Can K-1 Fiancée Visa Holders Leave the United States?

A K-1 visa is commonly referred to as the fiancé(e) visa, and permits a foreign national a one-time entry into the United States for marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Initially, it is valid for six months, but that only means the foreign fiancé(e) has six months to travel to the U.S. to be with their significant other. Once inside the country, they have 90 days to get married, otherwise the foreign spouse-to-be is out of lawful status.

On questions we are asked during consultations is can K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders leave the United States? This is a great question and we will talk about traveling while trying to get your K-1 visa.

If the foreigner wishes to travel outside of the country before they receive their travel documents or green card, their application(s) will be compromised. It will be automatically canceled, and they will not be allowed to reenter the U.S., as the government regards this as an abandoned attempt to marry. You do not want your K-1 visa to be denied, so its important to consult with an Immigration lawyer prior to traveling.

The way to avoid this is to request an Advance Parole while waiting for a green card. This permits the foreigner authorization to return to the U.S. without applying for a new visa. It is advisable to take this step even if they do not foresee any future plans of traveling outside of the U.S. before becoming a lawful permanent resident. 

Traveling with a K-1 Visa

Traveling to, in and out of the U.S. with a K-1 fiancé(e) visa are three separate topics. One requires a unique situation, while another has more freedom. Let’s have a look at each one.

Can I Travel to the U.S. Upon I-129F Approval?

In theory, it is not permissible for a K-1 visa applicant to travel to the U.S. merely upon I-129F approval, as there are other factors involved. However, if he or she has a B-1 Business, B-2 Visitor or any other non-immigrant visa, or has Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the foreign fiancé(e) is free to travel to the U.S.

To reiterate, a K-1 visa applicant cannot come to the U.S. until the visa is issued by the embassy. The K-1 visa process is not complete until the following occurs. 

First, the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) (Form I-129F), is mailed for adjudication to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Second, the petition is then forwarded to the U.S. embassy or consulate for further case processing. Third, the applicant files their Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) and schedules their K-1 visa interview. Fourth, a consular officer conducts an interview with the foreign fiancé(e) for the K-1 visa, and determines visa approval. Last, upon approval, the K-1 visa is granted. 

We have a dedicated post on how to prepare for the K-1 interview. Please take a look at it if you have questions about your upcoming interview.

Traveling to the U.S on a K-1 fiancé(e) visa can only be done when the visa is received by the traveler. The visa will contain the validity period, which is six months, and is for a single entry. If within these six months the foreigner has not made it to the U.S., he or she will have to undergo a new K-1 visa application process. 

Under certain circumstances, a foreign fiancé(e) may require an extension of their I-129F petition’s validity period. In most cases, a consular officer will be able to extend the validity period, however this can only be done if it expires before the applicant’s visa is processed.

How Long Is the K-1 Fiancée Visa Valid?

The K-1 fiancé(e) visa is valid for six months. This means the foreign fiancé(e) has six months to travel to the U.S., then has 90 days to get married.

Can K-1 Visa Holders Travel outside of the U.S. After Getting Married?

Upon entry to the U.S., the foreign fiancé(e) and their significant other have 90 days to get married. Otherwise, the foreign national no longer has a valid visa and is out of legal status in the country. 

On the contrary, if the K-1 visa holder and the U.S. citizen get married within those 90 days, the visa holder can lawfully reside in the country, but will need to await valid travel authorization before they are able to leave and reenter the country. This is not to say they cannot travel after getting married, it is to say they cannot enter the country again after having exited. This is because their K-1 visa is a one-time entry visa to the U.S.

Can K-1 Fiancée Visa Holders Leave the United States After Marriage?

It is important to note, after getting married, foreign spouses must apply for an adjustment of status (marriage green card). He or she cannot simply stay in the U.S. just because they got married.

In order to be able to freely travel, he or she will need to file an Application for Travel Document (Form I-131). This serves as a request for Advance Parole while he or she is waiting for their Adjustment of Status application (green card) to be processed. This permits the foreign husband or wife travel authorization back into the U.S. without needing to apply for a new visa. 

What Is The Advanced Parole Form For K-1 Visas?

The Advance Parole form can simply be added to the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). Doing so is quite common, whether the foreign national plans on traveling outside of the U.S. before becoming a lawful permanent resident. What’s also great is that there isn’t any additional form filing fee, so long as they are filed concurrently.

Otherwise, if a K-1 visa holder leaves the U.S. before their green card application is approved, and without travel documentation, the U.S. government views his or her immigration efforts as being abandoned, and their application will automatically get canceled.

It is important to note that an advance parole document does not replace a passport, and that  having advance parole documentation does not guarantee reentry for the foreign national. 

Additionally, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers make final determinations regarding whether the foreign national will be allowed reentry while at a U.S. airport or border. Simply having previously authorized travel documents does not guarantee the K-1 visa holder reentry into the U.S. If the officer(s) suspect the foreign national to be guilty of visa fraud, they will deny his or her admission, and they will have to leave the country immediately.

FAQs For Can K-1 Fiancée Visa Holders Leave the United States?

What Is The Automatic Revalidation Option?

Having said that, Automatic Revalidation is an option available for visa holders seeking to briefly travel to a bordering country such as Canada, Mexico or certain neighboring islands. The revalidation period is good for 30 days, so the foreign national will want to ensure they return to the United States before those 30 days transpire.

Can K-1 Visa Holders Travel Within the U.S.?

Once a K-1 visa holder enters the U.S., they are free to travel domestically. This is because the visa itself allows the individual to come to the U.S. and does not place any travel limitations on the foreign fiancé.

Can K-1 Visa Holders Get a Driver License?

K-1 visa holders who wish to drive in the U.S. can legally do so with a driver’s license issued by their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Unfortunately, an international driver’s license would not be enough. The caveat here is that obtaining a driver’s license only permits the foreign national driving eligibility for the duration of his or her K-1 visa. A new driver’s license would be required after the foreign husband or wife successfully adjusts their status to U.S. permanent resident.

Conclusion About Leaving the US On a K-1 Visa

K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders are subject to specific travel restrictions and requirements in the United States. While these visa holders can enter the U.S. for the purpose of marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, their ability to leave and re-enter the country is limited. To travel internationally and return to the U.S. without jeopardizing their status, they must obtain Advance Parole, especially if their green card application is pending. Once married, K-1 visa holders can travel within the U.S. and are eligible for a state-issued driver's license. However, they must be cautious about international travel until they receive proper travel documentation. It's crucial for K-1 visa holders to understand these regulations to avoid complications or accidental abandonment of their immigration efforts.