A Complete Guide to K-1 Visa

Updated on 02/05/2022

Two terms that you would not think fit together are love and immigration.  Yet, in certain situations, the immigration process is necessary to bring together a loving couple now living in separate countries.

The K-1 visa or called K-1 fiancé(e) visa is a U.S. immigration benefit that can enable a foreign fiancé(e) living out of the United States to come to the United States to get married.  If you are in the United States and want to marry a foreign fiancé(e) living abroad, the K-1 visa offers one alternative to do so.    

This article discusses how to obtain a K-1 visa.  Please note that for brevity, the term, “fiancé(e)”, will be used in this article to collectively refer to both a male fiancé and a female fiancée.

K1 Visa

K-1 Visa Requirements

You can be eligible to bring your fiancé(e) to the United States on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are a U.S. citizen. If you are only a U.S. green card holder, and not a U.S. citizen, you cannot obtain a K-1 visa for your fiancé(e);
  • You and your fiancé(e) intend to marry one another within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States on a K-1 visa;
  • You and your fiancé(e) are both legally free to marry in the United States, including that any previous marriages have been legally terminated by divorce or death;
  • You and your fiancé(e) met each other in person at least once within the two-year period before you file your petition. You can request a waiver of this “in-person meeting” requirement if you can show that an in-person meeting would violate strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice, or result in extreme hardship to you;
  • You has no specified offense against a minor; and
  • Your fiancé(e) must be admissible under INA 212. The most commonly known grounds of inadmissibility include communicable diseases, certain crimes, fraud in a previous U.S. visa application, certain memberships or activities against national security, likely to become a “public charge”, or removed or deported previously by the United States.

If you are not sure whether you can help your fiancé(e) obtain a K-1 visa, DYgreencard.com can help you figure out. Try our free eligibility checker right now without credit card or personal information. When you are ready to apply for, we can help you prepare a complete application package fully reviewed by a skilled immigration lawyer. Learn more, or get started today.

K-1 Visa Process

To obtain a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, you will need to proceed with various steps.

Form I-129F

The first step in the K-1 visa process is to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).  You, as the U.S. citizen, are the petitioner under Form I-129F.

Form I-129F

On Form I-129F, you need to provide various information about you and/or your fiancé(e), including concerning address history, employment history, criminal information, and biographic information.

In addition, with Form I-129F, you need to include the following documents and other evidence:

  • Evidence of your U.S. citizenship (including a copy of your birth certificate issued by a U.S. civil authority, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or valid, unexpired U.S. passport);
  • Evidence of legal termination of all previous marriages (if applicable);
  • One 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photograph of you and one 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photograph of your fiancé(e) taken within 30 days of filing your petition;
  • Evidence of any legal name changes (if applicable);
  • Evidence that you and your fiancé(e) intend to marry one another within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States on a K-1 visa. This evidence may include statements of intent to marry signed by both you and your fiancé(e) or any other evidence that establishes, by a preponderance of the evidence, your mutual intention; and
  • Evidence that you and your fiancé(e) met each other in person at least once within the two-year period before you file your petition. This evidence may include a written statement from you stating the circumstances of your meeting, a copy of airline tickets, passport pages, or other evidence.  If you are claiming the above-described waiver of this “in-person meeting” requirement, you need to submit evidence that this requirement either would violate strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice (including evidence that any and all aspects of the traditional arrangements have been or will be met in accordance with the custom or practice), or result in extreme hardship to you.

If USCIS approves Form I-129F, it will send the approved Form I-129F to the U.S. Department of State National Visa Center (“NVC”).  The NVC will give you a case number and send the approved Form I-129F to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your fiancé(e) is living.  

Form DS-160

The next step in the K-1 visa process is to file Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, on the U.S. Department of State website.  Form DS-160 will be filed by your fiancé(e).

The Form DS-160 will require your fiancé(e) to provide various information, including personal information, travel information, passport information, occupation, educational background, and employment history information, and security and background information.  Your fiancé(e) also will need to upload a photo in accordance with U.S. government guidelines.

After the DS-160 is filed, your fiancé(e) will need to print the DS-160 confirmation page.

Interview

The next step in the K-1 visa process is for your fiancé(e) to be interviewed by a U.S. Department of State consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your fiancé(e) is living.

Your fiancé(e) should bring to this interview the following:

  • DS-160 confirmation page;
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your fiancé(e)’s intended period of stay in the United States;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s) for both your fiancé(e) and you if applicable;
  • Police certificates from your fiancé(e)’s present country of residence and all countries where your fiancé(e) has lived for six months or more since age 16;
  • Certain certified police and court records if applicable;
  • Evidence of a completed medical examination in accordance with U.S. government guidelines;
  • Evidence of your fiancé(e)’s relationship with you;
  • Two 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photographs; and
  • Form I-134, Affidavit of Support (showing that your fiancé(e) will be financially supported).

The consular officer will make the final decision on whether the K-1 visa will be issued.

If the K-1 visa is issued, please keep in mind that your fiancé(e) has only six or three months to enter the United States after the K-1 visa is granted.  This “six or three months” timing requirement is in addition to the timing requirement that the marriage to your fiancé(e) must occur within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States on the K-1 visa.  If you and your fiancé(e) do not marry within this 90-day period, your fiancé(e) must leave the United States at the end of this 90-day period or is subject to deportation.   

Please also note that the K-1 visa allows only one entry to the United States.  Your fiancé(e) cannot then leave the United States and re-enter the country a second time on a K-1 visa.     

K-1 Visa Processing Time

While every K-1 visa process will have its own specific timeline based on its applicable facts, the following is an estimate of average times for each step of the K-1 visa process:

  • Processing of Form I-129F – Four to ten months;
  • Preparation of Form DS-160 – One to four weeks;
  • Scheduling the K-1 visa interview – Two to eight weeks; and
  • Time between scheduling and attending the K-1 visa interview – Two to eight weeks.

K-1 visas are not eligible for premium processing (which enables certain visas to be obtained more quickly if you pay extra).

K-1 Visa Cost

There are several costs that will be incurred in obtaining a K-1 visa.  First, the filing fee in connection with Form I-129F is $535.  Second, the filing fee in connection with Form DS-160 is $265.  Third, there will be additional costs in connection with the required K-1 visa medical examination.  Fourth, if you use an attorney or immigration consultant to help with the K-1 visa (as is recommended), there will be additional costs in connection with attorney or immigration consultant fees. 

Children – K-2 Visa

If your fiancé(e) has children, it may be possible for the children to come to the United States on a K-2 visa.  The child must be unmarried and under 21 years old.

You must include the names of your fiancé(e)’s children on the Form I-129F that you are filing for your fiancé(e) if you want to bring the children to the United States.

The children can come to the United States with your fiancé(e) or after your fiancé(e), but not before your fiancé(e).

The K-2 visa is known as a derivative visa because the child only obtains the K-2 visa if the child’s parent (your fiancé(e)) obtained a K-1 visa.

Conversion of K-1 Visa to Green Card

The K-1 fiancé(e) visa is a nonimmigrant visa.  As such, it only gives the right for your fiancé(e) to remain in the United States for a temporary period of time.

Specifically, the K-1 visa only gives your fiancé(e) the right to stay in the United States for 90 days after your fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States.  

Under United States immigration law, a green card enables an immigrant to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.  It is possible for your fiancé(e) to convert a K-1 visa to a green card and thereby become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The process of converting a K-1 visa to a green card is known as adjustment of status.  In order to qualify for adjustment of status, your fiancé(e) must have been admitted to the United States on a K-1 visa and then entered into a bona fide marriage with you (as a U.S. citizen) within 90 days of being admitted to the United States.

When applying for adjustment of status as the “now married” spouse of a U.S. citizen, your spouse will be are treated for U.S. immigration purposes as an “immediate relative”.  While many green card categories are subject to quotas or annual limits, these do not apply to “immediate relative” green cards.  Thus, “now married” spouses of U.S. citizens will not be subject to waiting lists and delays in the green card application process.          

A “now married” spouse will apply for adjustment of status on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.  Form I-485 will require various information about your “now married” spouse, including address history, employment history, information about your “now married” spouse’s parents, information about your “now married” spouse’s marital history, information about your “now married” spouse’s children, and biographic information.  In addition, Form I-485 asks various questions concerning your “now married” spouse’s possible inadmissibility for lawful permanent resident status in the United States (including on criminal, security, or public assistance grounds).

Form I-485
Form I-485

Your “now married” spouse also must submit with Form I-485 various evidence concerning your “now married” spouse, including the following:

  • Two 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photographs;
  • A copy of a government-issued identity document with photograoh;
  • A copy of birth certificate;
  • A copy of passport page with the K-1 visa and entry stamp;
  • A copy of I-94 record;
  • A copy of Form I-797, Approval Notice, for the Form I-129F;
  • A copy of marriage certificate;
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support;
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record;
  • Certain certified police and court records if applicable;
  • (Optional) Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with two 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photographs if your “now married” spouse wants to work in the United States when waiting for a green card; and
  • (Optional) Form I-131, Application for Travel Document with two 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photographs if your “now married” spouse wants to travel internationally when waiting for a green card. However, do not file it if your “now married” spouse has been out of status for more than 180 days before filing the Form I-485 application.

There is a filing fee of $1,140 in connection with Form I-485.  In addition, there is a biometric services fee of $85 if your “now married” spouse is under 79 years of age. No filing fee needed for Form I-864, Form I-693, Form I-765 or I-131 application.

Your “now married” spouse must be physically present in the United States when filing Form I-485.

If your “now married” spouse’s Form I-485 application is approved, your “now married” spouse will receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years if your marriage is less than two years upon the approval of Form I-485 application.  Within the 90-day period before the conditional green card will expire, your “now married” spouse should file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove the conditions on permanent resident status and be issued a permanent green card.

The adjustment of status process also can be used to convert the K-2 visas of your fiancé(e)’s children to green cards for them.

Tired of paperwork? At DYgreencard.com, we can help you prepare a complete green card application reviewed by an immigrant attorney with extensive experience. Learn more, or get started today.

Alternative – Getting Married Abroad

The above description of the K-1 fiancé(e) visa and conversion of the K-1 fiancé(e) visa to a green card shows one path by which the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen can obtain a green card.  There is an alternative option – getting married abroad, and not in the United States.

Under this alternative, your loved one is coming to the United States as a spouse, and not as a fiancé(e).  As a result, different provisions of U.S. immigration law are triggered.

To start the green card process for a foreign spouse, you will file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and Form I-130A with USCIS.  Form I-130 and Form I-130A will require various information about you and/or your spouse, including concerning address history, marital information, employment history, and biographic information.

Form I-130
Form I-130
Form I-130A

You also will need to submit various documents with the Form I-130, including documents showing that you are a U.S. citizen, your two 2 x 2 U.S. passport size photographs, marriage certificate, evidence of legal termination of all previous marriages (if applicable) and documents proving that you have a bona fide marriage, such as birth certificates evidencing children born to you and your spouse together, some photos and affidavits from third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship as necessary.

There is a filing fee of $535 in connection with Form I-130.

If the Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the next step in the green card process is that your spouse will proceed with consular processing.

Consular processing will involve USCIS sending your spouse’s case to the National Visa Center (“NVC”).  NVC will issue your spouse a visa number and send the case to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your spouse is living. 

You and your spouse will need to pay a Visa Application Processing fee of $325 and an Affidavit of Support fee of $120, complete and submit Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and various supporting documents (including birth certificate, marriage certificate, marriage termination documents, military records, police certificates, and court and prison records, as may be applicable), complete and submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support and its supporting document, and schedule and complete a medical examination with an authorized physician after receiving the interview notice, and attend an interview at the designated U.S. embassy or consulate. 

The examiner at the interview generally will decide whether your spouse’s green card application will be approved. If approved, an immigrant visa will be issued. With the immigrant visa, your spouse will generally have six or three months to enter the U.S. The physical green card will be mailed to your spouse within 120 days upon the entry.

If your spouse’s green card application is approved, your spouse will receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years if your marriage is less than two years upon your spouse’s entry to the U.S. on an immigrant visa (subject to your spouse filing Form I-751 in a timely manner to remove the conditions on permanent resident status and be issued a permanent green card).

You can learn more about this alternative way in our article How to Apply for Green Card for Spouse through Consular Processing?

K-1 Visa or Spouse Visa

Should you proceed with the K-1 visa process or this alternative “Form I-130/Form DS-260” process (also sometimes known as the “Spouse Visa” or “CR1/IR1” process or immigrant visa process) to obtain a green card for your intended spouse?  The answer may be different in each situation, based on your specific circumstances.

If you and your fiancé(e) intend to be married in the United States or are concerned that your marriage may not be recognized in the country where your fiancé(e) is living, you probably will proceed with the K-1 visa process.

On the other hand, if you and your fiancé(e) intend to be married outside of the United States, you probably will proceed with the “Spouse Visa” process.

Other factors that can affect this decision are how soon you want to be together with your fiancé(e) in the United States (probably quicker under the K-1 visa process) and how concerned you are with reducing costs in obtaining a green card (probably more expensive under the K-1 visa process).

It would be prudent to discuss this issue with an attorney who has significant experience with both the K-1 visa process and the “CR1/IR1” process before reaching a final decision. Try free consultation with a skilled immigrant attorney through DYgreencard.com now!

Conclusion

While love can bring two people together, other issues in life, such as family, health, education, and employment, can separate a loving couple into living in two different countries.

K-1 fiancé(e) visas provide separated couples with the opportunity to become married couples living together in the United States.  Whether through the K-1 visa process or the “Spouse Visa” process, U.S. immigration can help a loving couple that otherwise would be apart instead start a long family life together in the United States

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