The K-1 visa is the most effective method for bringing an alien fiance to the United States. A U.S. citizen may bring their fiance to the U.S. by filing a petition with the USCIS. When the fiance arrives in the U.S., he/she is allowed to stay in the U.S. for ninety days. Within this ninety day period the fiance must marry the U.S. citizen petitioner. Once they are married, the alien fiance can apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card). If an applicant enters the U.S. on a K-1 visa they are ineligible for an extension of stay or change of nonimmigrant status.
There are two important requirements in order to obtain a K-1 visa:
The U.S. citizen and alien fiance must have met in person within two years of filing the petition. (A waiver may be obtained to overcome the two year meeting requirement; however, waivers are rarely granted
Both parties must be legally able to marry, meaning all divorces must be finalized prior to filing the K1 visa petition.
The K-1 visa is a two step process. First, the U.S. Citizen “(Petitioner”) files the K-1 Visa Petition on behalf of his/her fiance (“Beneficiary”) with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center. Once it is approved, the alien fiance has to undergo a visa interview at the consulate of his/her residence.
The K-1 Visa Petition is filed using form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance/e. The petition must be accompanied by the correct filing fee and the following supporting documents:
Evidence of the Petitioner’s U.S. citizenship
Evidence of the termination of Petitioner’s and Beneficiary’s prior marriage/s (i.e. divorce decree, death certificate)
Evidence that the Petitioner and Beneficiary met in person within the two years prior to filing the petition
Evidence to show the validity of your relationship (Note: the more evidence the better as the USCIS will scrutinize the relationship to ensure that it is bona fide and not entered into solely for the purpose of gaining immigration benefits.)
Evidence to show the validity of your relationship usually includes:
Photographs of the Petitioner and Beneficiary together
Photographs of the Petitioner and Beneficiary together with friends and family
Telephone bills and/or emails showing that the Petitioner and Beneficiary regularly keep in touch
Letters and cards, particularly envelopes bearing the post marks, to/from each other
Evidence of time spent together: bills, receipts and/or credit card statements reflecting hotel stays, car rental, plane tickets; meals while visiting one another; matching exit/entry stamps in passports
Engagement ring receipt
Evidence of wedding plans (banquet/hotel room reservation, catering bill, invitations, gift registry information, etc.)
Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who know about the relationship, courtship and decision to marry
Once USCIS approves the petition, the approval and petition will be forwarded to the consulate where the Beneficiary resides. Each consulate’s processing procedures vary; however, they usually always contact the alien fiance regarding their visa processing procedures, instructions regarding the medical examination and visa fees and a list of required documents. Some consulates have instructions on their websites and call in numbers for the alien to get started on the K-1 visa processing in advance.
The consulate will also commence security clearance processing. After 9/11 security checks have significantly increased the complexity of consular processing and have increased processing times. The security clearance will partly determine whether or not the beneficiary is inadmissible to enter the U.S.
Once all processing is completed, and the applicant has all necessary documents, a consular officer will interview the alien fiance to determine if he/she is eligible for the K-1 visa. The officer will review all of the documents and question the K-1 visa applicant to determine that the relationship is bona fide and to ensure that the applicant is not inadmissible and will not become a public charge. If the consular officer finds that the fiance meets all of the legal requirements he/she will issue a K-1 visa valid for one entry. Alternatively, the officer may deem that a waiver of inadmissibility is necessary, issue a denial or request additional documentation. U.S. embassy processing tends to be the most intricate aspect of the fiance visa process. Consequently, non approvals may occur at the U.S. Embassy even if there is an approval by the USCIS.
What happens once the K-1 fiance/e is issued the visa?
Usually, the K-1 visa is valid for one entry for a period of six months. This means, he/she must enter the U.S. within six months or the visa will expire. Once he/she enters, the actual stay in the U.S. will only be for ninety days. The Petitioner and Beneficiary must marry within the ninety day period. Then, the Beneficiary applies for adjustment of status with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center. Since there is no extension of K-1 status and a K-1 visa holder may not change to another nonimmigrant visa status, the only way to maintain lawful immigration status is to marry within the ninety day period and file an application for adjustment of status.
A K-1 visa holder can apply for work authorization upon entering the U.S. by filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center.