A K-1 fiancé visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows the fiancé of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States to get married. Once the couple gets married in the United States, the foreign fiancé can apply for a marriage green card in the United States. That process is considerably faster than applying for a marriage green card abroad through consular processing. Applying for a K-1 visa can also be a good option if, for any reason, your U.S. citizen fiancé cannot travel abroad to get married. Getting a K-1 visa costs $800 and usually takes 12-15 months. Adjusting status to a marriage green card from a K-1 visa costs $1,225 and takes an additional 4-6 months. This guide explains everything that you and your fiancé need to know about the process.
To receive a K-1 fiancé visa, all of the following must be true:
If you and your fiancé are eligible for a K-1 fiancé visa, you can apply by following this four-step K-1 visa process.
The first step in the application process is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to prepare and file the Form I-129F K-1 visa petition (called the “Petition for Alien Fiancé”) with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The purpose of this form is to prove that your relationship is legitimate. Form I-129F must be filed by a U.S. citizen. A lawful permanent resident, also known as a green card holder, can’t request a K-1 visa for their fiancé.
When you file your Form I-129F petition with USCIS, you will need to include the following supporting documents with your forms:
Once you mail your Form I-129F and supporting documents to the appropriate address, USCIS will send you a receipt notice within about 30 days. This means USCIS will begin processing your case within 30 days.
It usually takes USCIS 6-9 months to process an I-129F petition. Every USCIS service center has different processing times, so the amount of time it will take to process your petition depends on which service center you send your forms to.
While you wait, be on the lookout for any Requests for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. They will send these to you if they need more information.
Once USCIS approves your Form I-129F, they will send an approval notice to the mailing address(es) you provided on your form.
Once USCIS approves your Form I-129F petition, USCIS will transfer your case to the U.S. Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC). You will receive a notice from the NVC through the U.S. embassy in your home country about 30 days after USCIS approves your Form I-129F. This notice will provide the date and location of your required visa interview. It will also include a list of additional supporting documents and instructions on how to provide these documents to your local U.S. embassy. Make sure that the contact information you provide on your Form I-129F is correct or you may not receive this notice.
Once you receive the notice from the NVC, you need to complete the State Department’s online DS-160 form (the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application”). This is the actual K-1 visa application. After you complete this form, you need to print the confirmation page. This is very important because you will need to send the confirmation page to the embassy and bring it to your visa interview.
The U.S. embassy processing your case will request documents from both you and your American fiancé. Every embassy has a specific process for providing these documents, so be sure to follow the instructions that they provide in their notice.
Your visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate listed on the notice you received from the National Visa Center. This will probably be the embassy or consulate in the foreign fiancé's home country and will take place 4–6 weeks after you receive the notice. Only the foreign fiancé needs to attend the visa interview. The interview is usually pretty straightforward and painless.
There is a $265 fee for a K-1 fiancé visa. You will usually pay this fee at the visa interview. But every embassy or consulate has its own requirements. Be sure to follow the instructions in the notice you receive from the embassy or consulate that is handling your case.
The consular officer who conducts your visa interview will usually make a decision on the same day as the interview. If they need additional information or evidence, they will ask you to submit it to the U.S. consulate or embassy after the interview.
Once your K-1 visa application has been approved, you will receive a sealed visa packet. Do not open this packet! The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who inspects you at the border will ask you for it. And they may not allow you to enter the United States if the packet is already open.
You must enter the United States within four months of the date that your K-1 visa is approved. Then, within 90 days of entering the United States, you must get married to your U.S. citizen fiancé. If you don't, you will lose your K-1 status. If you decide not to get married, you must return to your home country as soon as possible.
You can’t change status from a K-1 visa to any status other than a marriage green card. You also can't use your K-1 visa to marry anyone other than the U.S. citizen with whom you filed Form I-129F.
After you get married, the foreign spouse can apply for a marriage green card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and the required supporting forms and documents. To learn more about this process, check out our article about how to get a marriage green card with a K-1 fiancé visa.
No. But it will be much harder to prove that your relationship is legitimate if you are not engaged before you apply.
The U.S. citizen fiancé must be at or above 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. There are no specific income requirements for the foreign fiancé.
Yes. Once you have entered the United States on a K-1 visa, you can immediately apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (EAD). It will take USCIS 1-2 months to process this application, and the work permit will only be valid for the first 90 days after you enter the United States. The best way to get a longer-term work permit is to apply for a Marriage Green Card. To do that, you can file Form I-485 together with Form I-765.
Yes. You can bring your children to the United States with you as long as those children are under the age of 21 and unmarried. If you include these children on Form I-129F, and they are eligible, they will receive K-2 visas when you receive your K-1 visa. Your children must continue to be unmarried and under the age of 21 in order to be admitted to the United States with you as K-2 nonimmigrants. Your children may enter the United States with you, or after you, but they cannot enter before you. They can apply for Green Cards with you once you use your K-1 visa to marry your U.S. citizen fiancé.
If USCIS denies your K-1 visa application, you may be able to file an appeal. It is a good idea to work with an experienced immigration attorney to file this appeal.
Filing for a K-1 fiancé visa can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees for your K-1 visa application, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!