December 10, 2023


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K-1 Fiancé Visa – For Unmarried Couples Where the Foreign-born Spouse Lives Abroad

6 min read
Everything you need to know about the K visas offered by the United States  - The Economic Times

You’re a US citizen who traveled abroad and fell in love with a foreign-born individual. Now you want to marry your foreign-citizen fiancé in the United States, but there’s still one more thing standing in your way – bringing your spouse to the US. It’s not always easy, because you need to navigate the US immigration laws and guidelines to ensure your foreign partner obtains a K-1 fiancé visa. 

The only caveat is that the petition and application process is complicated, and the chances of making mistakes – whether in submitting the required evidence and support documents or meeting the immigration regulations – are high, especially if you’re not familiar with the process. Working with an immigration lawyer can alleviate the stress and increase the chances of your fiancé getting the visa. 

What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

A K-1 fiancé nonimmigrant visa is offered to the foreign-born partner of a US citizen. The visa allows them to enter the United States and marry their US citizen fiancée within 90 days after arrival. Following a successful petition by the US citizen sponsor, the foreign partner can apply for permanent residence status through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They may also bring their children to the country under the K-2 visa category. 

Although the K-1 fiancé visa offers a limited time to marry after traveling to the US, the US sponsor and the beneficiary must meet the eligibility qualifications of an immigration visa. 

Who Qualifies for a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

To qualify for a fiancé K-1 nonimmigrant visa, the US sponsor and foreign partner must have met in person at least two (2) years before the former files a visa petition. Examples of evidence that prove you met in person include:

  • Photographs of you and your foreign fiancé together
  • Copies of passport pages showing admissions
  • Airline tickets and hotel receipts indicating dates of travel
  • Letters from commanding officers or military orders detailing leave

Eligibility Requirements for the U.S. Sponsor

To be eligible to sponsor your foreign partner, you must show proof that you’re a US citizen. The USCIS will require you to produce one of the following evidence:

  • US birth certificate issued by a civil authority
  • Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization
  • An unexpired passport valid for 10 years (sponsors over 18) and five (5) years (sponsors under 18)
  • A passport card issued by the US Department of State (DOS)
  • A statement issued by a US consular office
  • US Department of State Form FS-240 (“Report of Birth Abroad of a US Citizen”)

Other requirements include:

  • You must be free to legally marry, which means all previous marriages ended in divorce or the death of a spouse.
  • You must meet all Federal Poverty Guidelines income level for your household size to prove that you’re financially capable of sponsoring your partner during their stay in the US.
  • File Form I-129F (“Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)”) to allow your foreign partner to enter the US on a K-1 visa

Eligibility Requirements for the Foreign Fiancé

To be granted a K-1 visa, your foreign-citizen partner must meet the following requirements:

  • Live outside the US, be free to marry, and have met their US sponsor at least two (2) years before filing Form I-129F
  • Be free of any criminal record or charge that may prevent them from entering the US, and produce the required documents and evidence requested by the US Embassy or Consulate. Examples of these documents include: 
  1. Birth Certificates
  2. Passport
  3. Police certificates
  4. Military records, if necessary

If they meet all the above requirements and obtained a K-1 visa, your foreign-born fiancé has six (6) months from the date of Form I-129F approval to enter the US. 

Filing the Petition and Application for a K-1 Fiancé Visa

The petition and application for a K-1 visa require the joint effort of the US sponsor and their foreign partner.

Step 1: Filing the Petition

As a US citizen and sponsor, you must file Form I-129F with your local USCIS office. Note that Form I-129F cannot be filed in a US Embassy, consular office, or USCIS office abroad. 

Once the USCIS approves your petition, it will send it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then send you a case number and send the petition to the US Embassy or Consulate in your foreign partner’s country. 

Step 2: Applying for a Visa

The NVC will mail you a letter when sending the petition to your foreign fiancé’s US Embassy or Consulate. Once you receive the letter, inform your partner to take the actions below to file a K-1 visa application and prepare for an interview. 

If your foreign partner has eligible children, they can bring them to the US under K-2 visa status, although they must apply for K visas separately for each child. Each K visa also requires a separate application fee.  

Required Evidence and Support Documentation

You (the foreign partner) and any eligible K-2 holders will be required to present the following forms and documents when going for the visa interview:

  • File Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) for you and any eligible K-2 applicants. Print the confirmation copy and bring it to the interview.
  • A passport valid for six months beyond your intended length of stay in the US
  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce or death certificates of your former spouse(s) for both you and your US citizen sponsor
  • Police certificates from your country of residence or any other country you’ve lived for over six months since 16 years
  • Medical examinations 
  • Evidence of financial support (Form I-134 – Affidavit of Support)
  • Two (2) 2×2 passport photographs
  • Evidence of your relationship with your US citizen fiancée
  • Payment of fees

An Immigration Lawyer Can Help You Petition for K-1 Visa

The US immigration laws are quite strict; regulating how you (and your foreign partner) can petition and apply for a K-1 visa, how long your fiancé can stay, and the legal responsibilities during their stay. A California immigration lawyer is knowledgeable in immigration laws and can help you protect your rights, create plans, and navigate complex immigration regulations. 

Using their experience and know-how, an immigration attorney can help you gather the necessary paperwork to ensure you file Form I-129F quicker and with no mistakes for quick approval. Once you marry your partner in the US, you can leverage legal counsel to help them apply for permanent residence status with ease. Suppose your petition is denied by the USCIS; in that case, an immigration lawyer from The Law Office of Lina Baroudi can represent you in court to get the denial overturned. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long will it take to obtain my K-1 visa?

Once the US Embassy or Consulate receives your case from NVC, the time it takes for you to get the visa varies, depending on the circumstances. Most cases delay because applicants supply incomplete information or don’t follow instructions carefully. Some applications are subject to administrative processing, which further delays the time after the visa applicant’s interview. 

My K-1 petition expired. Can it be extended? 

Yes. Usually, the I-129F petition is valid for four months from the approval date. If it has expired, the consular office can extend the petition’s validity period before the completion of visa processing. 

How long can I stay in the US on a K-1 visa?

The Department of State (DOS) determines whether your partner qualifies for a fiancé K-1 nonimmigrant visa. If it grants them the visa, your partner can stay in the US for up to six (6) months.

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