If you’re a U.S. citizen marrying someone who’s not a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident, you might need a K-1 fiancé visa. The K-1 fiancé visa allows an engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married within the next 90 days. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
A K-1 visa, which is commonly just called a fiancé visa, is a document that allows a non-U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to enter the United States to get married. The catch is that the couple only has 90 days to marry after the fiancé arrives in the country. If the couple fails to get married within that time, the foreign fiancé has to leave the country, apply for a new visa, and come back.
Does Everyone Need a Fiancé Visa?
Not everyone needs a fiancé visa. In fact, in some cases, it makes sense to get married and skip straight to applying for a spousal visa. That’s because it costs approximately $1,000 for a fiancé visa – and it may not make sense in your situation. It depends on how long you want to wait to be together, where you’re each living, and a variety of other factors, and it’s a personal decision you should make with your soon-to-be spouse.
Who is Eligible for a K-1 Visa?
If you’re the fiancé, you can’t simply apply for the visa yourself. A U.S. citizen must sponsor you for this type of visa. These are the requirements for a fiancé visa:
- The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen. Lawful permanent residents are not eligible to petition the government to bring their fiancé to the United States.
- You must both be eligible to marry. That means you can’t be married to someone else (even if you’re in the process of a divorce), and you must be able to show that all prior marriages have been legally terminated. If you have a divorce decree, annulment or death certificate from a previous spouse – whether you’re the sponsor or the fiancé – you’ll need to submit it with your K-1 visa petition.
- You must prove the legitimacy of your relationship. That means if you have photos, hotel reservations, flight itineraries or receipts from trips you took together, or written statements from people who are aware of your relationship, you’ll want to include them with your petition. You may also choose to include letters or emails you and your future spouse have sent to each other, phone records, or anything else that documents your relationship with one another.
- You must be able to prove that you have met in person at least once, and that your last meeting was within the two years before you filed your fiancé visa petition. However, if meeting would cause hardship to the U.S. citizen sponsor, or if it would violate religious, cultural or social norms, you can get a waiver. The evidence of your meeting can be the same evidence you use to prove the legitimacy of your relationship, such as flight itineraries, hotel reservations or photos of you together.
- You must both provide USCIS with a signed statement that says you intend to marry within 90 days of your arrival in the United States. If you’ve made wedding plans, you can also include evidence such as wedding invitations or receipts for deposits with photographers, a venue or catering.
- The U.S. citizen must provide evidence that they meet income requirements to sponsor someone to come to the United States. The U.S. citizen must earn at least 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for their family size. Usually, the prior year’s tax return is sufficient evidence of this.
Your immigration attorney can help you gather the required documentation, and your lawyer can fill out and file all the paperwork on your behalf.
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Documents You Need to File for a K-1 Fiancé Visa
If you’re eligible for a K-1 fiancé visa and you’ve decided that you need one, you should attach supporting documentation to your petition. Doing so gives USCIS the information they need to make an informed decision on your case. Some information you’ll want to attach to your petition includes:
- Proof of citizenship for the U.S. citizen, such as a copy of their birth certificate or U.S. passport
- A copy of the sponsored fiancé’s passport
- Proof of a bona fide (genuine) relationship
- Proof that you and your fiancé have met at least once in the past two years, such as flight itineraries or hotel reservations
- Sworn statements that say you intend to marry within 90 days of the sponsored fiancé’s arrival
- Evidence that you have planned a wedding, such as receipts for venues or catering
- If your spouse has ever received a Form I-94 arrival or departure record, a copy of that document
- One passport-style photo of the sponsored fiancé and the U.S. citizen sponsor
If you need additional documentation, your attorney can let you know. Your lawyer will include the documentation with your petition so that you can avoid getting a Request for Evidence, or RFE, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
After USCIS receives your documentation, it forwards your case to the U.S. Department of State.
Additional Documents After USCIS Hands off the Case
Generally, about a month after the U.S. Department of State receives your petition, the sponsored fiancé will receive a notice from the U.S. embassy that includes their visa interview date. The notice may also include a list of required documents, such as:
- Two passport-style photos
- A birth certificate
- A valid passport
- Police clearance from any countries that the sponsored fiancé has lived in for more than six months since turning 16
- A sealed medical exam form
The Visa Interview for a K-1 Fiancé Visa
The sponsored fiancé will have to attend an interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to their home. Usually, the interview takes place a month to six weeks after receiving the notice. The interviewer will make a decision on the visa – sometimes at the interview, and sometimes shortly after. If the interviewer needs more evidence to make a decision, they will request that the sponsored fiancé sends it to the U.S. consulate.
How Long Do You Have to Come to the U.S. on a K-1 Visa?
If your visa petition is approved, you must travel to the United States within six months. Then, after you arrive, you must marry your U.S. citizen fiancé within 90 days.
Adjustment of Status After Marriage
After you marry, your spouse can petition the U.S. government for an adjustment of status to get you a green card.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
If you’d like to petition USCIS for a fiancé visa for your intended spouse, we may be able to help you. Call our office now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced, caring immigration attorney who can answer your questions about the K-1 fiancé visa and help you get started on the right path.