K-1 Visa Processing TimeWhat Happens After Filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé
1. Receipt of Petition
Approximately 2 to 4 Weeks After Filing
If you're helping your fiancé to come to the United States for marriage, you'll file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, to establish a qualifying relationship and clear the way for the K-1 application. If properly filed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will initially respond by mailing you a receipt notice that confirms receipt of your petition. Formally known as Form I-797C, Notice of Action (see example below), the receipt notice typically arrives 2 to 4 weeks after filing. If you did not properly file your Form I-129F, USCIS will send a Notice of Action to reject the petition. A rejection will significantly delay your request and overall K-1 processing time. Thus, it's important to prepare the K-1 visa petition package correctly and submit all required supporting documents. Learn how.
I-129F Rejection Statistics
Source: USCIS FY2022
2. Adjudication of I-129F Petition
Approximately 4 to 10 Months After Filing
At this point in the process, USCIS does not conduct an interview. The purpose of Form I-129F is to establish a qualifying relationship between the U.S. citizen and the beneficiary. Additionally, USCIS wants to pre-screen the petitioner for any criminal history or issues that would create a conflict related to the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. Upon approval, USCIS will mail the U.S. citizen petitioner an approval notice (another I-797, Notice of Action). Provided the petitioner has submitted a thorough petition package, the Form I-129F processing time can be relatively straight forward.
However, USCIS could deny your petition at any time if they've determined that you haven't established eligibility. Likewise, they may issue a Request for Evidence at any point if they need additional evidence to confirm your eligibility.
I-129F Historical Processing Times at USCIS
The graph below illustrates median processing times (in months) for the previous 10 fiscal years. There's been a sharp increase in the time it takes USCIS to process K-1 visa petitions. With more demanding requirements and an increasingly complex form, USCIS is struggling to keep I-129F processing times within their desired range.
3. National Visa Center Processing of K-1 Requirements
Approximately 2 to 3 Months After Petition Approval
With the approved petition, USCIS will transition the case to the U.S. Department of State. Specifically, the USCIS service center forwards the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). This transition alone can take 4 to 6 weeks. The NVC will 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).
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 taken to the K-1 visa interview.
The approved I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is valid for four months. Generally, failing to respond will force the embassy to presume you’ve abandoned the petition. However, consular officers may revalidate the I-129F petition in four-month increments at their discretion. For most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 delays, it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.
I-129F Backlog Report
The graph below shows the number of open cases at the end of each fiscal year. Outstanding I-129F cases have spiked in the past couple of years. If unaddressed by USCIS, more backlog can contribute to longer processing times for future petitioners.
4. K-1 Visa Interview
Approximately 4 to 8 Weeks After Submitting Embassy Documents
The foreign fiancé beneficiary 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 must take documents to the visa interview including proof of the relationship and proof of medical examination. While you shouldn't fear the interview, you should prepare. Know what to expect and try answering some practice questions. The consular officer needs convinced (through your evidence and interview) there is a bona fide relationship with the intention to marry. Prepare for the interview by reviewing these K-1 fiancé visa interview questions. 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.
Once the embassy or consulate 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-day expiration of the visa.
Total K-1 Visa Processing Time
After filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, it may take approximately 10 to 16 months to obtain a K-1 visa. It may be shorter for some and longer for others. As explained, the K-1 processing time can vary based on the agencies that adjudicate the many steps. A poorly prepared I-129F petition will certainly increase this time line. Errors, omissions and insufficient evidence can result in major delays and even denials. Don’t forget — you can check your case status online with your receipt number. The USCIS website also lists normal processing times for an I-129F petition. If you believe that your case is outside the normal I-129F processing time, you can make a case inquiry.
After marriage, there are several additional steps the couple must take 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. For a more detailed look, see our overview of the K-1 visa. 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. CitizenPath can help through this process as well.
CitizenPath Helps Optimize Your Processing Time
How long does it take to get K-1 visa approval?
Our goal is to help your fiancé get a K-1 visa and get your loved one to the United States as soon as possible. And our customers generally experience some of the best I-129F processing times because of our approach. Our objective is to help you prepare a petition that exceeds the minimum requirements and is sufficiently documented to avoid RFEs and denials. Our system was designed by experienced attorneys. Yet, we offer an affordable online system to prepare your petition and guarantee USCIS approval.
We're going to ask you a few questions to make sure you're eligible and preparing the correct form.
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