7/21/21 - The U.S. government is accepting all DACA requests, but only granting renewal requests. You can still submit a new DACA application to hold your place in line.
Apply for DACA

How to Get a K-1 Fiancé Visa (a Step-by-Step Guide)

July 21, 2020
undocumented immigrant marries u.s. citizen

Summary

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.

Overview

Who is eligible for a K-1 fiancé visa?

To receive a K-1 fiancé visa, all of the following must be true:

  • Either you or your fiancé must be a U.S. citizen
  • You and your fiancé plan to marry each other within 90 days after you arrive in the United States on your K-1 visa
  • You and your fiancé can legally marry in the United States, and any of your past marriages were legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment. Same-sex partners are eligible for K-1 visas.
  • You and your fiancé have met in person at least once in the 2-year period before you file your application. If meeting in person would violate either your religious or cultural practices or if it would cause extreme hardship, you can request a waiver of this in-person meeting requirement.
  • You can prove that your relationship is legitimate. You can demonstrate this with evidence from the beginning of your relationship to your engagement.
  • Your U.S. citizen fiancé’s household income is at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If their income is below this amount, they must submit a supplemental Form I-864 or Form I-864A with their application.

How to apply for a K-1 Fiancé Visa

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. 

Step 1: File Form I-129F

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.

What documents does USCIS need for K-1 fiancé visa processing?

When you file your Form I-129F petition with USCIS, you will need to include the following supporting documents with your forms:

  • Proof that your fiancé is actually a U.S. citizen. This would include a copy of their U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate.
  • A copy of your foreign passport.
  • Proof that your relationship is "bona fide" (legitimate). Generally speaking, the more of the following evidence you provide, the better:
    • Pictures of you and your fiancé together
    • Flight records and/or hotel reservations of trips you took together or to visit each other
    • Letters, emails, or texts that you sent to each other over the years
    • Written statements from family, friends, or colleagues who know that you are engaged.
  • Proof that both of your prior marriages have ended if either of you were formerly married. This would include certificates of divorce, death certificates, annulments, etc.
  • Proof that the two of you have met in person at least once within the past two years. This proof includes flight itineraries, hotel receipts, photos, letters/texts/emails, etc.
  • Sworn statements, written by and signed by each partner, that describe your relationship and that you intend to get married within 90 days of your arrival in the United States. It’s best to provide the original signed statements and keep copies for your records.
  • A copy of any Form I-94 arrival-departure record that you received when visiting the United States.
  • One passport-style photo of each partner.
  • Filing fee. The filing fee for Form I-129F is $535. You can pay this fee by check, money order, or credit card. USCIS does not accept cash.

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.

Step 2: File Form DS-160

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. 

Supporting documents

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.

Documents from the U.S. citizen fiancé
  • An Affidavit of Support (Form I-134). The Affidavit of Support is a binding legal document in which the U.S. citizen promises to use their resources to help keep their foreign fiancé from relying on government benefits in the future.
  • Recent tax returns. You are only required to provide the most recent return, but it is a good idea to provide returns for the past three years.
  • Proof of your relationship with your foreign fiancé. For this, you provide a copy of the approved I-129F package originally filed with USCIS.

Documents from the foreign fiancé
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Your birth certificate
  • A copy of your valid, unexpired passport
  • Police clearances from all countries where you have lived for more than six months since you were 16 years old
  • A sealed medical exam form. You get this form at an immigration medical exam from an approved doctor.

Step 3: Attend your visa interview and pay the visa fee

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.

Step 4: Come to the United States and get married!

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.

K-1 Fiancé Visa FAQs

Do you have to be engaged to apply for 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.

What are the income requirements for a K-1 fiancé visa?

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.

Can I work with my K-1 fiancé visa?

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.

Can I bring my children to the United States with me on a K-1 visa?

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.

What should I do if USCIS denies my K-1 visa application?

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.

Conclusion

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!

Latest Posts