K1 visa process guide

fiancee on her laptop messaging

Because immigration and nationality law is a federal practice, we can help people who live anywhere In the U.S. sponsor their fiancé to come to the US on a K1 fiancé visa. Eligibility is limited, even though a green card holder can sponsor a wife or husband, only a US citizen can sponsor a fiancé.

Occasionally there are situations where it is not immediately obvious if someone is a US Citizen. For example, someone who was born overseas and at least one of his parents was a US citizen at the time of birth would usually be considered to be a US Citizen, although it would be necessary to provide a copy of the parent’s own birth certificate or naturalization papers to USCIS.

What are the requirements for a k1 fiancé visa?

The requirements for the visa are fairly straightforward.

Both the citizen sponsor and the foreign fiancé beneficiary must be unmarried in order to apply. In almost all situations, the sponsor and foreign fiancé must have met in person at least once during the prior 2 years.

The sponsor must be able to prove that he or she is financially able to support the foreign fiancé after the marriage. To do this the sponsor must prove that he or she earns at least 100% of the federal guidelines poverty level.

The sponsor will have to prove that the parties are really planning on getting married, and that the relationship is genuine. It is desirable, although not mandatory, that the parties have concrete wedding plans which can be documented with copies of wedding invitations, receipts for renting or reserving a hall, or the like. If the couple does not have concrete wedding plans simple affidavits stating their intent to marry may suffice.

An overview of the fiancé visa process

This page is intended to provide both an overview and a step by step guide to the process, and provide some general pointers.

There are several steps in the process, and although they are fairly straightforward, there are nuances and even pitfalls which can arise during the following steps:

  1. The first step is for the US citizen-sponsor files the K1 petition by sending the petition (form I-129F), along with payment of $510.00 to the appropriate service center. The citizen sponsor will already have had to gather numerous documents as evidence in support of the K1 visa petition, including income tax returns and IRS transcripts, birth certificates, divorce decrees or death certificates if either the sponsor or the applicant has ever been married before, and photos of the couple together, just to name a few.
  2. The sponsor should receive the Notice of Action Form #1 within 2 or 3 weeks (in normal circumstances, but all times will likely take much much longer until the COVID pandemic is controlled). This form is basically just a receipt that the petition and payment have been received.
  3. In normal times, the USCIS will send a Notice of Action Form #2 within 5 to 7 weeks after you send the petition. This notice will state whether the petition has been approved, denied, or that additional information or documents are required. If the petition has been approved, there is nothing you need to do until the next step. If you receive a request for additional information or documents (called a “RFE”) you must respond promptly and completely.
  4. If the petition is approved, upon approval the petition and all paperwork and documentation will be forwarded to the “NVC” or National Visa Center, which is part of the State Department. The State Department will perform a “security check” on the alien fiancé.
  5. If the fiancé passes the security check, the approved petition and the rest of the paperwork will be sent to the US embassy for the fiancé’s home country . There is nothing for you to do until the next step.
  6. The US embassy will send a letter to the fiancé with written instructions in how the fiancé can schedule a medical examination and a visa interview at the embassy. Step 2 is for your fiancé to arrange the medical examination by a USCIS approved physician, attend the medical examination and pay the fee in local currency. Your fiancé must also attend the interview at the embassy or consulate, depending on the country.. The embassy will also request additional documents from the fiancé (including but not limited to police certificates showing the result of criminal record searches for the fiancé ). Different embassies may have different procedures. Some documents have to be sent to the embassy in advance, while the fiancé will be asked to bring others to the interview. All non- English documents must be accompanied by a certified translation.
  7. If the fiancé “passes” the medical examination and the interview, the immigration officer who conducts the interview might hand him or her the visa immediately, or alternatively, they may have to return to the embassy to pick it up. Sometimes it will be sent by courier within about a week. The visa is actually a stamp which is placed in the passport. The consular officer will provide the fiancé a sealed packet which should not be opened, but is instead surrendered at the airport. Step 3 is for the fiancé to receive any required vaccinations and purchase airline tickets.
  8. The fiancé has 6 months to enter the United States, although the visa allows the fiancé to remain in the US for only 90 days.
  9. Step 4 is the actual marriage, which must take place within 90 days after the fiancé’s arrival in the US. If the marriage does not take place the fiancé must leave the country. After the marriage has taken place if the fiancé wishes to remain in the US the final step would be an adjustment of status application, which should preferably be filed before the visa runs out.

Special fiancé visa rules about “International marriage brokers”

There is a requirement under the IMBRA statute that the citizen petitioner must state in the visa application whether or not he met his fiancé through a so called “international marriage broker”. An international marriage broker is any person or organization who charges a fee to arrange dates or marriages between US citizens and foreign nationals.

Because of the IMBRA statute, You cannot get a fiancé visa if the couple first met through an international marriage broker.

While the USCIS is skeptical of any petition where the couple first met online, a dating service or even an online dating service, such as Match.com, whose primary business is not providing dating services between US citizens and foreign nationals and who charges the same fees and offers the same services to men and women and to US citizens and foreign nationals is not considered to be an international marriage broker.

Requirements needed to apply for a fiancé visa – photos and documents

As in all immigration cases, there will be plenty of documents that must be obtained, and, if necessary, translated, and provided to USCIS. In fiancé cases these are the most common ones :

  • Photographs of you and your fiancé together. It is best to write the date and place the photograph was taken somewhere, preferably on the back of the photo.
  • Any photographs of the couple together with family members or friends.
  • Copies of emails, text messages, cards or letters, phone records, or cellphone records, proving that the parties are keeping in regular communication with one another.
  • Pictures of the engagement ring and receipt for purchase.
  • Proof of time spent together, such as plane tickets, hotel bills, restaurant bills, or credit card statements .
  • Sworn affidavits from at least two people who have either seen you with your fiancé or are somehow familiar with the circumstances of the relationship and your intention to marry

Advantages of the fiancé visa

couple relaxing at home during 90 day fiancee visa

The fiancé visa allows the citizen sponsor to bring the sponsored fiancé to the U.S. in as little as 4 or 5 months (in normal times), instead of having to get married outside the U.S. and having to wait significantly longer to go through the consular process. You might think that the sponsored fiancé can just come here on a tourist visa, get married here, and then file for a marriage green card. While sometimes possible this method is fraught with danger.

People who use this method to try to get a marriage green card either don’t know what they are doing, or have not used a competent, experienced immigration lawyer.

The USCIS is likely to suspect that the initial tourist visa was fraudulent in that an immigrant who comes here on a tourist visa is swearing that they are only coming here temporarily, and are not coming here with the intent of immigrating to the U.S. If you decide to go this route, you not only risk your green card being denied, but to have any chance of success you would have to wait 90 days after you arrive to file the papers, and it is likely that, if your petition is approved, your tourist visa will probably already have expired, making you illegal, and greatly complicating the process.

What happens if you don’t apply for adjustment of status within the 90 days?

If the couple has married within the 90 days but for whatever reason did not apply to USCIS for adjustment of status application within the 90 days from the date of entry the immigrant spouse will be “out of status”. This means that he or she will not be able to legally work in the U.S.. and cannot travel outside the country without abandoning the petition. It also means that, in theory, the immigrant spouse who is considered to be here illegally, is subject to deportation. However with a new administration coming in, the risks of actual deportation in this situation are likely to be low.

If the immigrant spouse wishes to get a green card, which allows him or her to remain in the US permanently, and is the first step towards citizenship, a new petition must be filed, with additional paperwork and additional fees, and the green card application will be scrutinized more closely.

Reasons why fiancé visas are denied

Other than the USCIS believing that the visa request is fraudulent, there are a number of reasons why fiancee visas or marriage visas are rejected. These are:

  • The fiancé has committed certain criminal acts that are considered serious such as drug trafficking, prostitution, or crimes of so called “moral turpitude”.
  • The fiancé is or has been addicted to drugs.
  • the fiancé has a communicable disease (but since 2020 this does not include HIV).
  • The fiancé has a “dangerous mental disorder”.
  • The fiancé has committed immigration fraud in the past.
  • The fiancé is “likely to become a public charge”.
  • In a few countries, the U.S. embassy is, for whatever reason, “difficult”.

You can apply to have the sponsored fiancé’s children included in the visa

Asian fiancee with cute daughter

Children under 21 can accompany the fiancé. There are extra fees for each child. It is necessary to supply police reports for all children over 16. Depending on the country and embassy, you may be required to provide letters from the fathers of the children consenting to your taking them out of the country. Children, depending on their age, may have to go to the interview at the embassy.