What Is a Fiancé(e) Visa (Part 1 of 2): Obtaining a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa

A K-1 fiancé(e) visa allows a foreign national engaged to be married to a U.S. citizen and living abroad to join his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e) in the United States, marry his/her fiancé(e) within 90 days of admission into the U.S., and remain in the U.S. after applying for a Green Card via adjustment of status.[1]  Unmarried children under 21 years of age of the foreign fiancé(e) may also obtain a K-2 visa and adjust status to obtain a Green Card.

Benefits of a Fiancé(e) Visa:
  • Sometimes faster processing times than marriage-based visas.
  • Allows the U.S. citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) to marry in the United States, as opposed to another country which may have more complicated or restrictive marriage procedures and laws.
  • Allows the U.S. citizen and foreign national fiancé(e) to live together in the U.S. and get to know each other for up to 90 days before getting married.
  • After receiving a K-1 visa and marrying the U.S. citizen, the foreign national may remain in the U.S. while applying for a Green Card via adjustment of status.
  • The foreign national may be granted U.S. work permission after obtaining a K-1 visa and while the Green Card adjustment of status application is pending.
  • The foreign national’s unmarried children under 21 years of age may be eligible for a K-2 visa.
Fiancé(e) Visa Eligibility/Criteria:

To qualify for a K-1 visa, the following requirements, among others, must be met:

  • The U.S. petitioner must be a U.S. citizen, not a Green Card-holder.
  • The foreign national must reside outside of the U.S.
  • The U.S. citizen and foreign national must intend to marry within 90 days of the foreign national entering the U.S. with his/her K-1 visa.
  • The U.S. citizen and foreign national must both be free to marry, and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated.
  • Subject to some exceptions, the U.S. citizen and foreign national must have met, in-person, at least once within two years of the filing of the petition.
Fiancé(e) Visa Process:

The process of obtaining a K-1 fiancé(e) visa will vary depending upon each individual case and the U.S. Consulate or Embassy adjudicating the case.  In addition to meeting the above-mentioned criteria, the process can be summarized as follows:

  • Filing Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”):
    • File all required form(s) and supporting evidence with USCIS.
    • If applicable, respond to any USCIS Requests for Evidence or the like.
    • If USCIS approves the petition, case file gets forwarded to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (“NVC”).
  • Visa Pre-Processing with the NVC and Interview at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy:
    • The NVC creates a case number, forwards the case to the relevant U.S. Consulate/Embassy, and informs the foreign national of the transfer.
    • The U.S. Consulate/Embassy informs the foreign national of the steps for K-1 visa processing (completing a visa application, paying an application fee, scheduling an interview with the U.S. Consulate/Embassy, obtaining a medical examination, etc.).
    • The foreign national interviews with a Consular Officer.
    • The U.S. Consulate/Embassy approves or denies the K-1 visa application or issues an INA 221(g) letter requesting more information or putting the case in administrative processing.
    • If approved, the applicant is generally given a K-1 visa valid for up to 6 months.   
  • K-1 Visa Post-Approval Steps: To be discussed in next article (Part 2 of 2).
Children of the Foreign Fiancé(e):

Unmarried children under 21 years of age of the foreign fiancé(e) may be eligible to obtain a K-2 visa and, thereafter, adjust status to obtain a Green Card. If there is a potential aging-out issue for any of the foreign fiancé(e)’s children, please contact us before filing with USCIS.

Potential Issues Which Warrant Contacting a U.S.-Licensed Immigration Attorney:

Because K-1 fiancé(e) visas can ultimately lead to a Green Card and U.S. citizenship with many interviews and background and other checks to be completed by the U.S. government, it is highly recommended that a qualified U.S.-licensed immigration lawyer be hired.  The following circumstances, among others, warrant contacting a U.S. immigration lawyer for assistance:

  • The U.S. citizen or foreign national has a criminal history.
  • The U.S. citizen previously filed a U.S. immigration petition for another person.
  • The U.S. citizen cannot show sufficient income to support the foreign national.
  • The U.S. citizen or foreign national was ever married and there is uncertainty as to the validity of the legal termination of the marriage(s).  
  • The U.S. citizen and foreign national have not known each other for a long time, have not spent much time in-person together, or do not have much in the way of evidence showing the genuineness of their relationship.
  • The foreign national has health issues, may have overstayed in the U.S. in the past, or may have lied (committed misrepresentation or fraud) on any prior U.S. immigration applications.
  • The foreign national has any family members who may have violated U.S. immigration laws.
  • The U.S. citizen cannot attend the interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
  • The foreign national has any concerns about the interview.
Fiancé(e) Visa Government Processing Times and Fees and Expenses:

Please contact our office to schedule a meeting for more information on the K-1 fiancé(e) visa processing times and government fees and expenses.

Alternatives to a Fiancé(e) Visa:

A family-based (via marriage) immigrant visa is an obvious alternative to a K-1 fiancé(e) visa.  Of course, this requires the couple to marry one another before applying with U.S. immigration authorities.  Contacting a reputable U.S. immigration lawyer for other alternatives or to facilitate the process is a wise choice.

[1]              The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and subject to change.  Nothing stated in this article is formal, specific legal advice, and nothing herein should be viewed as creating an attorney-client relationship.  If you require legal advice specific to your case, please contact Attorney Van Ryan Ngo.  This article will be the first of a two-part series on K-1 fiancé(e) visas and more.  Please stay tuned for the second part. 

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