S. territory rather than a state makes it somewhat risky to travel to on a K-1 visa, as border agents have wide discretion when deciding whether or not to let you back in to the country. Hawaii and Alaska can also pose a slight risk, because if your plane stops in a different country for a connecting flight, border agents may not let you back into the U.S. To be extra safe, it’s better to stick to the 48 contiguous states.
Once you file your I-485, you can apply for “Advance Parole” if you have an urgent need to travel internationally, such as a sick or deceased family member or other emergency situation. If your application for advance parole is approved, you’ll be able to travel while your I-485 case is in process. If you do not receive advance parole, leaving the U.S. anyway while your I-485 application is in process will automatically cancel your application. Once your I-485 is approved and you receive your green card, you will not have these strict travel restrictions (although some restrictions for extended travel still exist).
If you’re a United States citizen and you would like to bring your non-citizen partner to the United States from another country, marriage is ultimately going to have to be part of your plan. With the K-1 Visa process, you will be married after your partner enters the United States, whereas with the Spousal Visa process, you will already be married before you file anything. One of these processes is not objectively better than the other: it depends on the circumstances and preferences of you and your partner.
There are many considerations you should take into account when deciding what process is best for you. Below we outline some key factors to consider and overviews of both of the processes for you to review as a starting point in your decision process.
Key factors to consider when deciding between the two options:
The government filing and processing fees are different for each visa process and are paid at different times.
Currently, the fees for the K-1 process are $535 for Form I-129F (filed with USCIS), $265 to apply for the K-1 visa (generally paid to the U.S. consulate), and then once your partner is in the United States there is a fee $1,225 for Form I-485/adjustment of status packet filed with USCIS. The total government fees are therefore $2,025. (Note this does not include any derivative children).
For the spousal visa process, current filing fees are $535 to USCIS for Form I-130, $325 to the U.S. State Department to apply for the visa, and $120 to the State Department for affidavit of support processing. After everything is approved, there is an Immigrant Fee to USCIS of $220. The total government fees are $1,200. (Note this does not include any derivative children).
With the K-1 visa, there will be a period of approximately 5-7 months from the time of filing the adjustment of status application in the United States until your partner receives the card that serves both his/her employment authorization and travel document. During this 5-7 month period, your partner cannot legally work or travel outside of the United States. You should not rely on expediting the processing of the work authorization/travel document applications because it is increasingly difficult to receive expedited processing with USCIS.
If your partner enters on a spousal visa, he/she would enter the United States with the ability to work and travel, because he/she would already hold legal permanent resident status.
Although the timing can vary greatly for both processes based on the exact circumstances of each case, generally the K-1 visa process allows your partner to enter the United States approximately 1-4 months earlier than through the spousal visa process. However, sometimes processing can be delayed at the US embassy or consulate, depending on how busy they are.
The legal fees for obtaining the Legal Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) through the K-1 Visa process are usually higher than for obtaining legal permanent resident status through the Spousal Visa process. Because the K-1 visa involves consular processing before your partner enters the United States and a full adjustment of status application process after they enter the United States, the legal fees associated with the full K-1/adjustment of status processes are higher than with the Spousal Visa process.
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