Fiancé Visa in the US: From Application to Visa Interview
Marriage is an integral institution that has an important legal status and is highly valued in almost every society. Even people with several previous marriages don’t give up on the hope of finding someone special. However, sometimes, the search for a spouse goes beyond one’s home country. This is where the K-1, or the U.S citizen fiancé visa comes into play. Here is all you need to know about the K 1 fiancé visa.
What is a US Citizen Fiancé Visa?
The K-1, or fiancé visa, is a type of nonimmigrant visa that is issued to an alien fiancé of an American citizen. This visa gives the foreign fiancé the legal right to move to the United States, marry an American citizen, and eventually obtain a marriage-based Green card and become a lawful permanent resident of the US.
In the US visa classification, the K 1 fiancé visa should not be confused with the spouse visa. The latter is issued to foreign citizens who married US citizens in a country other than the US and now want to reunite with their US citizen spouse. The two visas have a different set of required documents and a different process, although the outcome is similar from a legal standpoint.
Why is a Special Visa Required for a Foreign Fiancé of a US Citizen?
The United States is one of the largest countries in the world by the number of immigrants, which is why immigration law is the backbone of the legal system. The K-1 visa is another border protection measure that was put in place to make sure that K visas are issued only to eligible applicants who are involved in genuine relationships with American citizens and are not just doing it to reap the immigration benefits and improve their financial prospects.
Does the Fiancé’s Visa Guarantee Permanent Residence?
The K-1 non-immigrant visa alone does not guarantee permanent residence. However, it is an essential step on the way to obtaining a residency for a foreign citizen fiancé. In other words, getting a K-1 visa is the first step, and becoming a permanent resident is the subsequent one. When a foreign citizen obtains a fiancé visa, arrives in the US, and marries an American citizen within 90 days, they are legally free to apply for a permanent status — that is, if both parties intend to reside together in the US.
Who is Eligible for a K-1 Visa?
Getting a fiancé visa is sometimes associated with extreme hardship, but in reality, the list of requirements for a K-1 visa is not that big. Here are the criteria the foreign fiancé and the US citizen sponsor must meet in order to be eligible for the visa:
- Both applicants need to be currently unmarried. Prior marriages are obviously allowed, but the previous marriage must be legally terminated (alternatively, the applicant can be widowed — in that case, death certificates must be provided); legal separation is not a viable condition to become K-1 visa holders.
- There must be clear evidence of a real relationship between the applicants. Most importantly, the couple needs to be able to provide proof of having met in real life at least once over the past two years.
The foreign citizen fiancé can also bring eligible children with them or have them apply for a visa later — no more than within a year of the parent obtaining the visa. This refers to any unmarried children under the age of 21.
What is the USCIS and the National Visa Center?
The USCIS stands for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. It’s a legal entity that oversees legal immigration in the United States. The National Visa Center also deals with immigration services and represents the second stage in the visa application process. To put it simply, the applicant creates a visa petition for the USCIS, and once it’s approved at the USCIS, it is transferred to the NVC for further processing.
How to Get a Foreign Citizen Fiancé Visa
These are the steps you need to take to apply for a K-1 visa.
1. Make Sure You’re Eligible
We’ve covered the main eligibility requirements earlier in this article. To jog your memory, both applicants need to be currently unmarried (they can be previously married but those marriages need to be legally terminated). Proof of at least one real-life meeting within the last two years is also required.
2. File Forms I-129F and DS-160
Form I-129F is also known as the Petition for Alien Fiancé. It must be filed by the US citizen petitioner and serves as proof that the couple is involved in a real relationship and intends to get married. Form DS-160 is known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which is the actual application for a K-1 visa. The applicant will be notified to file form DS-160 only after Form I-129F is successfully processed.
3. Complete Your Visa Interview
One of the final steps on the way to a K-1 visa is to complete a visa interview. It will be performed by a consular officer or a similar specialist at the US embassy or consulate in the foreign fiancé’s home country only the fiancé is required to complete the interview.
The interview is both a legal and a social practice designed to make sure that the applicant’s intentions are genuine. The officer typically makes the decision to grant or deny the visa on the same day. In case the visa is denied, the applicant may want to work with an immigration lawyer to file an appeal.
4. Arrive in the US and Get Married
This is what it’s all for! With a K-1 visa in the pocket, the foreign fiancé is legally allowed to come to the US and reunite with the American fiancé. It’s important to remember that the marriage should take place within 90 days from the arrival, meaning the US-based fiancé may need to start planning in advance.
5. Adjustment of Status: How to Register Permanent Residence and More
After the wedding, foreign fiancés don’t automatically become lawful permanent residents — they also need to adjust their status following a standard legal procedure. Specifically, the foreign spouse will need to file Form I-485, an application for a green card. Green card holders can permanently reside and work in the US with no additional conditional status.
Required Documentation: The Definitive Checklist
Getting a K-1 visa and, eventually, a permanent residency in the United States, is a process that requires continuous participation from the applicant. One of the most integral parts of the process is preparing the necessary documentation. Here is the definitive list of required documents for a successful visa application:
- The US citizen’s proof of citizenship
- Valid passport for the sponsored fiancé
- Passport copy of the sponsored fiancé
- One passport photo of the sponsor’s fiancé
- Birth certificate of the sponsored fiancé
- Three passport photos of the sponsored fiancé
- A sworn statement that indicates that both parties intend to get married
- Proof of at least one real-life meeting over 2 years
- Legal evidence of terminated prior marriages
- Tax returns of the sponsor’s fiancé
- Multiple forms (form I-94, form I-134, form I 129f)
- Police clearance from the sponsored fiancé
- Medical examination proof for the sponsored fiancé
How Long Does it Take to Get a K-1 Visa and How Much Does it Cost?
On average, the processing time for a K-1 visa is between 14 and 19 months. The waiting time used to be shorter, but was extended following the pandemic restrictions and newly introduced border regulations. As for the cost, the minimum is $800 for the K-1 visa application + $2,025 for the Adjustment of Status application. Moreover, the applicant will need to pay for the medical examination and possible paperwork fees.
Homeland security is non-negotiable in the United States. For an international couple to get married legally and start residing together in the US, the K-1 visa is the most straightforward and effective solution. The information above helps make the process smoother for everyone involved.