A K-1 visa — also called a fiancé Visa — allows the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States, under the precondition that the couple gets married within 90 days. Afterwards the newly married spouse can then apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) based on marriage. The K-1 Visa requires a high degree of specific requirements, including a two-part application process, rigorous filing guidelines and lengthy proceedings. In this article, learn more about the K-1 Visa process, potential delays, and how long you can expect to wait for a K-1 Visa.
The K-1 Visa Processing Timeline
For expat couples who wish to get married and remain in the United States, the K-1 visa is an invaluable tool that can allow a foreign fiancé to legally enter the United States, get married and apply for permanent residence shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, applying for a K-1 visa involves a lengthy process that includes nearly 20 distinct documents required for review, as well as two distinct phases that require their own complex list of steps. Read about these two phases and their required documents/steps below.
Phase One: Apply For The K-1 Visa With Form I-129F
The first step in the K-1 Visa process for eligible couples is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to file Form I-129F (technically called the “Petition for Alien Fiancé”) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The primary purpose of this form is to prove the validity of the relationship with the following required documents as evidence:
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship
- A copy of your birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority showing you were born in the United States;
- A copy of your naturalization or citizenship certificate issued by USCIS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS);
- A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
- A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport; or
- An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
- If applicable, evidence you or your fiancé legally terminated any previous marriages via a divorce decree, annulment order or death certificate for the prior spouse
- One color passport-style photograph of yourself and one for your fiancé taken within 30 days of you filing this petition
- Evidence of legal name change (if applicable)
- Evidence to support an IMBRA waiver (if applicable)
- Sworn statements, written by and signed by each partner, including a brief description of the nature of your relationship and an intent to marry within 90 days of the sponsored fiancé’s arrival in the United States.
Keep in mind: the government’s required fee for Form I-129F is $535. After the form and supporting documents are filed at the appropriate address, USCIS will send a receipt notice within 30 days. Processing times can take around 6–9 months (7 months on average), depending on which USCIS service center is managing the case. During that time, USCIS may send a Request for Evidence (RFE), if more information is necessary.
Phase Two: Form DS-160 & the Visa Interview
Once the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, it will then be sent to the National Visa Center of the State Department, which will then forward it to the embassy or consulate nearest the foreign fiancé. Subsequently, the fiancé will be notified by the State Department that the petition has been received and provide information on how to schedule a medical exam with the panel physician, as well as with the date, location and list of required documents for their visa interview.
Before the interview, the sponsored fiancé must also complete the State Department’s online DS-160 form (the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application”). This is the actual K-1 visa application. One filed, print the confirmation page and bring a copy to the visa interview.
Phase Three: The K-1 Visa Interview
After the DS-160 is completed, the final step in the K-1 process is the K-1 Adjustment of Status interview at the USCIS office. During this interview, the officer will ask questions to confirm that the legitimacy of proposed marriage, while examining other documents that demonstrate the validity of the relationship. The State Department requires the following documents be brought to the visa interview to support your case:
- Two passport-style photos
- 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 (obtained through physician abroad who is authorized by the State Department)
As well as the following documents as provided by their U.S. Citizen fiancé:
- Affidavit of support (Form I-134)
- Most recent tax returns
- Proof of relationship (copy of the approved I-129F package originally filed with USCIS)
The visa interview usually takes place within 4-6 weeks after the embassy’s initial notice, and requires a visa fee of $265, which is usually paid at the interview. The interviewing officer make a decision on the case either the same day of the interview or shortly after.
The most prevalent delays for the K-1 Visa result from the couple failing to provide sufficient evidence of eligibility for the initial K-1 Visa application (I-129F), as well as for the Visa-Interview. Couples will often fail to show sufficient and explicit documentation that demonstrate the authenticity of the relationship. This can cause significant delays as the embassy must first, send a note to request more information, and later, upon receiving it, add to a queue of other cases.
Moreover, some service center are slower than others, depending on their location and the typical volume of application they receive. Generally, service centers are backlogged several months, which contribute to average filing times, however, some may be slower causing even longer delays.
Other significant delays may occur if you or your fiancé(e) have a criminal history, questionable background checks, or a previous immigration violation. Similarly, if the foreign fiancé(e)’s medical exam report exposes a problem, you can also expect a hold up.
Speak to the Immigration Attorneys At Johnson & Masumi
Make no mistake, K-1 visa filing is an extensive and arduous process. Between the nearly 20 distinct documents required for the Form I-129F and the visa interview, as well as all the mandatory steps, applying for a K-1 is no easy task. Fortunately, an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure that you tick off all the required steps and provide adequate evidence to secure a K-1 Visa. Contact an experienced immigration attorney at Johnson & Masumi today to get started on your K-1 Visa application.