Understanding the Requirements for a K-1 Fiancé Visa

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may bring your fiancé(e) to the United States to marry and live here, with a nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e) (K-1). An I-129F fiancé(e) petition is required. Continue reading to learn more.

Understanding the Requirements for a K-1 Fiancé Visa
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A K-1 visa allows the foreign-born fiancé of a US citizen to come to the United States to get married. This visa, while legally classified as a non-immigrant visa, is a pathway to legal residency. K-1 visa holders can adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents and obtain a green card after getting married. Keep on reading to find out more about the K-1 fiancé visa requirements.

However, just to be certain that you're not confused. “Fiancée” is the correct terminology for a woman who is engaged to be married or fiancé for a man. For simplicity, “fiancé” is used to mean either a male or female engaged partner.

Moreover, a K-1 fiancé visa allows the engaged partner of a United States citizen to enter the US, as long as the couple gets married no more than 90 days later. The newly married spouse can then apply for permanent residence (a "green card") based on marriage.

What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

The K-1 visa is also known as a fiancé visa. It is a nonimmigrant for the foreign citizen fiancé of a United States citizen. The K-1 visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé to travel to the United States and marry his or her US citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. The foreign citizen will then apply for adjustment of status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS).

However, your marriage must be valid, meaning both you and your fiancé(e) have a bona fide intent to establish a life together and the marriage is not for the sole purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. Because a fiancé visa permits the holder to immigrate to the US and marry a US citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa. Moreover, eligible children of K-1 visa applicants receive K-2 visas.

However, to apply for a K-1 visa, the foreign partner must live outside of the United States, be legally free and able to marry, have met the US citizen partner in person within the last two years, and not have been convicted of serious crimes. If you have children, the children must be under the age of 21 to be sponsored for a K-2 visa. In this guide, we will cover information about wait times, costs, and K-1 fiancé visa requirements.

How Long Does it Take to Get a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

The wait time for a K-1 visa is 5-8 months. This is the average timeline as of October 2021 for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process Form I-129F (Petition for Alien fiancé), and an additional 3-4 weeks to receive instructions from the National Visa Center (NVC) to continue the process.

How Much Does a K-1 Fiancé Visa Cost?

The total cost for a K-1 visa is approximately $1000. However, here's a breakdown of K-1 visa costs. The fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an Alien Fiancé Petition, Form I-129F. The government’s required fee for Form I-129F is $535.
  • Moreover, you are also required to pay the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, Form DS-160 (required for each K visa applicant).  The fee for the actual K-1 visa application is $265. This fee is usually paid at the interview.
  • Medical examination (required for each K visa applicant; costs vary from post to post) the engaged partner of the US citizen is required to do a medical exam once Form I-129F is approved. The cost for the exam varies by provider, but it is usually $200.
  • Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and travel expenses to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

K-1 Fiancé Visa Requirements

One of the key requirements to qualify for the K-1 visa is that the foreign partner and US sponsor must have met in person in the two years prior to the date of filing the Form I-129F (“Petition for Alien Fiancé”). The following are examples of evidence to prove that you have met in person:

  • Photographs of you and your partner together.
  • Airline ticket stubs and hotel receipts that indicate the dates of travel.
  • Copies of passport pages showing admission.
  • Military orders or letters from commanding officers detailing leave.

However, in order to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa, the couple must intend to marry each other within 90 days of the foreign fiancé entering the US as a K-1 nonimmigrant. Because a fiancé visa permits the holder to immigrate to the US and marry a US citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa. Moreover, the US citizen must also meet certain requirements to be eligible to sponsor the foreign citizen to get a K-1 visa.

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K-1 Fiancé Visa Requirements for the US Sponsor

In order to sponsor their foreign fiancé, the U.S. citizen partner must:

  • Be a US citizen and be able to prove that they are American. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts the following proofs of US citizenship:
    • US birth certificate issued by a civil authority
    • Unexpired US passport issued for a period of ten years (sponsor over 18 years old) or five years (sponsor under 18 years old)
    • Statement executed by a US consular officer
    • US Department of State Form FS -240 (“Report of Birth Abroad of a United States Citizen”)
    • Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship
    • US Department of State issued passport card
  • Be free and able to legally marry. This means that all prior marriages ended in an official divorce or the death of the spouse.
  • Be able to meet 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines income level for your household size. You can only sponsor your partner if you meet the income level required for that household size. You will need to prove that you can financially support your partner once they are in the United States.
  • File Form I-129F with USCIS to petition for the foreign partner to come to the United States on a K-1 visa.

K-1 Fiancé Visa Requirements for the Foreign Partner

Moreover, the foreign partner must meet the following criteria to qualify for a K-1 visa:

  • Live outside the United States, be free and able to marry, and have met the US citizen sponsor within the two years prior to the filing of Form I-129F.
  • Not have committed crimes that would prohibit entry to the United States. And be able to present records and documents requested by the US embassy or consulate, such as:
    • Passport
    • Birth certificate
    • Police certificates
    • Military records (if applicable) 

Authorization to Work

After being admitted to the US on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, the foreign fiancé(e) may immediately apply for evidence of work authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. In this case, the fiancé’s work authorization is valid for only 90 days after his or her entry into the United States.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the K-1 visa is only open to the fiancés of US citizens. If your partner is a green card holder, they will only be able to petition for your entry if you are already married.

Moreover, in case the couple fails to marry within 90 days. The K-1 and K-2 nonimmigrant status automatically expires after 90 days and cannot be extended. Generally, your fiancé and his or her children must leave the United States at the end of 90 days if you do not marry. If they do not depart, they will be in violation of US immigration law. This may result in removal (deportation) and could affect their future eligibility for US immigration benefits.

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