The K-1 visa is the most effective method for bringing an alien fiance to the
United States. A U.S. citizen may bring their fiance to the U.S. by filing a
petition with the USCIS. When the fiance arrives in the U.S., he/she is
allowed to stay in the U.S. for ninety days. Within this ninety day period
the fiance must marry the U.S. citizen petitioner. Once they are
married, the alien fiance can apply for adjustment
of status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card). If an
applicant enters the U.S. on a K-1 visa they are ineligible for an extension of
stay or change of nonimmigrant status.
- The U.S. citizen and alien fiance must have met in person
within two years of filing the petition. (A waiver may be obtained to
overcome the two year meeting requirement; however, waivers are rarely granted
- Both parties must be legally able to marry, meaning all
divorces must be finalized prior to filing the K1 visa petition.
The K-1 visa is a two step process. First, the U.S. Citizen
“(Petitioner”) files the K-1 Visa Petition on behalf of his/her fiance
(“Beneficiary”) with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center. Once it is
approved, the alien fiance has to undergo a visa interview at the consulate
of his/her residence.
The K-1 Visa Petition is filed using form I-129F, Petition
for Alien Fiance/e. The petition must be accompanied by the correct filing fee and the following supporting
- Evidence of the Petitioner’s U.S. citizenship
- Evidence of the termination of Petitioner’s and
Beneficiary’s prior marriage/s (i.e. divorce decree, death certificate)
- Evidence that the Petitioner and Beneficiary met in
person within the two years prior to filing the petition
- Evidence to show the validity of your relationship
(Note: the more evidence the better as the USCIS will scrutinize the
relationship to ensure that it is bona fide and not entered into solely for the
purpose of gaining immigration benefits.)
Once USCIS approves the petition, the approval and petition
will be forwarded to the consulate where the Beneficiary resides. Each consulate’s
processing procedures vary; however, they usually always contact the alien
fiance regarding their visa processing procedures, instructions regarding the
medical examination and visa fees and a list of required documents. Some
consulates have instructions on their websites and call in numbers for the
alien to get started on the K-1 visa processing in advance.
The consulate will also commence security clearance
processing. After 9/11 security checks have significantly increased the
complexity of consular processing and have increased processing times. The
security clearance will partly determine whether or not the beneficiary is
inadmissible to enter the U.S.
Once all processing is completed, and the applicant has all necessary
documents, a consular officer will interview the alien fiance to determine if
he/she is eligible for the K-1 visa. The officer will review all of the
documents and question the K-1 visa applicant to determine that the
relationship is bona fide and to ensure that the applicant is not inadmissible
and will not become a public charge. If the consular officer finds that the fiance
meets all of the legal requirements he/she will issue a K-1 visa valid for one
entry. Alternatively, the officer may deem that a waiver of inadmissibility is
necessary, issue a denial or request additional documentation. U.S. embassy
processing tends to be the most intricate aspect of the fiance visa process. Consequently,
non approvals may occur at the U.S. Embassy even if there is an approval by the
What happens once the K-1 fiance/e is issued the visa?
Usually, the K-1 visa is valid for one entry for a period of
six months. This means, he/she must enter the U.S. within six months or the
visa will expire. Once he/she enters, the actual stay in the U.S. will only be
for ninety days. The Petitioner and Beneficiary must marry within the ninety
day period. Then, the Beneficiary applies for adjustment
of status with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center. Since
there is no extension of K-1 status and a K-1 visa holder may not change to
another nonimmigrant visa status, the only way to maintain lawful immigration
status is to marry within the ninety day period and file an application for
adjustment of status.
A K-1 visa holder can apply for work authorization upon
entering the U.S. by filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the
appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center.
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