What You Should Know Before Starting K-1 Visa Process
Updated on 10/15/2023
The K-1 visa has become more widely known through its mentions on reality television. However, those entertainment programs may make the K-1 application process seem simpler than it is.
According to 2019 data from the U.S. Department of State, 35,881 K-1 nonimmigrant visas were issued that year, but approximately 20% of the K-1 applications were denied. By informing yourself about the K-1 visa requirements ahead of time, you can increase your chances of being among the 80% of couples whose prenuptial application was granted.
As you plan to bring your beloved into the United States for the marriage, it may be prudent to allow an immigration lawyer to review the paperwork. By inviting the guidance of experienced legal professionals, you may avoid the pitfalls that could lead to your betrothed being denied entry into the U.S. Here we list the most important things you should know before you start the K-1 application process.
1. Is K-1 visa right for you?
K-1 visa, also known as fiancé(e) visa, which allows the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States, on the condition that they get married within 90 days from fiancé(e)’s entry to the United States with the K-1 visa. The newly married spouse can then apply for permanent residence (“green card”) through Form I-485 adjustment of status based on marriage. Only a U.S. citizen can file an K-1 visa application for his or her fiancé(e).
You have probably also learned about a spousal visa (or called “immigrant visa”, “marriage visa”) for your beloved. To apply for such a spousal visa, you must get married with your beloved first. However, as described above, the final step of K-1 visa also require you to marry your beloved. So what’s difference between a K-1 visa and a spousal visa? Which one is better? Honestly, it is not a simple question; we specified their difference in our article K-1 Visa vs. Marriage Visa.
2. Criteria for a pre-wedding K-1 fiancé(e) visa
In order for a foreign national to qualify to enter the United States on a K-1 visa, they must demonstrate with evidence that they meet each of the prerequisites. The initial step for the U.S. citizen is to complete an Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). To meet the requirements to obtain a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, the U.S. citizen applicant needs to show the following:
To establish that the above criteria are met, the U.S. citizen applicant should submit concrete evidence with their I-129F form.
Proof of U.S. citizenship
If an U.S citizen was born in the United States, they might provide a copy of their birth certificate, which will show the state in which they were born, or an unexpired U.S. passport. However, if the K-1 petitioner became a U.S. citizen via naturalization or through their U.S. citizen parent, they can make a photocopy of their Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship or unexpired U.S. passport and enclose it with the I-129F form.
Met fiancé(e) in person within the last two years
Photographs of the happy couple are an excellent form of evidence to show that the bride and groom-to-be were together during the two years prior to the K-1 application. Further, to prove that the meeting occurred during the past two years, travel documents, such as copies of plane tickets or hotel reservations can bolster the petition.
Members of the United States military may consider getting a letter from their commanding officer or providing other evidence of being stationed in their fiancé(e)’s country of origin.
Legally free to marry
Clearly, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not want visa holders to commit bigamy. Therefore, U.S. citizens and their foreign fiancé(e)s should be prepared to show that they can legally wed.
If either of the betrothed has a deceased former spouse, a death certificate should be supplied to USCIS. Moreover, for young couples, it is important to be certain that each person is of age to legally marry.
Bona fide intent to marry within 90 Days of arrival
A K-1 nonimmigrant visa is only intended to last for 90 days after the arrival of the potential spouse in the United States. Therefore, a K-1 is not merely a way to get into the United States to spend a few years getting to know one’s boyfriend or girlfriend.
Evidence of wedding planning can be a useful form of evidence of the bona fide intent to marry within 90 days of a K-1 visa holder’s entry into the U.S. A Letter of Intent to Marry also works.
Not sure if you’re eligible to apply for K-1 visa for your fiancé(e) ? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard.com without providing any personal information. When you’re ready to apply, DYgreencard.com can guide you through every milestone of the K-1 application process, starting with your Form I-129F all the way to the finish line. What you need to do is just answer a few questions and upload documents to our online platform. Then we take care of the rest. Get started today.
3. Procedures, cost and processing times for K-1 visa from start to green card
As mentioned above, the initial step to start a K-1 visa process is to file an I-129F petition by the U.S citizen with USCIS. After USCIS approves the petition, with the coordination of National Visa Center (NVC), the case will be forwarded to a U.S. embassy/consulate located in the home country or the country where the foreign fiancé(e) has permanent residence. As long as the case has been forwarded to the U.S. embassy/consulate, the foreign fiancé(e) needs to prepare to attend a K-1 nonimmigrant visa interview at the U.S. embassy/consulate.
Interview preparation includes:
- Submit Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160);
- Schedule a K-1 nonimmigrant visa interview through the visa interview appointment system;
- Complete a medical exam by embassy-approved hospitals or physicians only;
- Gather documents required for the interview, including a complete Form I-134 Declaration of Financial Support prepared by the U.S. citizen petitioner, civil documents of the foreign fiancé(e) (passport, U.S. passport size photo, birth certificate, police certificate, relationship evidence, etc.).
Check our article Form I-134 and Income Requirement for a K1 Visa to learn more about the U.S. citizen’s financial support responsibility.
After the interview, if the visa officer grants the K-1 visa to the foreign fiancé(e), he or she will get a K-1 visa stamp (see sample below) in his or her passport. With this K-1 visa stamp, the foreign fiancé(e) should enter the United States before the expiration of the visa. Upon arrival, the couple must get married within 90 days. If the couple decides not to get married, the foreign fiancé(e) will be out of status after 90 days and is supposed to leave the United States right away.
After the couple gets married, the foreign fiancé(e) can file an I-485 adjustment of status application to apply for green card. Even if no time limits when to file the I-485 application, it is recommended to file the application as early as possible. Learn more about how to file an I-485 application based on K-1 fiancé(e) visa in our article Adjust Status after Entry on K1 Visa.
The following chart briefly describes the entire procedures, cost and processing times for K-1 visa from start to green card.
Agency to process
8-18 months on average
1-4 months on average
3-18 months on average
4. Common reasons that K-1 visa applications get denied
Among the 9,518 K-1 fiancé(e) visas that failed to get approved in 2019 are common errors or deficiencies. Many rejected petitions do not clearly establish the required income threshold. A good many others are denied because the couple failed to show that their love relationship was real or that the applicants are on the right side of the law.
Finally, the denial of a K-1 nonimmigrant visa could be due to an incomplete or incorrect filling out of the forms. That is why it can be so beneficial to have an experienced immigration attorney to thoroughly review the entire application package.
5. K-1 Visa vs. K-2 Visa vs. K-3 Visa
Although all of the “K” visas are temporary permissions to enter the United States, they apply to different categories of persons.
The K-1 visa process for a fiancé(e) differs slightly from the procedure for bringing a new spouse from abroad to the United States. When an U.S. citizen wants to gain entry for an intended spouse, they will need to acquire a K-1 visa, which lasts for 90 days before the wedding. It is important to hold the nuptials within the 90-day period, as the visa does expire.
K-2 visas are not for the foreign bride or groom, but are instead entries into the United States for the children under 21 years old of K-1 visa holders. When applying for the K-1 visa, the petitioner should list the names of the children who may be eligible for the K-2. In practice, if the child will turn 21 years old soon, you should hurry up. As a K-2 visa holder, in order to be eligible for green card through I-485 adjustment of status application, he or she must be under 21 when entering the United States as a K-2 nonimmigrant.
Conversely, if a U.S. citizen has already married a foreign national and an I-130 immigrant petition has been filed by this U.S. citizen for the spouse, and wants the spouse to live in the United States, he or she will need a K-3 visa to bring the new spouse to the United States. K-3 visa is a good option if the I-130 petition is pending with USCIS for a long time, for example more than 2 years. However, currently, USCIS’s average processing time for I-130 petitions filed by U.S. citizens is less than one year. As such it is unnecessary to get a K-3 visa at the moment.
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