K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa: A Complete Overview!
So you’re engaged to your foreign fiancé. Congratulations!
Now is the time to start figuring out how to make a life together. If your foreign fiancé lives outside of the United States, you have at least two options:
you can marry your fiancé and apply for an immigrant visa for them via consular processing; or
you can petition your fiancé for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa and bring them to the United States.
If your fiancé already lives in the United States, a K-1 fiancé visa may not be appropriate for him or her as they may be eligible to apply directly for adjustment of status. As always, consult with a licensed immigration attorney regarding eligibility issues to be sure to avoid making a costly mistake. Here at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti, we’ve helped guide many couples successfully through this process.
However, if your foreign fiancé lives outside of the United States, and if you’re interested in bringing your fiancé, you have to go through a five step process:
the U.S. citizen petitions for the foreign fiancé
the foreign fiancé prepares for & attends a consular visa interview
the foreign fiancé travels to the USA
the couple marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival to the USA
the foreign fiancé applies for a green card by adjustment of status
Naturally, there are a number of pitfalls that people can fall into going through the process, which can sometimes lead to delay or even a denial. In our experience dealing with many K-1 cases throughout the years, there are a few common mistakes and misconceptions that we see over and over again among our clients.
Here are three of the most important things to keep in mind before starting a successful K-1 fiancé petition:
the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen (not just a green card holder);
the couple cannot get married until the foreign fiancé arrives to the United States;
A K-1 fiancé can bring unmarried children under the age of 21 as a dependent on a K-2 visa;
As soon as the couple knows they will be starting an immigration process, they should always act immediately to obtain their critical vital documents (birth certificates, criminal conviction records, passports) as soon as possible.
Here’s how the process goes!
Step #1 - Petition for Your Fiancé
The first step in applying for a K-1 fiancé is for the petitioner (the U.S. citizen) to “petition” for his or her foreign fiancé using an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) along with the assorted supporting documents.
The purpose of the I-129F is for the petitioner to prove to USCIS that he/she is a U.S. citizen and that he/she is in a real “bona fide” relationship with the foreign fiancé. With a K-1 visa, strong evidence of a bona fide fiancé(e) relationship is absolutely critical. This means you have to present documents that show the relationship between the fiancés is real.
Common types of bona fide relationship evidence that is submitted are:
pictures of the couple together in person, preferably over an extended period of time and in different locations;
airfare itinerary, receipts and electronic tickets for trips taken by the couple to see one another;
hotel itinerary, receipts and booking confirmations for trips taken by the couple to see one another;
sworn declarations by the couple and family and friends of the couple detailing how the couple met, the progress of their relationship and that the relationship is real and bona fide;
records of telephone calls, skype, whatsapp, telegram, and emails between the couple showing regular contact;
other types of evidence as well.
Petitions that are initiated with weak evidence of a bona fide can delay the case significantly or even result in a denial.
Also, with the I-129F, the petitioner demonstrates that he/she has met in person with the foreign fiancé within the last two years or that they are requesting an exemption. After the I-129F petition is submitted, the petitioner can be met with an approval or denial or a request for evidence or notice of intent to deny.
If the petition is approved, the case progresses to step #2
Step #2 - NVC & Consular Interview
Once the I-129F petition has been approved, the case gets sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC then sends the case onwards to the consulate in which the foreign fiancé will be interviewing and applying for the visa.
The foreign fiancé usually applies for the visa in the country that they are a citizen in.
Around this time, the couple will be sent K-1 visa application instructions asking the foreign fiancé to complete the DS-160 (the actual visa application) and listing all the supporting documents the applicant must bring to the interview with them. Such documents typically include:
passport sized photos;
original birth certificate;
marriage certificates from previous marriages;
previous arrest and criminal conviction documents;
I-134 Affidavit of support and accompanying financial documentation;
evidence of relationship between U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign fiancé applicant;
copies of all documents and English translations of documents in other languages.
A note about the I-134: Applicants commonly run into trouble with the I-134 affidavit of support because they either fail to properly calculate the minimum income necessary for a sponsor, or they fail to bring sufficient documentation of income. Another common reason for a visa denial is that the I-134 sponsor is not domiciled in the United States and the applicant fails to secure a joint sponsor.
The applicant will also be given instructions on how to apply for a visa interview appointment. It’s important to note that embassies can vary from one another in the way they set up appointments and process visa applications and interviews so it’s critical to read all notices carefully and follow instructions.
Once the visa interview appointment is set, the applicant attends the interview in person with all of his or her documents. A U.S. consular officer will interview the applicant, review the forms and documentation and possibly probe the applicant for perceived deficiencies in the case. Interviews can last a few minutes or longer depending on the case, the officer, and the caseload of the interviewing consulate.
If the visa applicant is recommended for approval at the interview, he or she gives their passport to the consulate for the U.S. K-1 visa to be stamped into it.
A K-1 fiancé visa is typically valid for up to six months from the date of issuance and for one single entry into the United States. Once the visa is secured, the next step is to travel to the United States!
Step #3 - Foreign Fiancé(e) Travels to the USA
As mentioned, once he or she receives the visa, the K-1 fiancé usually has up to six months to travel to the United States. Due to ever changing travel restrictions due to covid, we recommend our clients make arrangements to travel to the United States at the end of the fourth month at the very latest.
The K-1 fiancé travels to the United States through a U.S. port of entry and gets an admission stamp from the customs and border protection (“CBP”) officer with their date of entry and the notation “K-1.” There will also be a date the status is valid until written by the CBP officer. That date will be 90 days from the date of the entry to the United States.
Those 90 days pass quickly! The couple must get married during those 90 days and the foreign fiancé must apply for a green card via adjustment of status.
Due to the short time period the couple has to take those two important steps, we sometimes recommend that our clients do some of the wedding planning before the fiancé arrives in the U.S.
Step #4 - Marry Foreign Fiancé within 90 days of Arrival
We’ve all heard of the hit TLC reality TV show 90 Day Fiancé. Have you ever wondered where the “90 days” comes from?
That comes from the fact that one of the strict requirements of the K-1 fiancé is that he or she must marry the United States citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival to the United States. Of all the critical deadlines involved in bringing a foreign fiancé to the United States legally, this 90 day deadline is one of the most critical ones.
The marriage doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a small affair at home or even a courthouse wedding. The bottom line is that the couple must get married legally within the United States. The procedure for getting married differs from state to state. Keep in mind that California and some other states require the couple to apply for a marriage license first in person before getting legally married.
However you decide to get married, it’s a good idea to take plenty of pictures together. They’ll come in handy for step five below (as well as be a valuable keepsake!).
Once the couple ties the knot, they progress to step #5.
Step #5 - Apply for Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card)
Once the couple has gotten married, the couple can and should apply for adjustment of status as soon as possible. As we’ve written about here, adjustment of status is its own process with a number of important steps. Click here to read about adjustment of status.
The K-1 fiancé visa exists for the sole purpose of allowing a foreign fiancé to travel to the United States marry the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days and only apply for adjustment of status based on marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner. If one of the people in the relationship gets cold feet during these 90 days and decides not to wed, it will be extremely difficult for the foreign fiancé to stay in the United States and obtain immigration status via another route.
However, if the U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign fiancé get married and apply for adjustment of status within the allotted 90 days, they will have finished the K-1 visa process and transitioned to the green card application process.
A note about work and international travel: During the time the green card application is pending, the foreign fiancé will not have employment authorization within the United States and will not be able to leave the United States until he or she is approved for a work authorization and advance parole document.
Both the work authorization application (I-765) and advance parole application (I-131) must be made concurrently or after the submission of the adjustment of status application, and as we’ve discussed here, oftentimes the green card application will be approved before the applicant receives a work permit or advance parole permit. Sometimes those months without being able to work or travel abroad can be difficult for the foreign fiancé so it’s important to prepare for that period financially and emotionally.
If the adjustment of status application is approved then the foreign fiancé will be a legal permanent resident of the United States with the rights of permanent settlement, employment authorization and the ability to travel internationally once again without jeopardizing his or her immigration status in the United States.
At that point, the newly minted green card holder should start looking forward to the next step in their immigration journey which will either be removal of conditions or an application for naturalization (U.S. citizenship!).
Contact Our Office for a Consultation
When you’re dealing with something as critical as your future in the United States, you don’t want to take chances. Here at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti, we have years of experience helping people successfully navigate the process of applying for a green card.
When you retain us to represent you in a K-1 fiancé visa case, this is what we do;
Step 1 - We screen you to make sure you’re eligible for a K-1 fiancé visa.
Step 2 - Identify any issues your case may have under U.S. immigration law.
Step 3 - Guide you in gathering your necessary documents & filling all the appropriate forms.
Step 4 - We assemble and submit the application package.
Step 5 - We deal with all communications with USCIS and department of state (DOS) on your behalf regarding your case, including responses to any simple or complex requests for evidence (“RFE”s).
Then we guide you for one of the most challenging parts of the process - the K-1 fiancé visa interview.
We prepare you or your foreign fiancé for the visa interview with two separate preparation sessions. In those sessions, we go over any sensitive areas of the case, as well as strategies to remain calm, cool and clear-headed during the interview which can be a stressful process.
If you’re ready to bring your foreign fiancé to the United States of America, book a consultation now.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.