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Overview: What Is a K-1 Visa?

The fiancé(e) K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a United States (U.S.) citizen. The K-1 visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. The foreign-citizen will then apply for adjustment of status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because a fiancé(e) visa permits the holder to immigrate to the U.S. and marry a U.S. citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé(e) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa. Eligible children of K-1 visa applicants receive K-2 visas.  To speak with an attorney now about your K-1 visa issues, click here.  To learn more about K-1 visas, read on.


What Is a “Fiancé(e)”?

Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen is the recipient of an approved Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F, who has been issued a nonimmigrant K-1 visa for travel to the United States in order to marry his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e). Both the U.S. citizen and the K-1 visa applicant must have been legally free to marry at the time the petition was filed and must have remained so thereafter. The marriage must be legally possible according to laws of the U.S. state in which the marriage will take place.

In general, the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) and U.S. citizen sponsor must have met in person within the past two years. USCIS may grant an exception to this requirement, based on extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen sponsor to personally meet the foreign-citizen fiancé(e), or, for example, if it is contrary in the U.S. citizen sponsor’s or foreign-citizen fiancé(e)’s culture for a man and woman to meet before marriage.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA)

Detailed information about IMBRA requirements is contained in the Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), instructions.

The First Step: Filing the Petition

  • You, the U.S. citizen sponsor, must file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live. Note: Form I-129F cannot be filed at a U.S. Embassy, Consulate, or USCIS office abroad.
  • After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will give you a case number and send your petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your fiancé(e) lives.

The Second Step: Applying for a Visa

The NVC will mail you a letter when it sends your fiancé(e) case to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Once you receive this letter, inform your fiancé(e) to take the below-listed actions to apply for a K-1 visa and prepare for the interview.

Eligible children of K-1 visa applicants may apply for K-2 visas. Separate applications must be submitted for each K visa applicant, and each K visa applicant must pay the visa application fee.

Required Documentation

You, the foreign-citizen fiancé(e), (and eligible children applying for K-2 visas) will be required to bring the following forms and documents to the visa interview:

  • Completed Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You (and any eligible children applying for K-4 visas) must: (1) complete Form DS-160 and (2) print the DS-160 confirmation page to bring to your intervew.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • Divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s) for both you and the U.S. citizen sponsor
  • Police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since age 16 (Police certificates are also required for accompanying children age 16 or older)
  • Medical examination (vaccinations are optional, see below)
  • Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, may be requested)
  • Two (2) 2×2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements
  • Evidence of relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e)
  • Payment of fees, as explained below

Note: The consular officer may ask for additional information, such as photographs and other proof that the relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) is genuine. Documents in foreign languages, other than the language of the country in which the application takes place, should be translated. Applicants should take to the visa interview clear, legible photocopies of civil documents and translations, such as birth and divorce certificates. Original documents and translations will be returned.

Review Additional U.S. Embassy/Consulate-Specific Instructions

There may be additional instructions for collecting documentation needed for your K visa interview. Review U.S. Embassy/Consulate-Specific Instructions to learn what additional requirements there are, if any.

Medical Examination and Vaccination Requirements

In preparing for the interview, applicants will need to schedule and complete a medical examination. Before the issuance of an immigrant or K visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. You will be provided instructions regarding medical examinations from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa, including information on authorized panel physicians.

K visa applicants are encouraged to get the vaccinations required under U.S. immigration law for immigrant visa applicants.  Although such vaccinations are not required for K visa issuance, they will be required when adjusting status to that of legal permanent resident following your marriage. Applicants are therefore encouraged to fulfill these vaccination requirements at the time of the medical examination.

Proof of Financial Support and Affidavit of Support Forms

During the visa interview, applicants will be required to present evidence to the consular officer that they will not become a public charge in the United States. You may present evidence that you are able to financially support yourself or that your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) is able to provide support. The Consular Officer may request that a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support be submitted by the U.S. citizen fiancé(e).

The U.S. citizen fiancé(e) will need to submit Form I-864 to USCIS with the application for adjustment of status to that of legal permanent resident following the marriage.

Do the Same Income Requirements Apply to Form I-134 as Apply to Form I-864?

Fees

Fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an Alien Fiancé(e) Petition, Form I-129F
  • Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, Form DS-160 (required for each K visa applicant)
  • Medical examination (required for each K visa applicant; costs vary from post to post)
  • Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and travel expenses to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
  • Filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status

For current fees for Department of State, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

Rights and Protections – Pamphlet

You should read the Rights and Protections pamphlet before your visa interview to learn about your rights in the United States relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and protection available to you. The consular officer will verbally summarize the pamphlet to you during your interview. Additionally, K-1 visa applicants will be provided with any existing criminal background information on their U.S. citizen fiancé(e)s that USCIS received from other government agencies during processing of their Form I-129F petitions.

My Petition Expired – Can It Be Extended?

The I-129F petition is valid for four months from the date of approval by USCIS. A consular officer can extend the validity of the petition if it expires before visa processing is completed.

Ineligibilities for Visas

Certain conditions and activities may make you, the applicant, ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents.

If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the Consular Officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver process is. If you have a waiver issue, click here to learn more about waivers.

How Long Will It Take to Get My K Visa?

For Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), you can visit the USCIS website for the status of your petition.

Once your case has been received from NVC by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that will process it, the length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully or supply incomplete information. (It is important to give USCIS and NVC correct postal addresses and telephone numbers.) Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.

After You Receive a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa

If you are issued a K-1 visa, the Consular Officer will give you your passport containing the K-1 visa and a sealed packet containing the civil documents you provided, plus other documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the DHS immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. As the K-1 visa holder, you must enter the United States either before or at the same time as any qualifying children holding K-2 visas.

With your visa, you can apply for a single admission at a U.S. port-of-entry within the validity of the visa, which will be a maximum of 6 months from the date of issuance. You must marry your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days of your entry into the United States.

Does My U.S. Citizen Fiancé(e) Need to File Separate Petitions for My Children?

No. Your eligible children may apply for K-2 visas based on the approval of Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), that your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) filed on your behalf, but your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) must list the children on the petition. Separate visa applications must be submitted for each K-2 visa applicant, and each applicant must pay the K visa application fee.

After your marriage, your children will need to file separately from you for adjustment of status. They cannot be included on your application for adjustment of status.

Important Notice: Under U.S. immigration law, a child must be unmarried. In order to file for adjustment of status for your child following your marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse, the child’s stepchild relationship with your spouse must be created before the child reaches the age of 18.

Are My Children Required to Travel with Me?

Your children may travel with (accompany) you to the United States or travel later (follow-to-join). Like you, your children must travel within the validity of their K-2 visas. Separate petitions are not required if the children accompany or follow to join you within one year from the date of issuance of your K-1 visa. If they want to travel later than one year from the date your K-1 visa was issued, they will not be eligible to receive K-2 visas, and separate immigrant visa petitions will be required. If your child has a valid K-2 visa and you have already adjusted status to that of permanent resident, your child may still travel on the K-2 visa.

Entering the United States – Port of Entry

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. You should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the U.S. Upon arrival at the port-of-entry, be prepared to present to the CBP officer your passport with visa and your unopened/sealed packet containing your documents. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

To speak with an attorney about your K-1 visa issues, contact us now.