The K-1 Visa is a type of U.S. visa which allows a foreign person to travel to the U.S. and to marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days after their arrival on U.S. territory. It is only valid for 6 months and for a single entry to the United States.
The K-1 Visa is considered a dual intent, as it allows foreigners to be temporarily present in the U.S. with lawful status and immigrant intent. So K-1 Visa holders can visit the U.S. while simultaneously seeking lawful permanent resident status (Green Card status) at the port of entry.
This is extremely important because switching from nonimmigrant to immigrant status while in the U.S. on a dual intent visa is relatively straightforward when compared to other types of visa.
To be eligible for a U.S. Fiancé visa, the law requires that you:
- intend to marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days after you enter the United States;
- have met your intended spouse in person within the last two years (though this can sometimes be waived based on cultural customs or extreme hardship), and
- are legally able to marry.
Your U.S. Fiancé(e) must have a clean criminal record and meet a minimum income requirements.
The K-1 Visa process is long and complex. In general, you should expect anything between 10 and 16 months.
It takes at least 6 months from the moment you file your petition until you are finally allowed to schedule an Embassy interview. This period however can be extended up to a year in case the U.S. authorities need more time for background checks. You can avoid some of these additional delays by ensuring application filings are done correctly.
Expect another 1 to 3 months before attending your scheduled interview at your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
The length of the process is related to its complexity and interactions with various instances, but also due to an immense backlog of immigration petitions.
The USCIS processing centers deal with more than just fiancé visas, many of which require a great deal of work and verifications to be approved.
The factors you have control over are:
- Ensuring the application documents are complete and filed correctly;
- Not missing key dates or requests for additional information;
- Being aware of, and complying with all legal requirements for the application.
If the Consular officer grants you the K-1 visa, it will be valid usually for 6 months. It can be used for a single entry on U.S. territory.
However if the Consular officer doubts that your engagement is genuine, the U.S. Department of State will not issue a K-1 visa and instead will return your petition to USCIS.
U.S. Government fees are charged for the following services:
- Filing an Alien Fiancé(e) Petition – USD $535
- Visa application processing fee – USD $160
These sum up to USD $695 not including other costs. These may include the medical examination fee, translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and travel expenses to the Consulate for an interview.
Before the Interview
To prove the information submitted in your petition, you need an evidence file with the following:
- Proof of your meeting in person in the last 2 years prior to filing the petition;
- A short recap of your history together to proof that the relationship is genuine;
- A written testimony that you intend to get married in the U.S.;
- Citizenship proof from both fiancés;
- Valid passport, Birth certificate, Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse – for each of the fiancés;
- Police certificate for the U.S. fiancé(e).
What to Take to Your Interview?
It’s best to attend your K-1 fiancé visa interview with all of the petitions, approvals and supporting documents from your case. You will not need most of these items; however show any of them to the Consular officer if required, in order to avoid any delays. You should bring to the interview:
- All the documents listed above in the “Before the interview” section;
- A copy of the actual petition;
- The petition approval notices from USCIS and NVC;
- The affidavit of support signed by the U.S. fiancé(e);
- Medical Examination;
- Passport-style photos;
- Police certificate;
- A certificate from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since age 16. Police certificates are also required for any K-2 children age 16 or older.;
- Payment of official fees.
Documents in foreign languages, other than the language of the country in which the interview takes place, need to be translated. Original documents and translations will be returned.
Yes. U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that they adjudicate applications for any couple.
In general, you must be at least 18 years of age to be the beneficiary of a fiancé visa.
Your legal ability to marry will depend on the laws of the state where you plan to get married. Each of the 50 U.S. states sets its own rules. For example, in many states you must be 18 years of age to marry, while in others you can marry younger with the consent of your parents. Some states, such as Nebraska and Mississippi, may require that you be older than 18.
There is no maximum age limit for the K-1 Visa.
The two fiancés must have met in person sometime within the last two years prior to the submission of their K-1 Visa petition. Couples who met online or through a marriage broker also need to have met in person sometime within the last two years.
The two fiancés must have met only once, anywhere in the world – and show evidence to prove it. Anything beyond that is a plus.
Having met in person more than 2 years before filing the petition does not count.
The couple is not required to have been together for the entire 2 years prior to the petition.
There is no official checklist of requirements to prove a legitimate relationship. The totality of the evidence is being looked at on a case-per-case basis.
Photos are critical. Pictures in front of an obvious landmark, pictures with family and at family gatherings are always a good idea.
Next would be your means of travel, accommodation and places you visited. Last but not least, show your passport stamps.
We strongly suggest you meet in person as soon as possible, document the meeting and then apply for the K-1 Visa. The two-year meeting requirement is strictly enforced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In a few situations, the couple can get a waiver of the two-year meeting requirement. However, these exceptions are only granted in extremely limited (and unusual) circumstances, where complying with the meeting requirement would either:
- result in extreme hardship to the U.S. petitioner or
- violate strict and long-established customs of the beneficiary’s culture or social practice, namely where marriages are traditionally arranged, and the bride and groom are prohibited from meeting prior to the wedding day.
If you do ultimately seek a waiver, the process will take significantly longer than with a normal fiancé(e) visa application (likely an extra 5 to 12 months, or even more). Overall, a waiver is extremely difficult to obtain and likely to be denied.
Even if you have a strong case for a waiver, USCIS will likely deny your initial application, forcing you to go through the appeal process, which may take even longer.
Yes, the children of the foreign fiancé(e) can apply for a K-2 Visa and may be added to the process. In the USCIS petition phase, the children of the foreign national fiancé(e) can be added on the same petition as the parent. However, the Embassy phase requires a separate Visa online application (and paid fee) for each child.
The greatest advantage of a K-1 visa vs other types of visa is that it was created as the legal way to come to the U.S., marry your U.S. fiancé(e) and obtain a marriage-based Green Card from within the United States.
There could be serious problems for your fiancé(e) if he or she enters the United States on another visa with the actual intention of marrying and residing here. The authorities might suspect immigration fraud, for which there are serious penalties. Those penalties include restricting a person’s ability to obtain immigration benefits, including permanent residence, as well as a possible fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years.
If the couple are legally married after filing the Petition for an Alien Fiancé(e), the beneficiary of the petition is no longer eligible for the K-1 visa. The K-1 petition cannot be converted into a CR-1 or an IR-1 spousal petition and it will be returned to USCIS.
To continue the immigration process, the fiancé(e) who has U.S. citizenship will then need to start again and file a spousal petition with USCIS on behalf of the beneficiary.
You can travel, in theory; however, you may be subject to additional scrutiny. Traveling under another visa status or the visa waiver program is not advised for K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicants prior to the approval of their K-1 visa as they have already indicated their intention is to marry in the U.S.
The K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa has been created for a foreign fiancé(e) who wants to come to the United States in order to marry here. You need to apply for and get a K-1 Fiancé visa, travel to the U.S. with this Visa, get married on U.S. territory and then apply for permanent resident status in the United States.
The Spousal Visa has been created for a foreign spouse who already got married outside the U.S. and who wants to live and work legally in the U.S. With a Spouse Visa you have permanent resident status in the United States from the moment you enter U.S. territory.
Indeed, the timeline for a K-1 Visa used to be 2-3 months shorter than for the Spouse Visa. Please keep in mind that the current COVID-19 situation has affected all procedures and a determination is hard to make these present days. It really depends on how backed up the U.S. government agencies handling the immigration visas really are.
As with many things in life, there are pros and cons for each type of Visa.
The K-1 Fiancé Visa makes sense for engaged couples who want to be together in the United States as soon as possible (7 – 10 months on average) or who want to hold their wedding in the United States.
The Spouse Visa, on the other hand, is good for couples who prefer to hold the wedding outside of the U.S., who can afford a longer wait apart from each other or who wish to have permanent residency immediately upon entering the United States.
The final answer depends on your personal circumstances and the country where you reside.
Have you got any questions depending on your specific case?
Get in touch with us – one of our licensed Immigration Lawyers is here to give you advice.