USA and the UK
What is a K-1 Visa?
As a U.S. citizen, you can bring your fiancé(e) to your country through a Fiancé(e) Visa, also known as K-1 or K1 Visa. With this visa, you can get married in the U.S. and subsequently live in the country with your spouse.
Through this visa, your foreign fiancé will be allowed to travel to the U.S. and marry within 90 days. After the marriage, your fiancé(e) can apply for an adjustment of his or her status, to become a legal permanent resident.
If you are a U.S. citizen and are already married or even want to get married outside the U.S., you are not eligible for a K1 Visa. However, you can still apply for a K-3 Visa Spouse Visa.
What Is the K1 Visa And How Does it Work?
If you are a US citizen hoping to bring your foreign fiancé(e) to the US with the intention of getting married, then you’ll need to apply for the K1 fiancé(e) visa. A K1 visa holder is able to visit the US with the intention and purpose of getting married. After a successful K1 visa application, your alien fiancé(e) will be able to visit and live with you in the US, as long as you fully intend to get married within the time frame that the visa is valid.
The K1 fiancé visa is officially classified as a non-immigrant visa, which essentially means that it is a temporary and short-term based visa. The K1 fiancé visa doesn’t permit the visa holder to stay longer than 90 days so foreign nationals applying to live permanently in the United States will need to apply for a full immigrant visa instead. If the K1 visa holder doesn’t marry their US citizen fiancé(e) in the 90-day time frame, they are legally required to depart the United States.
How to apply for a K1 Visa?
In order to apply for the fiancé(e) visa, it’s necessary that you as the US citizen sponsor and file an official K1 visa petition for an alien fiancé(e). This will involve filing an official I-129F petition form with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) office in your area. When approved, your fiancé(e) visa petition will then be sent to the NVC (National Visa Center), where your fiancé(e) will then need to file an official application and attend a face-to-face interview with a Consular Officer at their local US Embassy or Consulate.
Under US immigration law, there are a few different ways for US citizens to file visa petitions for a foreign national spouse or fiancé(e) intending to immigrate to the country. A popular method is for an American to apply for a marriage visa and to then marry their fiancé(e) in a foreign country. Foreign spouses of US citizens benefit from immediate preference when it comes to applying for a green card and immigrating to the United States. However, depending on the circumstances, this isn’t always a possibility.
Who is eligible for a K-1 Visa?
To be eligible for the fiancé(e) visa, you’ll need to be able to prove not only full eligibility, but also your intention to get married within the 90 days afforded to you by the visa. Historically, the K1 fiancé(e) visa has been one of the easier visas to apply for and have approved. However, there’s evidence that over the last few years the process has become stricter with fewer applications making it through successfully. Keeping that in mind, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how you can best support your application with the right evidence before applying.
If you are already married, planning to marry outside the United States, or your foreign citizen fiancé(e) is already legally living in the United States, then you and your spouse/ fiancé(e) aren’t eligible for the K1 fiancé(e) visa. You may instead be able to apply for the K3 spousal visa, which also falls under the K visa category of family visas. Like the K1 visa, the K3 spouse visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows the visa holder to stay for up to two years in total. The USA fiancé(e) visa is very specific in its purpose and, while it is quite a limited visa, it’s very clear in what it can and can’t be used for.
There are a few steps required for you to take in order to successfully apply for the K1 fiancé(e) visa. This will include you, the US citizen, officially sponsoring your foreign fiancé(e) by filing a K1 visa petition to the USCIS. Next, the NVC will require your partner to make an official K1 visa application and attend an interview with their local US Embassy or Consulate. You’ll also be informed of the required documentation you’ll need to provide to support your application. K1 non-immigrant visa applicants may also be eligible to bring dependent children with them under the K2 visa for K1 dependents. If this is the case, they will follow a similar application process to the K1 visa application process.
How does the Fiancé(e) Visa work?
The K1 visa is officially classified as a non-immigrant visa. Despite this classification, this visa is still most often used for full immigration purposes as most K1 visa holders come to the United States with the full intention of staying permanently to live and work in the US with their spouse.
In order to make this possible, you must apply for an official adjustment of status. It’s important to remember that the K1 fiancé(e) visa cannot be extended beyond the 90 days granted to get married. If you aren’t able to get married during this time, it will be illegal for you to stay beyond the 90-day period.
After you are married, your fiancé(e) will need to apply for full permanent resident status by becoming a green card holder which will allow him or her to live permanently in the US with you. This is an entirely separate process and you’ll need to again prove eligibility as you will need to meet a different set of criteria when applying to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Luckily, once you have legally married, your foreign national spouse through legal marriage will already have benefitted from meeting certain criteria. This may make it easier to apply for permanent resident status.
It is for this reason that the K1 fiancé(e) visa, while officially a non-immigrant visa, is a very popular route for couples seeking full immigration status. Application for full resident status can be made in the US after getting married. There is no need to for the foreign national spouse to return to their home country after their visa expires.
What are the Requirements for a US K1 Visa?
The K1 visa is not for everyone. For instance, in some cases, a spousal visa might be more suitable or you might not quite meet the requirements necessary. However, you may be eligible to bring your foreign fiancé(e) to the US for intended marriage if you meet these requirements:
- You are a US citizen. If you are someone who is not a US citizen but who is living in the United States on a green card and has lawful permanent resident status, you won’t be eligible to apply or petition for the K1 fiancé(e) If this is the case, however, you may be eligible to apply for the CR1 marriage visa instead. The CR1 visa categories allow you to petition for a green card for immediate alien relatives. However, this process can take up to two years or even longer.
- You intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission into the United States as a K1 visa holder. As the US petitioner, it’s your responsibility to convince both the USCIS and Consular Officers involved that you have a bona fide relationship with your fiancé and that you both fully intend to marry within 90 days of US entry. This process is to avoid fraudulent marriages with the sole purpose of immigration, and you may have your petition denied if you fail to convince that you have a valid relationship with your partner.
- You are both legally free to marry in the United States. If you are petitioning for a K1 visa and you have been married before to a previous spouse, you will need to provide proof that any prior marriages have been legally terminated. You will need to show proof of death, divorce, or annulment with evidence such as a divorce decree or death certificate in order to prove to the USCIS and Consular Officers that you are legally free to marry your new fiancé(e).
- You have met your fiancé(e) at least once within the last two years. Engaged couples applying for the K1 visa need to prove that they have met physically in person in the two-year period leading up to filing your fiancé(e) visa petition. You don’t need to prove that you have known each other or been in a relationship for the last two years, only that you have physically met at least once in this period. Other meetings, such as over Skype, will not count here. However, you might be able to request a waiver of this in-person meeting in special circumstances, such as if meeting would violate the cultural traditions and customs of your fiancé’s country, or if meeting would result in ‘extreme hardship’ for yourself.
- You meet the necessary income requirements. A lot of visas focus on the foreign citizen’s financial ability to support themselves while staying in the United States. The K1 visa, however, relies upon the US petitioner’s ability to provide the financial support both they and their fiancé(e) will need to live in the US. Fortunately, the K1 visa income requirements are quite low. The petitioner, who filed form I-129F, will need to prove that you can both live above the poverty line on your current income. Your current income is calculated based upon your expected total income from all sources for the current year.
There are situations in which an applicant might find themselves automatically regarded as ineligible to apply for the K1 fiancé(e) visa. Regardless of someone’s supposed visa eligibility, certain crimes will render an applicant unable to successfully apply.
For example, crimes such as drug trafficking, submission of fraudulent documents and overstaying prior visas will all make you ineligible for a new K visa petition.
If you are found to be ineligible for the K1 visa, you’ll be contacted by a Consular Officer and advised on the possibility of seeking a waiver for the ineligibility.
You can visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at travel.state.gov for a full and complete list of all applicable ineligibilities.
The waiver process can be long and complex, but we can provide expert advice here at the Immigration Advice Service that can shed light and clarity on the situation.
It’s also worth noting that the K1 visa is very specifically only appropriate for engaged couples with a bona fide relationship, fully intending to have a valid marriage ceremony in the US within 90 days of admission into the country.
This will rule out couples who are only considering getting married in the US during the visa’s validity as a possibility. You’ll need to provide proof, not just of your engagement, but also of your intended marriage in the US.
Evidence such as letters to one another discussing wedding plans and announcements sent to friends and loved ones can help to prove to the USCIS that you truly plan to get married.
For these reasons, some of the best pieces of evidence you can submit as part of your application are documents that prove you have set wedding plans, such as a date or venue booked.
Evidence of having rented a venue, hired a photographer, or organized catering for your wedding are excellent for proving to immigration officials the validity of your marriage.
Of course, planning a wedding date and making arrangements can be difficult to do if you are waiting on the processing and approval of your visa. However, it’s recommended that you show some evidence of your plans being put into place if possible.
What Can a K1 Visa Holder Do During Their Stay in the United States?
- Staying and living with your fiancé(e) in the US while the K1 visa is valid. When you successfully apply for the fiancé(e) visa and enter the United States, you’ll have a 90-day period in which to get married. During this time, you are free to live in the United States with your fiancé(e). You can move and travel across the US with your partner while here. You can choose to get married anywhere in the United States.
- Applying for an Employment Authorization Document and then begin to work once you are married. To start this process, you must be married and in the United before applying. This will require you to apply for a document called form I-765 which usually takes around 2 months to process. You can not work while the document is being processed. Only when your application has been fully processed and approved will you be able to begin working.
- Applying for full permanent resident status after getting married. You are free to apply to become a full green card holder while staying in the US on the K1 visa, and you can do so without having to return to your home country. This is called adjustment of status. However, you cannot do so until you are married, and you’ll need to prove eligibility against a different set of criteria. Fortunately, foreign spouses of American citizens benefit from having preference by the Department of Homeland Security when applying for green cards, so you will likely find it much easier to gain full immigration status.
- Bringing dependents with you to the US. The US citizen who filed the initial petition does not have to file a separate form I-129F petition for each dependent, but any dependents hoping to travel with the K1 visa holder to the US must be mentioned and listed on the initial petition. These dependents fit under the K visa category as K2 visa holders, and applicants must be unmarried minors under 21 years old and the children of an approved K1 applicant. They’ll also need to be medically examined and attend the embassy interview with a Consular Officer.
What Can't I Do With a K1 Fiancé Visa?
While the USA fiancé(e) visa is a particularly popular route for intending immigrants to join their American citizen fiancé(e) in the US, it is officially classified as a non-immigrant visa. This means that it’s only designed for temporary stays in the US and doesn’t grant full immigrant status. Because of this, there are certain restrictions as to what a K1 visa holder can do while their visa is valid. Some of the things you can’t do include:
- Visiting the US more than once. It’s best to avoid leaving the US on a K1 fiancé(e) visa as they are only valid for a single entry within a 6-month period. Upon arrival, the visa grants 90 days in which to get married. If the visa has already been used to enter the United States and the foreign fiancé(e) has then returned abroad before marriage, you’ll need to petition to a Consular Officer in order to have a new K visa issuance. This is only possible if the period of validity doesn’t surpass the 90-day period granted by the initial entry of the alien fiancé(e) into the United States. You must both still be free and intending to marry, and the foreign fiancé(e)’s return to the US must occur within the 90 days of the original admission. The K1 visa is a non-immigrant and single-entry visa, so you categorically cannot leave the United States and then re-enter on the same K1 visa.
- Working in the US before you are married and have an approved Employment Authorization Document. You are free to apply for the EAD by filling in form I-765, but it usually takes around 2 months to get the EAD, and you can’t legally work while waiting for approval. Under the K1 visa, your work permit can only be valid for the 90-day period after entry into the US. It’s also worth remembering that you won’t be able to get the EAD until you are married, which means that, while you can officially work for the full 90 days after entering the US on a K1 visa, you can’t apply until after you have married and even then it typically takes 2 months to process. This means that realistically there’s not a lot of available time in which you can legally work in the 90-day K1 visa validity. However, because the K1 visa is conventionally a step towards an adjustment of status with a green card and full immigrant status, an alien fiancé(e) can choose to instead apply for work authorization at the same time as applying for permanent resident status, in which case the work authorization will be valid for one year instead.
- Marrying someone other than the person who petitioned you to visit the US. If engaged couples using a K1 visa to get married in the US break up or choose not to get married for any reason, the foreign fiancé(e) visiting the US won’t be able to marry anyone else while in the country. If this happens, they’ll have to leave the United States within the 90-day period of the K1 visas validity. Then, if they have a new fiancé(e) and wish to re-enter the US for a wedding ceremony, they’ll have to re-apply for a new K1 visa.
How Much Does a K1 Visa Cost?
The fees involved with successfully applying for a K1 fiancé(e) visa are relatively straightforward. However, it’s worth noting that the costs will be higher if your foreign fiancé(e) wants to seek adjustment of status and permanent resident status.
The costs involved with a K1 visa without adjustment to leave amounts to $800. These costs include:
- Filing a K1 visa fiancé(e) petition as form I-129F ($535). This is the fee you’ll need to pay in order to get your application started with your petition. This payment is made alongside form I-129F in the initial filing of your fiancé(e) visa petition.
- Consulate fee for non-immigrant visa application processing ($265). This embassy fee is paid nearer the end of the visa application process. This fee will need to be paid directly to whichever US embassy that your foreign fiancé’s visa interview takes place.
How Long Does it Take to Get a K1 Fiancé(e) Visa?
Once you have filed your K visa petition through the form I-129F file, the K1 visa usually takes around 5-7 months to be processed.
If approved, the petition is sent to an embassy in the applicant’s home country for further processing.
The time this takes can vary and will often depend on the strength of the evidence you have included in your application.
If fully approved, the applicant will be invited to an official interview. This will likely take place at the nearest official US embassy.
The immigration official may ask the visa applicant for further evidence of the relationship between you and your full reasons for getting married.
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Sometimes it simply isn’t legally possible for an American citizen to marry in a foreign country, even if this marriage would be legal in the United States. For example, some countries forbid same-sex marriages, some require parental permission legally for marriage, and some forbid marrying outside your own religion or ethnicity. Also, some couples would just prefer their wedding ceremony to be held in the US. It’s in these cases that the K1 fiance visa comes into play and is particularly useful.
No, it is considered visa fraud to visit and enter the US on a tourist visa with the intent of staying. This kind of crime often leads to deportation, restrictions on entering the US again, and ineligibility for future visa applications. This means that even if you are found and prevented from misusing a tourist visa by attempting to stay in the United States and you then attempt to do so legally instead, you may be prevented from doing so.
There’s nothing stopping your fiance from visiting you in the US on a tourist visa and getting married while in the country. However, they will be legally required to leave the country before their tourist visa expires, and to then begin a new marriage visa application from outside the US. The marriage itself is not illegal, it is only the intent to stay that is regarded as visa fraud and can be met with deportation and other punishment. Visiting the US on a tourist visa for intended marriage with the intention to then leave and later apply for a spousal visa is legal, you just won’t be able to stay permanently after the marriage.
Another example is if someone enters the United States on a tourist visa with no intent to marry or stay permanently in the US but who falls in love and chooses to marry during their stay. This person may in fact be able to stay permanently, but they’ll need to prove to the USCIS and US government that it was never their intention to come to the United States and stay permanently.
If you and your partner are in the US with the intention of getting married, but have not or could not do so within the 90 day period, then the good news is that you are likely to still be able to apply for an adjustment of status – as long as you are doing so within a reasonable amount of time.
Of course, if you did not get married in this period because you had a change of heart and no longer intend to get married, then the alien fiance will have to leave the US within the visa’s validity period. It’s best to leave relatively quickly once you know that you’re not going to get married – remaining in the US beyond your visa’s validity can mean that you become banned from entering the US for years to come.
However, if you still intend to get married but can’t do so within the 90-day period, there are options available to you. You still entered the US legally, but you’ll have to submit form I-130 along with your application for adjustment of status. This comes with an addition USCIS filing fee – an extra $420.
In addition to this extra fee, you may be required to speak to a consular officer who will question you on why you didn’t get married in the period, and they may scrutinize your evidence. You may also be required to have another medical exam.
Visa fraud and marriage fraud has been a rising problem for US immigration officials, and as such spouse visas and fiance visas come under increased scrutiny. Marriage fraud is when the person coming to the US is doing so fraudulently on a spouse or fiance visa with the intention of avoiding US immigration laws and to falsely acquire immigration benefits such as a green card.
This is why, during your interview with an immigration official, questions will focus on the validity and authenticity of your relationship. It is your job to convince them that your relationship is genuine through not just strong supplmentary evidence with your application, but also your answer to questions in an interview. You must persuade the immigration official of your genuine intention to get married and lead a life together with your fiance in the US.
You will face probing questions about yourself, your partner in the US, and your relationship details. Be prepared for quite in-depth and almost intrusive questioning about how and when you and your fiance met, and what your exact intentions are for getting married and living together in the US.
As a K1 visa holder, it’s possible to bring dependent children to the US with you. They will need to become visa applicants themselves, but won’t need separate k visa petitions. Your dependents must be family members and to be eligible they must be both unmarried children under the age of 21 and your own dependent children.
If they meet all the necessary requirements and are eligible to travel with you, they will be granted a separate K2 visa for dependent children. This will allow them to stay in the US with you while you visit for your intended marriage. You can make the application at the same time as your K1 fiance visa application, and both can be considered as part of the same visa petition.
You dependent children will be permitted to stay with you in the US for up to two years. Alternatively, if they turn 21 within this time, they will then need to apply separately to remain in the US.
There are also some common additional variable costs that you may want to take into consideration when applying for your visa and when calculating the costs involved. These might include:
- Travel costs. While not part of your K1 visa fees, the cost for the foreign fiance to travel to the US after visa approval can vary significantly. Depending on where in the world you are traveling from and the travel options you have available to you, costs for things such as plane tickets and hotel fees may vary between a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
- Medical examination. All K visa applicants need to undergo a medical examination before traveling to the US. These costs will vary and are entirely based on the country in which you are having your K visa interview. The fee is paid directly to a medical facility, which is determined by the US embassy.
- Legal assistance. A lot of K visa applicants end up seeking legal advice and assistance when putting together their visa application. These costs can vary based on your needs and the particular circumstances of your case.
- Miscellaneous costs. Other costs that you might want to take into account include things like translation and photocopying costs. You’ll need to acquire all the sufficient documents for your visa application such as valid passports, birth certificate, and police certificates, all of which can incur costs. If you’re planning on bringing dependent unmarried children to the US with you, these potential K2 visa holders won’t need to pay additional USCIS fees as part of the petition. However, child K2 applicants will require additional embassy fees and medical examination fees.
It’s important to remember that, if the foreign fiance is planning on seeking an official adjustment of status to become a full permanent resident with a green card, then the fees can become significantly higher. This is the usual route that engaged couples take when applying for the K1 visa, with the foreign spouse gaining full immigrant status after marriage.
Seeking adjustment of status costs a minimum of $1,225 in government fees, bringing the total cost of your journey as a foreign fiancé to a minimum of $2,025 in total. These fees account for:
- Initial filing of form I-485 – application for adjustment of status as a permanent resident ($1,140).
- Biometrics fees ($85).
Both of these fees are paid with a single check or cash payment while filing the application for permanent resident status with form I-485. The cost of an adjustment of status can be quite high and, as such, some couples choose not to apply. However, it’s still an incredibly popular route to full immigration status for couples with valid relationships wanting to live in the US. The benefits of lawful permanent resident status and eventual US citizenship are incredibly high for couples hoping to start a family in the US.
To speed up the process, the following is considered strong and persuasive evidence:
- Photos that show you meeting and evidence of your loving relationship.
- Airline tickets confirming travel plans and exact dates.
- Written statements from anyone who knows you both and can support the validity and authenticity of your relationship.
- Text or email chat records that show honest and open communication between you.
- Pictures of holidays spent together as engaged couples.
It’s also worth noting that if your fiance intends on becoming one of the US’s green card holders, the entire process can take much longer. Altogether, you may need to plan and expect the process to take around 13 months for completion. However, bear in mind that adjustment of status can only be applied for after you have married your fiance in the US.
Getting your head around visa eligibility, applications, and visa interviews isn’t always easy. From the legal requirements to the total cost and total time involved, a lot of engaged couples find themselves confused and frustrated before even submitting a K1 fiance visa petition. If you would like to speak to a professional immigration lawyer for some expert and experienced advice and assistance, then you’ve come to the right place. We offer some fantastic advice packages here at the Immigration Advice Service, and our lawyers are on-hand to provide the insight and expertise you need to bring clarity to your visa application process. Just get in touch with us here today to discover how the Immigration Advice Service can help you on your way to a successful K1 visa application. We offer untimed advice consultation sessions in which you can benefit from having all your questions answered by a fully qualified immigration lawyer.