The K-1 visa, often referred to as the Fiancé(e) visa, is a one-time, single-entry visa for a foreign-born fiancé(e) to be admitted to the United States, for the purposes of marrying their U.S.-citizen fiancé(e). The U.S. citizen petitions for the visa on their significant other’s behalf, as they will be the sponsor of the K-1 visa.

An essential requirement to obtaining this K-1 visa is that the couple will need to provide substantial documentary evidence that they have physically met in person at least once before their K-1 visa application is submitted.

The K-1 visa is valid for six months while the foreigner finalizes their plans before traveling to the U.S., and is valid for 90 days once inside the country. For this reason, the couple must get married within those 90 days, and the foreign spouse would subsequently need to apply for an adjustment of their visa status. This begins the process of the foreign spouse gaining legal permanent residency (a green card) in the U.S.

K-1 Visa Eligibility

K-1 Fiancé(e) visa requirements include the following criteria:

  • The sponsoring fiancé(e) must be a citizen of the United States
  • Both individuals must be of legal age to marry
  • Both individuals must have been unmarried (to each other and to anyone else) when the K-1 petition was filed
  • Both individuals must have remained unmarried (to each other and to anyone else) after the petition was filed
  • The marriage between the two must be legally possible in the state they are to get married
  • If a previous marriage exists for either (or both) people, the individual(s) must supply documentary evidence of decrees or certificates of the following
    • Divorce(s)
    • Annulment(s)
    • Death(s)
  • The couple must provide evidence that their relationship is a valid and bona fide one
  • The couple must have met face-to-face (in person) within two years of the visa application, providing proof of the following:
    • Passport(s) visa stamps
    • Receipts for transportation to see the other, or trips taken together
    • Receipts for purchases made while together
    • Photos of the couple together
  • Both people must individually sign and submit a documentary promise that he or she intends to get married to their significant other within 90 days of the foreign national’s arrival in the U.S. 
  • The U.S. citizen must meet the income requirements, however if he or she does not meet the criteria, they are permitted to use a joint sponsor

Evidence such as invitations to their wedding and receipts of the reserved venue are also beneficial in strengthening the couple’s case for the K-1 visa application.

In extreme circumstances where a hardship would occur, the two-year meeting requirement can potentially be waived. However, any claim of hardship or custom violation would need to be proven through detailed documentary evidence.

Waivers are available in the following circumstances:

  • Inability to travel
  • Medical condition(s)
  • Physical disability(ies)
  • Extreme illness
  • Hardship on either individual
    • Emotionally 
    • Physically
    • Financially
  • Violation of the foreign fiancé’s(e’s) strict customs, socially or culturally

It is important to note that the U.S. citizen must be that — a U.S. citizen. He or she cannot simply have lawful permanent residency in the U.S. (a green card) to sponsor their fiancé’s(e’s) K-1 visa.

Furthermore, the K-1 visa is solely for the purposes of a U.S. citizen seeking to bring their foreign-born fiancé(e) to the U.S. to get married, and thus begin their life together. If a situation arises where the two decide against marriage, the foreign fiancé(e) will not be able to make any adjustments to their status. This means he or she cannot decide to marry a different U.S. citizen using their K-1 visa. The foreigner must leave the country.

If your K-1 visa has been denied, read out article about the top reasons for a K-1 vis denial and then call our office to explore your options.

Application Steps for the K-1 Visa 

There are three basic steps to the K-1 visa application process. First is the K-1 application and subsequential necessary documents. Second is the interview with an immigration officer. Third is the foreign fiancé’s(e’s) arrival and the couple’s marriage.

If you are preparing for your interview, here is our list of the most common K-1 visa interview questions.

  1. The U.S. citizen sponsoring their to-be foreign spouse first needs to file a Petition For Alien Fiancé(e) (Form I-129F). 

Along with Form I-129F, sponsoring petitioners will need to include documents ranging from proof of nationalities to documentary evidence that the relationship is genuine and bona fide. 

They are as follows:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship via copies of either of the following documents
    • Passport
    • Naturalization certificate
    • Birth certificate
  • One passport-style photo of the U.S. citizen
  • Proof the U.S. citizen meets the sponsoring income requirements
  • A copy of the foreign fiancé’s(e’s) passport
  • One passport-style photo of the foreign fiancé(e)
  • Copies of the foreign fiancé’s(e’s) previous arrival/departure records (Form I-94)
  • A sworn statement (in writing) which:
    • Attests to the authenticity of the couple’s relationship 
    • Promises the couple will get married within 90 days after the foreign fiancé(e) arrives in the U.S.
    • Is signed by both spouses-to-be
  • Proof the couple has met in person at least one time within two years of the K-1 application via any of the following:
    • Receipts for transportation and lodging for one or both of the fiancés(es)
    • Photos of the couple together
  • Proof the couple’s relationship is real and their future life together is based on bona fide reasons, via any of the following
    • Additional photos together
    • Receipts for transportation and/or lodging from a trip(s) the couple has taken together
    • Any existing letters from family members and/or close friends which attest that the relationship is real
    • Electronic correspondences between the two people
  1. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer handling the case will forward the case to the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for final processing. 

Within this step, the foreign fiancé(e) will first need to complete an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) which finalizes the K-1 visa application. It is important to ensure the confirmation page is printed so the copy can be presented to the interviewing officer along with the other required documents.

Note, the DOS requires the following documents from the foreign national:

  • Two passport-style photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Valid passport cannot be an expired passport
  • Police clearance (if applicable)
    • This will be required if the foreigner has had residence in any country for more than six months (since the age of 16)
  • A medical exam form that has been obtained and sealed by a DOS-authorized physician

Similarly, the following are required from the U.S. citizen:

  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-134)
  • Most recent tax returns
  • Proof of relationship with the foreign-born fiancé(e)
    • This is the copy of the approved I-129F application packet

Once the K-1 petition is approved, the U.S. embassy in the foreigner’s home country will send him or her a Notice of Action (Form I-797). This is typically about four to six weeks after the notice. The notification will contain the date and location of his or her visa interview and the documents they will be required to bring to the interview — which will be at the foreigner’s nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate.

In general, the foreign applicant will receive their case decision within the same day of the interview. If the officer requires additional evidence, he or she will formally request it. In which case, the evidence will need to be submitted to the U.S. consulate.

  1.  The foreign fiancé(e) travels to the U.S. and the couple will marry.

Upon K-1 visa approval, the foreign-born fiancé(e) has six months from the I-129F approval date to travel to the U.S. Subsequently, upon the foreigner’s arrival to the U.S., the couple has 90 days to get married. After the couple gets married, the foreign national must apply for lawful permanent residency (a marriage-based green card).

If 90 days pass, and the couple has not gotten married, the foreign fiancé(e) will be out of status. As they are not legally permitted to stay in the country, the foreign national must leave the U.S. immediately.

K-1 Visa Fees

The combined, overall cost of the K-1 visa and green card applications is about $2,250 — which is expanded below:

Fees paid to the USCIS include:

  • Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
    • Form I-129F: $535
  • Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
    • Form I-485: $1,140
  • Biometrics appointment for foreign fiancé(e)
    • Form I-485: $85

Fees paid to the United States DOS include:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form
    • Form DS-160: $265

Additional fees include:

  • Medical exam for the foreign national
    • $200
  • Obtaining required documents, making copies of documents, translation services, etc
    • The costs vary

As the USCIS may have an occasional adjustment of their fees, it is advisable that applicants confirm before filing. Also, the Fee Calculator pertaining to government-related appointments and forms fees can be found on the USCIS Visas for Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About The K-1 Visa, Explained

What is the two-year rule for the K-1 visa?

In order for a foreign fiancé(e) to become the beneficiary of a K-1 visa, so they can marry their U.S. citizen significant other, the two must have documented proof they have met within two years of their K-1 visa application.

How long does it take to process a K-1 visa petition?

Overall, it takes between about 6 to 16 months. However, as the processing times for a K-1 application varies depending on the processing center, it is important to check the USCIS Case Processing Times website to be sure.

My partner is not a U.S. citizen, but has a green card. Can I still apply for a K-1 Financé(e) visa?

No, because K-1 visas must be sponsored by U.S. citizens.

Will I be able to work if I get a K-1 visa?

Yes, K-1 visa beneficiaries may receive work authorization in the U.S. They will need to simply file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765), and wait for authorization before working. As with the K-1 visa’s 90-day validity period, employment authorization under a K-1 visa is also valid only for 90 days. Conversely, if the applicant includes Form I-765 with Form I-485, they may receive work authorization for one year.

How do I request an extension of my K-1 visa?

The K-1 visa does not come with the option to extend as it automatically expires after 90 days.

What is the approval rate for K-1 visa petitions?

The K-1 visa approval rate is about 80%.

Final Thought about the K-1 Visa

In summary, the K-1 visa, often known as the Fiancé(e) visa, is designed for foreign-born fiancé(e)s to legally enter the United States for marriage to their U.S. citizen partners.

Essential conditions include proving a bona fide relationship, meeting face-to-face within two years of application, and marrying within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)'s arrival in the U.S. The visa application involves stringent documentation, including proof of the couple's meeting, evidence of a genuine relationship, and the U.S. citizen's financial capability to sponsor the visa.

The process, though potentially lengthy and costly, culminates in the foreign partner's opportunity to apply for legal permanent residency after marriage. It's crucial for applicants to stay updated on any changes in fees or requirements by consulting the USCIS website, as the approval rate for K-1 visas stands at about 80%. This visa not only facilitates international unions but also lays the groundwork for the foreign fiancé(e) to start a new life in the U.S. with their partner.

If you have any questions about getting a K-1 visa, contact us today!