A foreign citizen may use the K-1 fiancé visa to travel to the United States for the purpose of marriage to his or her U.S. citizen fiancé. Once married to the U.S. citizen sponsor, the foreign citizen may apply for permanent residence – represented by a green card — inside the United States.
It’s one of two principal ways for a U.S. citizen and foreign citizen to unite in the United States. Alternatively, the couple could marry outside the United States and the foreign spouse would immigrate as an immediate relative (spouse of a U.S. citizen). Each path has unique trade offs. For a closer look, read into K-1 Fiancé Visa or Marriage Visa: Which is Better?
We’ve assembled a detailed K-1 fiancé visa overview that provides a breakdown of the different steps in the path to a green card.
Requirements for a Fiancé Visa
Only the fiancé of a U.S. citizen is eligible for the K-1 fiancé visa process. Lawful permanent residents cannot make the request. Additionally, the couple must:
- Be legally free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancé’s admission to the United States; and
- Have met each other in person within the two years immediately before filing the petition, unless the U.S. citizen petitioner establishes that either:
- The requirement to meet in person would violate strict and long-established customs of the foreign national’s culture or social practice, and that any and all aspects of the traditional arrangements have been or will be met in accordance with the custom or practice; or
- The requirement to meet in person would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen; and
- Meet the requirements set in the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005.
K-1 Fiancé Visa Application Process
Before the foreign citizen can apply for the K-1 visa, the U.S. citizen spouse must file a petition that establishes a qualifying relationship. In other words, there’s a process to confirm that there’s a legitimate relationship that includes an evaluation of the requirements listed above.
The process begins with the U.S. citizen filing an I-129F petition package with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The primary document in this package is Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.
- USCIS filing fee
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- Evidence any previous marriages have been terminated
- Passport-style photo
- Evidence of in-person meeting with fiancé
- Evidence of intention to marry
Additional supporting documents may be necessary. Therefore, refer to your USCIS instructions or your personalized filing instructions from CitizenPath. When you prepare your petition through CitizenPath, we will generate personalized filing instructions based on your specific situation. The instructions provide detailed guidance on supporting documents, samples, how to organize the package and where to mail.
Provided that the petition package is well prepared with all supporting evidence, USCIS will typically approve an I-129F in 5-7 months. Upon approval, USCIS moves your case to the U.S. Department of State. At this point, the National Visa Center (NVC) will require additional items including:
- Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond intended period of stay in the U.S.
- Police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since age 16
- Medical examination
- Form I-134, Affidavit of Support
- Passport-style photos (2)
- Evidence any previous marriages have been terminated
- Evidence of bona fide relationship with the U.S. citizen petitioner
- Visa fees
Each U.S. embassy may have slightly different K-1 visa requirements and may request additional evidence. The consular officer may ask for additional information, such as photographs and other evidence of a bona fide relationship with the U.S. citizen. Therefore, refer to your specific NVC letter when fulfilling the requirements.
Once these requirements have been satisfied, they will schedule an interview for the K-1 visa beneficiary. The time between the petition approval and an interview will be highly dependent on your ability to submit the required documentation and the government’s workload. Generally, interviews are scheduled 2-3 months after USCIS approves Form I-129F. Get ready by reviewing possible fiancé visa interview questions.
The K-1 Visa Timeline
The entire K-1 visa timeline from petition to K-1 visa may take 6-9 months for typical applicants. Understanding the steps in this timeline is even more critical for engaged couples because of wedding plans. Planning for wedding ceremonies that involve a K-1 visa entrant generally require some flexibility. It’s difficult to know exactly when the embassy will issue the K-1 fiancé visa. For a closer look at processing times and steps, take a look at the K-1 visa timeline.
Adjustment of Status
Upon entry to the United States, the foreign citizen must marry the U.S. citizen within a 90-day period. The K-1 fiancé visa cannot be extended beyond 90 days. If there is no marriage, the foreign citizen is required to depart the United States by the 90th day.
Of course, most marriages go on as planned. Typically, the foreign citizen spouse plans to stay permanently in the United States. In this case, he or she must apply for a green card through a process called adjustment of status.
In simple terms, adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card from inside the United States. An adjustment of status application typically includes several forms submitted concurrently. The green card timeline may take about one year. During this time, the foreign spouse is able to obtain work authorization and travel abroad, provide he or she submits the correct paperwork as a part of the adjustment of status package. For a deeper dive, read into adjustment of status through a K-1 fiancé visa entry.
Upon approval of the adjustment of status application, the foreign spouse becomes a permanent resident of the United States. Subsequently, USCIS will issue a green card as evidence of this status. Permanent resident status gives a person the right to live permanently and work in the United States.
Costs for K-1
In addition to the initial I-129F petition, there are other costs associated with a K-1 fiancé visa. There is an additional cost for the actual visa application and also an immigration medical exam. To clarify, the medical exam must be conducted by a physician approved by the embassy. Costs can vary based on country. Finally, foreign citizen spouses who plan to stay in the United States must adjust status to permanent residence. These costs are spread out over about a year.
|USCIS, NVC or U.S. Consulate Item||Government
|Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé||$535||$119|
|DS-160 Visa Application||$265||N/A|
|Adjustment of Status Package
– I-485, Application to Adjust Status
– I-864, Affidavit of Support
– I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
– I-131, Application for Travel Document
– I-693, Report of Medical Examination
|$1,225||$349||Total for Typical Adult Applicant||$2,075-$2,325||$468*|
*Includes some non-essential forms that can removed
CitizenPath is an exceptional solution for do-it-yourselfers that want the reassurance they’re doing everything correctly. Users answer simple questions and receive ready-to-sign forms and detailed filing instructions. On the other hand, individuals with more complicated immigration histories or criminal issues should generally obtain legal advice from an immigration attorney who can help navigate this process.
And What About the K-1’s Children?
If the foreign citizen fiancé has minor children (unmarried and under age 21) that will also immigrate, there is no additional cost to include them on the same I-129F petition. However, each child will be required to obtain a medical exam and submit a separate visa application (DS-160). Upon approval, the child applicant receives a K-2 visa. K-2 child may generally enter the U.S. at the same time as the K-1 fiancé or shortly thereafter. Each child that will adjust status must have have separate fees. However, child applicants (under age 14) who apply at the same time as a parent may generally obtain a lower fee of $835.
Persons who enter the United States on a K-1 fiancé visa potentially have a streamlined path to U.S. citizenship as well. Most applicants for U.S. citizenship through naturalization must have permanent resident status for five years. However, there’s a provision for permanent residents who are married to a U.S. citizen for a period of three years. These individuals are eligible for U.S. citizenship after just three years and may file the application (Form N-400, Application for Naturalization) up to 90 days before the three-year term is reached.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Petition for Alien Fiancé (Form I-129F), Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), Adjustment of Status (Form I-485), and several other immigration packages.