K-1 Visa Processing Time
Although the steps that take place are fairly consistent, the K-1 processing time can vary. Your ability to properly file an accurately prepared Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, without errors or omissions, is important. The USCIS case load and the U.S. embassy in the beneficiary’s country are also major factors.
The following list details the basic steps of the process for most people. There is an approximate amount of time provided. However, this time frame can vary.
Receipt of Petition
APPROXIMATELY 2 TO 3 WEEKS AFTER FILING
If your Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, has been properly filed, USCIS will initially respond by mailing you a letter that confirms receipt of the petition. The receipt letter is formally known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action (see example below) and arrives approximately 2-3 weeks after filing. If your Form I-129F has not been properly filed, USCIS may send a Notice of Action to reject the petition or may send a Request for Evidence that requests additional items. Either will significantly delay your request. So it’s important to prepare the I-129F correctly and submit all required documents according to the filing instructions.
Adjudication of Petition
APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 7 MONTHS AFTER FILING
At this point in the process, USCIS does not conduct an interview. The purpose of the I-129F is to establish a valid relationship between the U.S. citizen and the beneficiary. The I-129F processing time is typically 5-7 months. USCIS will process your case at either the California Service Center or Virginia Service Center. Upon approval, USCIS will mail the U.S. citizen petitioner another I-797, Notice of Action (approval notice).
Case Moves To State Department
APPROXIMATELY 4 TO 6 WEEKS AFTER PETITION APPROVAL
Next, USCIS will move the case to the U.S. Department of State. The USCIS service center forwards the case the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC may contact the beneficiary for further processing requirements like submitting the visa application (DS-160) and payment of consular fees. Upon completion, the NVC coordinates with the U.S. embassy or consulate (typically in the foreign national’s country).
Tip: There’s not much you can do at this point. If you want to verify that the NVC has received your file, call them at 1-603-334-0700 or email them at NVCINQUIRY@state.gov approximately two weeks after receiving the I-129F approval notice.
APPROXIMATELY 2 WEEKS AFTER EMBASSY RECEIVES CASE
Once the embassy has reviewed the case, they will send a letter to the foreign fiancé (beneficiary) with instructions for scheduling the medical exam and interview. The letter will also provide a list of items that must be submitted and explain which items must be submitted immediately and which items should be brought to the K-1 visa interview.
Tip: Always refer to your embassy letter for the official list of items to submit. You may review our K-1 Interview Checklist to prepare early.
K-1 Visa Interview
APPROXIMATELY 2 TO 8 WEEKS AFTER SUBMITTING EMBASSY DOCUMENTS
The foreign fiancé attends the K-1 interview at the designated U.S. embassy or consulate. If children will join as K-2 visa holders, they must also attend the interview. The U.S. citizen petitioner is never required to attend the interview, but it’s generally encouraged where allowed. (Embassies in some countries do not allow the U.S. citizen to attend.)
The beneficiary will generally have a decision by the end of the interview. Typically, the embassy or consulate will issue the visa within a couple weeks.
Enter the United States
0 to 6 months after K-1 approval
Once the Department of State issues the K-1 visa, the beneficiary generally has a period of six months to enter the United States. The beneficiary will be provided with a visa packet to present at the port of entry. Upon entry the couple must marry within 90 days. If the couple does not marry, the K-1 visa holder must depart the U.S. before the 90-expiration.
Tip: Planning a wedding in 90 days can be difficult. Start early. If possible, plan and set a date before entering the U.S. so that important family members can obtain visas to attend.
In general, it may take approximately 6-9 months to obtain a K-1 fiance visa. As explained, the K-1 processing time can vary significantly based on the agencies that adjudicate the many steps. A poorly prepared I-129F petition can significantly increase this time line. Errors, omissions and insufficient evidence can result in major delays and even denials.
After marriage, there are several additional steps that must be taken so that the foreign spouse can remain in the United States, travel, and accept employment. These are not included in the above K-1 visa processing time line. After the wedding, the foreign spouse should seek to adjust status to permanent resident (green card holder) as soon as possible. This process includes submitting Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, among other forms. The additional forms include Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, if the applicant wants to work and travel during the year long adjustment of status process.