Fiance(e) K-1 Visa Process
If a U.S. citizen wishes to marry a foreign national residing abroad, the U.S. citizen may be able to pursue a fiancé(e) visa (K-1) for the foreign national. The foreign national fiancé(e), if approved, will then enter the United States and the couple must be married within the following 90 day period after entry. After the couple marries, the foreign national spouse can then file an application for Adjustment of Status.
Requirements for a Fiancé(e) Visa
Applying for a fiancé(e) visa is a two step process that must be initiated by the U.S. citizen. The first step is to file a petition with USCIS. INA §214(d). Should the petition be approved, the approval is sent to the National Visa Center, and then forwarded to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy having jurisdiction over the foreign national’s residence. The U.S. Consulate/Embassy will then schedule a visa appointment for the foreign national to come in for their K-1 visa appointment.
The initial petition requires submitting a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the legitimacy of the relationship (including having met each other in person during the two year time period preceding the filing of the application) and that both the U.S. citizen and foreign national are legally free to marry the other and plan to do so within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the United States.
The main form is: Form I-129F – Petition for Alien Fiancé(e).
Documentation Requirements for a Fiancé(e) visa
The I-129 is the form that the U.S. citizen (Petitioner) must file for their foreign national fiancé(e) (Beneficiary) with USCIS. The purpose of the form is to establish the legitimacy of the relationship in that the U.S. citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) intend to marry within the 90 day period following the foreign national fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States, that both the U.S. citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) are free to marry each other, and have met in person within the preceding two years before filing the I-129F, with some exceptions for the latter requirement.
Therefore, the I-129F petition should be supported by:
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship of Petitioner
The U.S. citizen fiancé(e) will need to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship by submitting either a copy of the face page of their U.S. passport, a copy of their U.S. birth certificate or a copy of their Certificate of Naturalization. Some other documents can also be provided in lieu of the above.
- Form G-325A
Form G-325A is a comprehensive form which aims to provide basic biographic information on the Petitioner and Beneficiary (one must be submitted for each). This Form asks for residential and employment history for the preceding five (5) years, information regarding current and previous spouses, information on parents, and other biographic information. This form is submitted in quadruplicate for both the Petitioner and the Beneficiary.
- Evidence that the U.S. Citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) are free to legally marry
Evidence that the U.S. Citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) have personally met within the last two years
- Such evidence includes, but is not limited to, photographs of the couple together and with friends and family at various occasions and events; evidence of correspondence between the parties or any gifts they have sent each other; airline itineraries confirming any trips to visit each other; etc.
- If the couple has not met within the last two years, the U.S. citizen must submit a detailed explanation and evidence of any extreme hardship involved and/or evidence of any customary social or cultural practices that may have prohibited the meeting.
- Original Statements from U.S. Citizen and Foreign National Fiancé(e)
Both the U.S. Citizen and the foreign national fiancé(e) should submit a statement confirming that they have met the other within the last two years, are legally free to marry them, and that upon approval of a fiancé(e) visa, the foreign national fiancé(e) intends to enter the U.S. and marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days.
- Evidence of Termination of Any Prior Marriages
If either fiancé(e) has been previously married, certified copies of documents evidencing the termination of any marriages should also be submitted to USCIS.
- Copy of Beneficiary’s passport biographic page
Frequently Asked Questions
What if the U.S. citizen and foreign national wish to marry outside the United States?
If the U.S. citizen and foreign national wish to marry outside the United States, the U.S. citizen cannot pursue a fiancé(e) visa for the foreign national. Instead, the U.S. citizen may be able to file the necessary paperwork for the foreign national spouse to enter the U.S. with an Immigrant Visa by pursuing Immigrant Visa Processing.
If the foreign national fiancé(e) has any children, can they accompany the fiancé(e) to the United States?
If the foreign national fiancé(e) has any unmarried children under the age of 21, they may be able to accompany the foreign national fiancé(e) to the United States.
If the foreign national fiancé(e) has a previously issued and currently valid visitor’s visa to the United States, can he/she come visit the U.S. citizen as a visitor in the U.S. while the fiancé(e) petition is pending?
Maybe. Unfortunately, possession of a valid visa will not entitle the foreign national spouse to enter the United States. Additionally, a foreign national who is attempting to enter the United States on a visitor’s visa, while a fiancé(e) petition is pending, presumably has an intent to immigrate to the United States and may be denied entry. When the foreign national fiancé(e) attempts to enter the United States, they will be questioned by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection regarding the purpose of their trip, expected length, ties abroad, etc. Should they be able to satisfy the U.S. Customs & Border Protection official that their intent is to only enter for a temporary purpose and then return to their residence abroad to complete the fiancé(e) visa process, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Official may let them enter.
After Filing the I-129F
After the U.S. citizen files the I-129F with USCIS, the U.S. citizen will receive a Receipt Notice within 2-3 weeks. The Receipt Notices will assign the foreign national an Alien # (if they do not have one already). The Receipt Notices are also important for following up with USCIS in the future on these matters and checking the case status online.
Request for Evidence
If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted is inadequate to satisfy the petition requirements and further information is needed, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). The Request for Evidence will specifically state the documents/information they are seeking and a timeline under which they need to be submitted (all requested information should be submitted at the same time). Failing to respond to the RFE may result in the denial of the petition. An RFE also will result in a longer processing time for the petition.
Approximately 4-6 months after filing the petition, USCIS will either approve or deny the petition. If approved, USCIS will then forward the fiancé(e) petition to the National Visa Center for processing and eventual interview at the U.S. Consulate having jurisdiction over the foreign national fiancé(e)’s residence abroad.
Scheduling of K-1 Visa Appointment
If the I-129F fiancé(e) petition is approved, USCIS will forward the fiancé(e) petition to the National Visa Center so that the foreign national fiancé(e) can apply for their K-1 visa. See INA §101(a)(15)(K)(i). The National Visa Center will then forward the fiancé(e) petition to the U.S. Consulate having jurisdiction over the foreign national fiancé(e)’s place of residence. Once the U.S. Consulate receives the petition from the National Visa Center, the foreign national fiancé(e) (i.e. K-1 visa applicant) will be directly notified by the Consulate of the time and date to appear for their interview, along with specific instructions on documentation requirements and instructions on where to go to complete the required medical examination. K-1 visa interviews are not scheduled by the applicant.
K-1 Visa Interview
Purpose of the Interview
The purpose of the interview is two-fold. The first purpose is to ensure that the fiancé(e) relationship is legitimate and not for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. The second purpose is to ensure that the foreign national spouse does not have any past criminal or immigration problems that would prevent them from being eligible for a green card through the adjustment of status process after they enter the United States.
During the Interview
During the interview, the officer will review the paperwork that has been submitted for the K-1 visa. They will confirm any eligibility issues and question the foreign national fiancé(e) to determine the legitimacy of the relationship and their ability and intention to marry the U.S. citizen after entering the United States.
Possible Outcomes of the Interview
The interview usually concludes with one of four possibilities:
Ideally, the officer will end the interview by letting the foreign national know that they have been approved for a K-1 visa.
Need Administrative Processing
In some cases, the Consular officer might state that they cannot issue a decision at that time because the case needs further administrative processing.
The Consular Office may be able to provide a Batch No. at certain embassies to monitor the status of the application or provide an email address where the foreign national can follow up after a four to six week period has lapsed.
If the Consular officer determines that the foreign national is not eligible (past criminal history, past immigration history) for a K-1 visa and/or adjustment of status, they will inform the foreign national of such ineligibility. If there is a waiver available to overcome the ground of inadmissibility, the Consular officer should inform the foreign national of the waiver.
Intend to Return to USCIS for Revocation of Approval
Should the Consular officer determine that the fiancé(e) petition filed by the U.S. citizen is fraudulent or that the foreign national fiancé(e) did not satisfactorily establish the fiancé(e) relationship, the Consular Officer could refer the petition back to USCIS with a request for revocation of the previous approval.
Approved K-1 Visa
If the foreign national fiancé(e) is approved for a K-1 visa at the interview, they shall receive an approval notice from the interviewing officer. The foreign national should then carefully follow the instructions provided in the notice in order to successfully conclude the visa issuance process.
Note: The foreign national should refrain from confirming travel arrangement until the visa is actually in-hand.
The Consular Officer will give the foreign national their passport containing the K-1 visa and a sealed packet containing the civil documents provided by the foreign national, plus other documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. It is important that the foreign national does not open the sealed packet. The sealed packet should be presented to a designated CBP immigration official to open and review the packet when the foreign national enters the United States.
How long is the K-1 visa valid for?
In most cases, a K-1 visa is valid for six months from the date of issuance. This gives the foreign national six months to prepare for their departure to the United States. However, visas may be limited to expire before the 6-month period due to the early expiration of important documents or other reasons. Therefore, the foreign national should review the visa carefully.
Is there a time period under which the foreign national and the U.S. citizen must be married?
Yes. The foreign national and the U.S. citizen must be married within ninety (90) days of the date of the foreign national’s admission into the United States.
Can the foreign national enter multiple times on the K-1 visa within the validity period?
No. The K-1 visa is for single admission only. Therefore, the foreign national cannot leave and re-enter the United States after entering on their K-1 visa until they have obtained special travel permission from USCIS.
Applying for a Green Card After the Marriage
After the U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign national fiancé(e) are married, they should file Adjustment of Status paperwork to apply for the foreign national’s green card. They should also concurrently file applications for travel permission and work authorization so that after approval of these applications, the foreign national may have travel privileges and work authorization during the adjudication process.
Our Firm’s Experience
Our firm has filed several fiancé(e) petitions by working closely with the U.S. citizen fiancé(e) and after successful approval, guided the foreign national fiancé(e) through the K-1 visa process by preparing a detailed packet of the documents required for the visa , ensured that the relevant forms and documents were properly submitted to ensure the smoothest possible process for the fiancé(e) and corresponded with the Consulate as necessary to follow up on any issues that may have arisen. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation.
Revised by Nisha V. Fontaine, Esq. on December 26, 2011