A K-1 Visa, otherwise known as a fiancé visa, allows a United States citizen engagement partner to enter the United States under the precondition that they will get married within 90 days. After marriage, the newly wedded spouse can then “adjust status” by applying for permanent residence via green card.
Although the K-1 visa is legally classified as a non-immigrant visa, it typically leads to significant immigration benefits as a result of marriage. Because of this, K-1 Visas are often processed by the Immigration Visa section of US embassies and consulates, and require specific legal filing procedures. Read this updated K1 visa checklist to ensure that you have taken all the necessary steps to procure your K-1 Visa and learn about how an expert immigration attorney can help you with the process.
K1 Visa Checklist and Requirements
As mentioned, the K-1 visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their fiancé to come to the United States to get married. Upon receiving the K-1 Visa, the foreign national fiancé must enter the U.S. within six months, and must legally marry the petitioning U.S. citizen within 90 days of their arrival. If the fiancé chooses to marry a different person, or begin the visa application process while they are in the United States, the K-1 visa is nullified and they will have to return to their home country to reapply.
To obtain a K-1 visa, the U.S. petitioner must be able to prove that they and their engagement partner have know each other for at least two years preceding the application, unless religious or cultural norms prohibit the meeting of spouses before marriage. They must also be able to prove that they are legally able to marry, including being of legal age and that any prior marriages ended in annulment, divorce, or death of a spouse. Specific paperwork showing evidence of each qualification may be necessary, adding to the K1 visa checklist.
Other requirements include:
- The sponsoring partner must be a U.S. citizen. Note: U.S. green card holders (permanent residents) are not eligible to sponsor a fiancé for a K1 visa.
- The legitimacy of the relationship must be proved with evidence such as photographs, flight itineraries and/or hotel reservations of trips taken together as a couple, written statements from friends and colleagues who are aware of the engagement, letters or emails between the partners, etc.
- The couple must be able to prove that they have met in person at least one time within the two years prior to filing the visa form (except for cases of extreme hardship, or where in-person meetings would violate cultural, religious, or social norms). Evidence may include flight itineraries, hotel itineraries, dated photos, etc.
- Each partner must provide a signed statement indicating an intent to marry within 90 days of the sponsored fiancé’s arrival in the United States. If concrete wedding plans have been made, it’s also a good idea to submit evidence such as wedding invitations, receipts of deposits on a venue, etc.
- The U.S. citizen fiancé is required to meet certain income requirements. Specifically, the adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must be equal to at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If they are unable to meet this requirement alone, a joint financial sponsor may file a supplemental “affidavit of support,” however these requirements are different and higher.
Additional notes to the K1 visa checklist:
- K-1 visas are available to same-sex partners, regardless of whether the laws in the sponsored fiancé’s home country allow for sex-same marriage.
- The income requirement is one of the most common reasons for denial. You must prove that you qualify through financial documents such as tax returns and pay stubs.
- Individuals may be ineligible for the K-1 visa if they they have committed serious crimes or acts of terrorism, are addicted to illegal drugs, have previously been deported, or who carry untreated communicable diseases.
The Process of Applying for a K-1 Visa
For eligible couples, the first step in applying for a K-1 visa is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to file Form I-129F, known as the “Petition for Alien Fiance” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The purpose of this form is to prove the validity of the relationship. As such, the following supporting documents are required with the completed form 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.
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 typically send a receipt notice within 30 days. Depending on which USCIS service center is handling the case, the processing times can take around 6–9 months. During that time, USCIS may send a Request for Evidence (RFE), if they need more information. Once the Form I-129F is approved, USCIS will send an NOA2 notice to the petitioner informing them of the approval or denial of the petition.
Next Steps in the K1 Visa Checklist: Form DS-160 and the Visa Interview
Once a visa petition has been 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. They will then notify the fiancé that the petition has been received and provide information about 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.
Form DS-160 & Required Documents
Prior to the interview, the sponsored fiancé must complete the State Department’s online DS-160 form (the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) which is the actual K-1 Visa application. Print out the confirmation page and bring a copy to the visa interview.
The State Department also requires the following documents be brought to the visa interview:
Sponsored Fiancé Documents
- 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)
U.S. Citizen Fiancé Documents
- 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 K-1 Visa Interview
The visa interview takes place at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the sponsored fiancé’s home country, usually about 4-6 weeks after the embassy’s initial notice. The visa fee of $265 and is usually paid at the interview—however it’s wise to review specific instructions regarding time and place of payment, included in the embassy’s interview notice, as it can vary by home country.
The interviewing officer will typically make a decision on the case either the same day of the interview or shortly thereafter. If they need additional evidence, they will request that it be submitted directly to the U.S. consulate.
If and when the K-1 visa is approved, the sponsored fiancé is given a total of four months from the date of approval of the initial I-129F form to travel to the United States. The couple must then get married within 90 days, or the sponsored fiancé will lose their K-1 status.
Simplify the Process With an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Applying for the K-1 Visa is no easy task. Between the multiple forms required and supplemental materials, there are nearly 20 distinct documents in the K1 visa checklist that are required for review. Add to that the complex list of steps, interviews, and eligibility requirements, and the task of applying for a K-1 Visa becomes a dizzying and error-prone experience. Fortunately, an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure that you tick off all the required steps on your K1 visa checklist. Contact Johnson & Masumi today to get started on your K1 visa checklist and begin the process of securing a visa for your fiancé.