The K-1 “fiancé visa” provides a window during which the non-citizen fiancé may travel to the United States for the purpose of getting married. This K-1 visa is not a substitute for any other type of visa that would lead to citizenship. The visa lasts only 90 days and cannot be renewed. If the K-1 visa holder does not marry within the 90-day period and overstays his or her visa, the visa holder will be subject to deportation from the country and may face challenges on future immigration options.
The first step towards a K-1 visa is a petition filed by the U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen will begin by filing Form I-129F, otherwise known as the fiancé sponsorship form. In order to obtain a K-1 visa, the petitioner must establish:
- He or she plans to marry the applicant within 90 days of the fiancé’s admission to the United States.
- Both the U.S. citizen and the applicant’s fiancé are legally free to marry.
- The sponsoring petitioner has an income equal to, at least, 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- The couple has met in person at least once in the two years prior to the filing of the petition.
The fourth requirement may be waived if you can show extreme hardship as a result of cultural or social practices. You may also provide additional evidence, including dated photographs, flight or hotel itineraries, written testimony from third parties, and any correspondence between you and your partner, in order to prove your case.
Once Form I-129F has been approved, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will send an approval notice. Within 30 days of the approval of your I-129F petition, the sponsored fiancé should receive a notice from the U.S. embassy in their home country, including the date and location of their visa interview. Additionally, the sponsored fiancé must complete the State Departments online DS-160 form. The sponsored fiancé should be prepared to provide the following:
- Two passport-style phots
- Birth certificate
- Valid, unexpired passport
- Police clearance obtained from all countries of residence of more than six months since the age of 16
- Sealed medical exam form
Upon approval of the K-1 visa, the sponsored fiancé has a total of six months from the date of approval of the initial I-129F petition to travel to the United States. Once the sponsored fiancé has arrived in the United States, the couple will have 90 days to get married.
When should you apply for a K-1 visa?
Depending on normal processing times, it may take several months for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process Form I-129F and additional time to receive instructions from the National Visa Center to continue the process. With this timeframe in mind, you may consider applying shortly after you have been engaged so that you will have the proper documentation to prove your intent to marry. An immigration attorney can give you more insight into this process.
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