The K1 fiance visa – what is it and how do you go about getting it? Well, the short answer is if you are the foreign fiance or fiancee of a United States citizen and you plan to join your husband/wife-to-be in America, you need to apply for the K1 visa or the fiance visa. The process we outline below allows you to do so without a help of the immigration attorney and unnecessary legal fees.
As a definition, a fiance or fiancee is a man or woman, respectively, who is engaged to be married. In our case we are looking at a person who is a foreigner engaged to be married to a citizen of the United States. Marriage to a U.S. citizen allows for a simplified immigration path, or a green card through marriage. A mere engagement to a U.S. citizen, on the other hand, does not afford any immigration privileges. However, the engaged can get together and finalize their marriage in the United States through the application for a K1 fiance visa.
We covered a variety of different combinations of circumstances in the Green Card Process: A Complete Overview of Immigration Through Marriage. The situations we are concerned about – and when the K1 fiance visa is applicable – is when a foreigner fiance is overseas. Then we may have two scenarios of how the couple can perform a wedding ceremony. First, the U.S. citizen resides and/or visiting overseas. Then, the couple may choose to perform their marriage ceremony overseas. Second, the U.S. citizen normally resides in the United States and may want to perform marriage ceremony in America. Thus, we have to fulfill a requirement for a foreigner fiance to be physically present on the U.S. soil in order to complete the wedding ceremony.
K1 Fiance Visa Definition
K1 fiance visa is a special, sometime referred to as hybrid visa category. Technically k visa is a non-immigrant visa, however the application process is much more rigorous and expensive, which is akin to an immigrant visa application. K1 fiance visa allows for fiance to receive a visa to the United States for the sole purpose of traveling to the U.S. and marrying their U.S. citizen fiance. Such marriage has to take place within 90 days of entering the country.
K1 Fiance Visa Requirements
Probably the most important requirement for the K1 fiance visa is that the contemplated marriage between the American citizen and a foreigner must be legal under the laws of the United States. We covered those requirements in the post Marriage Between a U.S. Citizen and a Foreigner in the United States. In most States, these include consent, capacity and age.
Another requirement stipulated by the USCIS is that the engaged couple should have met personally at least once in the last two years before the marriage is about to take place. This rule has exceptions like if the meeting of the engaged couple face-to-face prior to the wedding is not allowed by culture of either party’s or if the U.S. citizen can prove extreme difficulty in traveling overseas to meet his or her fiance or fiancee.
K1 Fiance Visa Process
K1 fiance visa process begins with the U.S. citizen filing a Petition for Alien Fiance, also known as form I-129F with a USCIS office in Dallas, TX (USCIS Dallas Lockbox). The application must be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee ($340 as of September 2016). And the petition package must also include filled out Biographical Forms on G-325A templates for both the petitioner (the U.S. citizen filing the form) and the fiance.
Second, the engaged couple has to wait for the approval from USCIS, which typically takes between three and five months. Once the petition is approved, the USCIS officially grants the fiance status to the foreigner. Simultaneously, the agency transfers the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, NH.
The National Visa Center
The NVC serves as a gateway for all immigrant visa applications and coordinates their flow from the USCIS domestic offices to foreign-based United States embassies and/or consular offices for visa processing. Typically, immediate family preferences are granted current visa status upon receipt. However, certain family or work-based immigrant visas (green card categories, check The Green Card Definition: Complete Test of Your Eligibility) have to wait for their priority dates – How to Interpret Your Priority Date When Applying for Green Card – for such green cards to be issued. Learn more about the Role of the Priority Date When Applying for Green Card.
K1 Fiance Visa Process (Continued)
Third, because K1 fiance visa application implies a forthcoming application for a green card through marriage, which meets immediate family preference, the K1 fiance visa applications are granted current priority date by the NVC. Once the NVC receives approved form I-129F from the USCIS, NVC will assign the petition a case number and transmit the case to the embassy of the petitioner fiance’s home country. The NVC also will inform the U.S. citizen petitioner that the visa case number has been assigned to his or her petition, and the fiance can apply for the K1 fiance visa.
Fourth, the fiance has to actually submit the application for the K1 fiance visa in the U.S. embassy of the country where he or she resides. This involves filling out and submitting a form DS-160, submitting valid for travel passport, divorce/death certificates of any previous spouses for both the foreigner and the U.S. citizen, police certificates/criminal history, medical examination forms, evidence of financial support, photographs, evidence speaking to the genuine relationship between the engaged and the visa application fees. (Pleases note that the evidence of financial support must demonstrate that the petitioner (U.S. citizen) and the applicant can meet at least 100% of the U.S. poverty guidelines. This requirement is stricter for when applying for the adjustment of status. Learn more in Green Card Through Marriage Process Steps: Exceeding Poverty Guidelines Thresholds. Has Green Card Process Became Easier?)
Fifth, the embassy processes the application and schedules the K1 fiancé visa interview, which is not exactly green card marriage interview, but the preparation strategy could be similar. Sixth, the foreign fiance visa applicant has to take the actual interview in the embassy. And seventh, the actual visa approval. Often, the embassy officer will verbally tell the fiance at the end of the interview that his or her visa is approved. Depending on the embassy protocols, the fiance will have to come back later that day (or the next few days) to pick up the passport with the visa. Alternatively, the embassy may send the passport and return other documents via a postal service.
K1 Fiance Visa Sealed Document Package
This is important! Together with the passport and visa, the foreigner fiance will receive a sealed package that contains certain documents that were filed with, or developed in conjunction with, the K1 fiance visa application. It is important that the K1 fiance visa recipient keep the package sealed. Do NOT open the package. This sealed package must be presented to the border control officer when you are entering the United States.
What Happens After the K1 Fiance Visa?
This tends to be the most exciting part. The fiance can book his or her travel to America and marry his or her fiance. A few words of caution, however, one has to keep in mind. The K1 fiance visa is a single-entry visa. This is important! The foreigner is expected to stay in the U.S. until the Advance Parole is granted or green card through marriage is issued (whichever is earlier) by the USCIS through an adjustment of status application. The foreigner fiance must marry his or her U.S. citizen fiance within 90 days of entering the United States. Although not required to do so immediately after the wedding, it is highly recommended that the foreigner-fiance (or foreigner-spouse now) file all the appropriate forms for the adjustment of status as soon as practical.
K1 Fiance Visa Processing Times, Timeline and Validity Periods
This schematic provides a high level overview of the timeline to receiving a K1 fiance visa. As you can see, this process may be as short as 3-4 months (if you are lucky) or may take as long as nearly 12 months.
What if the Foreigner Fiance has Children?
In case the foreign fiance has unmarried children under 21 years old, these children are eligible to apply for a similar nonimmigrant visas called K2 visas if their names and other information was included in the original I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance. There is no need to file a separate Form I-129F for children; however, each child must submit his or her separate K2 visa application, fee and appropriate supporting documentation (or a parent must do that on behalf of each child).
Once their K2 visas are issued, they can travel to the United States. They may travel to America with their K1 fiance visa parent or separately. This is important! The K2 visa holders must enter the U.S. within the period, during which their K2 visa are valid (typically 12 months from its issuance). If this deadline is missed, separate immigration petitions will have to be filed for each of the K2 children. This may create significant delays because of the paperwork or further delays if the children turn 21 and/or get married after their K2 visa expiration. This can potentially put them into a different family preference immigration category, which does not have a current priority date.
Do I Need An Immigration Attorney When Applying for K1 Fiance Visa?
Our recommendation is “no”. This article serves as a guide to initial information about it. Do some additional research and you should be fine. Our recommendation about the immigration attorney is get it if your case is complex or you or your fiance has bad history with the immigration law. Otherwise, we do not see a reason why you should pay an immigration attorney.
The best thing you can do to simplify your green card through marriage application - and to optimize your green card processing times - is to submit a complete and accurate application. Visit www.doityourselfgreencard.com to download Green Card Through Marriage guide and subscribe to our newsletter, or www.doityourselfgreencard.com/blog for further discussion of immigration and green card issues.
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