Family Based Immigration Law

Fiancé Visa 101

The K-1 fiancé visa is a non-immigrant visa. They are for foreign nationals who are engaged to marry U.S. citizens.

Your fiancé needs to enter the United States to perform the marriage. In other words, the K-1 visa basically gives your fiancé permission to legally enter the country for this purpose.

Fiancé Visa Basics

In the United States, there are immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. The purposes of these two visa classifications are different.

Suppose a person is in a foreign country and wants to travel to the U.S. to meet their partner to get married. In that case, they need to apply for a K-1 non-immigrant fiancé visa in their home country.

Once that visa is granted, they must travel to the U.S. and marry within 90 days. After this process, the new foreign spouse can adjust their status to obtain permanent residence.

Conditions to Qualify for Fiancé Visa

Certain conditions must be met to receive a fiancé visa:

  • The U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must marry within 90 days of the fiancé’s entry into the country.
  • The foreign fiancé must be admitted to the United States as a K-1 visa holder.
  • The marriage must be legitimate, with a legitimate desire to establish a life together. The goal of the marriage should not be to obtain immigration benefits.
  • The U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must have met in person in the last two years (there are very specific exceptions).

In this article, we will explain the process for applying for a K-1 visa for the fiancé of a U.S. citizen and how to find help.

Who Is Considered a Fiancé for Immigration Laws?

Under U.S. immigration laws, a fiancé or fiancée is a foreign citizen with an approved K-1 non-immigrant visa to enter the country and marry a United States citizen.

To obtain a K-1 fiancé visa, the U.S. citizen must complete the procedures and petition on their partner’s behalf.

Once your foreign fiancé enters the country, you must perform a marriage following United States laws.

How Do You Apply For a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

Several steps must be followed for a foreign national to obtain a K-1 non-immigrant visa. Here’s a summary:

  1. The U.S. citizen or sponsor must complete Form I-129F (Petition for Foreign Fiancé) and submit the application at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in their area.
  2. If USCIS approves the petition for a foreign fiancé, it will notify the National Visa Center (NVC). There they will set a case number. The couple must wait their turn until the NVC sends the petition to the United States Embassy or Consulate in your fiancé’s home country.
  3. Once your fiancé receives the NVC notification, they must go to the United States embassy or consulate in their home country and apply for the K-1 visa on the day and time assigned for the interview.
  4. If the interview goes well and your fiancé provides the right documents, they will receive a K-1 visa and can travel to the United States and get married.

What Documents Do I Need To Present at the Interview To Apply For the K-1 Fiance Visa?

The K-1 visa applicant (and any of their children) must bring the following documents with them to the interview with the immigration officer:

  • Form DS-160: This is the application for a non-immigrant visa. The fiancé and their children must complete a Form DS-160.
  • Valid passport: The passport cannot be set to expire within the next six months, unless the country of origin of the foreign fiancé belongs to the list of exceptions to this rule.
  • Divorce or death certificates: If the fiancé or the sponsor had been previously married, they need to show that they are not engaged to anyone else.
  • Criminal record letter: They must provide documentation of a criminal record or lack of a record from their country of origin and all countries they lived in during the last six months (from age 16 onwards). They need letters for all children over 16 years old as well.
  • Results of a medical examinationThis is to prove that your fiancé does not pose a threat to public health in the U.S.
  • Evidence of financial support: Whether from the fiancé, the sponsor, or both, this will show that the fiancé will not be a public charge to the United States. Sometimes immigration officers also request an affidavit using Form I-134.
  • Two photographs: According to the required format for providing photography evidence of identity.
  • Evidence of their relationship: Your fiancé must prove their relationship with you and that it is a valid relationship, and not just an attempt to immigrate to the U.S.

What Do I Do After Obtaining the K-1 Visa?

The K-1 visa is approved at the United States embassy or consulate in the country where your fiancé resides.

Your fiancé will also receive a sealed envelope with documents. These can only be reviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of entry on the day they arrive in the U.S.

CBP is a government office that is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It is responsible for protecting the nation and works with immigration services.

Any children will also receive their K-2 visas in their passports. They can travel together with your fiancé or alone on another occasion.

It is essential to know that the K-1 visa is only valid for one entry to the U.S. Once the fiancé is legally in U.S. territory, they must marry within 90 days.

How Do I Apply For Permanent Residence if I Entered the United States on a Fiance Visa?

If you were admitted to the U.S. on a K-1 fiance visa, and you have already gotten married, then you and your sponsor can jointly petition for adjustment of status.

This is done by filing Form I-485 with USCIS, which allows you to obtain your permanent residence card (green card).

First, as a new spouse, you will receive a conditional permanent residence. After two years, you can apply for permanent residence by removing the conditions of the green card by marriage.

Later, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization with other required documents.

What if I Entered the United States on a K-1 Visa and Did Not Get Married Within 90 Days?

The K-1 visa is not an immigrant visa (just like the K-2 visa for your children) and is only valid for 90 days. The days are counted from your admission to the United States.

There are many reasons why marriage may be impossible. However, failing to marry within 90 days would violate U.S. immigration laws and could lead to deportation.

But if you marry after 90 days, it is still possible to keep your immigration rights by marriage. To do this, the U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130 Petition for a Foreign Relative to bring their foreign spouse to live in the United States.

Do I Need a Lawyer To Apply for a K-1 Visa?

An immigration attorney can help you with the K-1 visa application process and review your forms and documents to avoid mistakes. However, in the United States, no law requires hiring a lawyer to apply for a visa.

However, when there is a delay in visas of fiancées and relatives, it is typically due to procedural errors. In addition, the process is overwhelming for many people.

An attorney who knows immigration law:

  • Knows what the eligibility requirements are for American citizens to be able to reunite with their loved ones.
  • Ensures you are up to date with changes to the immigration process rules.
  • Can guide you on the best strategy to follow with any legal requests.

If you are in doubt as to whether to seek the legal services of an experienced K-1 visa attorney, you may request a consultation. Most law firms offer a free first appointment.

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