The K-1 visa, or the fiancé visa, allows for a nonimmigrant fiancé to come to the United States and legally marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days of arrival. The K-1 visa holder will then apply for adjustment of status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because this visa allows for the holder to immigrate to the U.S. and marry a U.S. citizen shortly after arrival, the holder must meet some requirements of an immigrant visa. Eligible children can accompany a K-1 visa holder to the United States with a K-2 visa. The K-1 visa timeline is a set process which can take anywhere from 6 months to almost a year.
The first part in qualifying for a K-1 visa is being able to provide proof that the couple physically met in-person within the last two years. The only exception to this rule is for those whose religion or traditional heritage prohibits them from meeting their spouse prior to the marriage. Following the arrival of the K-1 visa holder to the U.S., the couple must marry within 90 days. Documentation will be necessary to prove that one member of the couple is a U.S. citizen, both members are able to legally marry, both members are of legal age to marry; and that any previous marriages for either party have ended with a legal divorce, annulment, or death of a spouse.
For the member of the couple that is a U.S. citizen, they must have been born in the U.S. or one of its territories (including military bases), or they were born in a foreign country with at least one parent being a U.S. citizen. They can also qualify if their parents became U.S. citizens while they were a minor, which would automatically make them U.S. citizens. Finally, naturalization also qualifies an individual to be a U.S. citizen.
It’s important to note that legal permanent residents of the U.S. cannot qualify for the K-1 visa program. This is because they are not U.S. citizens and therefore cannot act as sponsors for a K-1 applicant. Permanent residents are permitted to marry a foreign fiancé outside the U.S. and then apply for a Green Card to bring them and their spouse back to the U.S.
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couple is allowed to marry in any U.S. state. Same-sex couples are required to meet the same requirements as any other couple when applying for the K-1 visa. Some states are not administratively equipped to facilitate same-sex marriages, so the couple must marry where same-sex marriage is legal. They must also live where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.
K-1 Visa Timeline of Application Process in 2018
The first step in applying for a K-1 visa is filing the Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with USCIS. This must be filed by the U.S. citizen who is acting as U.S. sponsor for their fiancé. As of 2018, it can take from 5 -7 months for this part of the process to be approved.
Following the approval of the petition, you will be assigned a case number and your petition will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you fiancé lives. An interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate will be required. During which the fiancé will have to present a medical examination from an authorized panel physician. Proof of vaccinations will also be needed. The Fiancé will need to prove that they will not become a public charge in the United States. This process can take from 1-3 months. Documentation that will need to be provided during the interview includes Form DS-160, valid passport for travel, divorce or death certificate of any previous spouses, police certificates, medical examination, evidence of financial support, evidence of the relationship, and payment of fees.
If the petition is approved, the visa can be received within 2-10 days of approval. With the visa, the fiancé will have to apply for a single admission at a U.S. port-of-entry within the validity of the visa, which is 6 months from the date of insurance. The K-1 visa timeline outlined excludes any errors and missing documentation or information the applicant may overlook, which would increase the length of time it takes to receive the visa.
If you are interested in applying for a K-1 visa or have a fiancé you need to sponsor, reach out to an immigration attorney for more information about the K-1 visa timeline and to schedule a consultation. They can further advise you on the steps necessary to obtain a K-1 visa, and help you understand how long obtaining one could take in regards to your specific situation.