One of the benefits of naturalizing as a U.S. citizen is that you can petition the U.S. government for your foreign spouse or fiancé to join you in the United States. The U.S. government requires you to file Form I-129F on behalf of your partner as part of your petition for them. This article explains what Form I-129F is, the eligibility requirements, cost, and necessary supporting documents. It also describes what happens after you file, and the Form I-129F to green card timeline.
What is Form I-129F?
To obtain a K-1 nonimmigrant visa (also known as the fiancé visa) for your foreign fiancé(e) or a K-3 visa for your foreign spouse, you’ll need to file Form I-129F (the “Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)”). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a government agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), uses Form I-129F to establish whether a qualifying relationship exists that justifies granting your partner a visa. Foreign fiancé(e)s can use the K-1 visa to marry their U.S. citizen spouse within 90 days after entering the United States. Foreign spouses may use the K-3 visa to enter the United States while waiting for USCIS to process their green card application.
What are the eligibility requirements for Form I-129F?
You are eligible to file Form I-129F if you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for your fiancé(e) to enter the United States and you have previously met your fiancé(e) in person in the last two years. If petitioning for your fiancé(e), they will receive K-1 visa status, allowing you to marry in the United States within 90 days of their arrival. To meet the conditions of this visa, you and your fiancé(e) must both be legally free to marry each other and marry within the 90-day timeline.
There are some exceptions to the requirement that you and your fiancé(e) must have met in person before. These exceptions include cases where meeting your fiancé(e) beforehand would have broken strict or traditional customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture. In this case, all aspects of your engagement must follow these customs. Another exception is when meeting your fiancé(e) in person would have been an extreme hardship for you.
You may also file the Form I-129F petition if you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for your spouse to enter the United States and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has already approved your spouse’s Form I-130 (the “Petition for Alien Relative”). Once your spouse has received approval to begin their green card application, you may use USCIS Form I-129F to bring them to the United States to adjust their status.
All K-1 and K-3 visa applications must meet the immigration law standards of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). These standards are in place to prevent domestic violence arising from the visa process. You should review IMBRA’s policies on the Department of State’s website.
Who can’t file Form I-129F?
U.S. green card holders are not eligible to file Form I-129F for their foreign partners. Only U.S. citizens may file Form I-129F. If you are a U.S. green card holder already married to a foreign spouse, you can instead petition for your spouse to enter the United States and initiate their green card application process. Your spouse can also apply for a green card from abroad and enter the United States when USCIS approves their application.
How much does it cost to file Form I-129F?
If you are petitioning for your spouse to enter the United States on a K-3 visa, you will have no filing fee for this form. If you are petitioning for your fiancé(e) to enter the United States on a K-1 fiancé visa, the filing fee for Form I-129F will be $535.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not offer fee waivers or reductions for Form I-129F. If this fee is too expensive for you, check out our article on how to afford USCIS’s filing fees.
What supporting documents must you submit with Form I-129F?
When you submit Form I-129F, you’ll also need to submit various supporting documents. These documents confirm additional information about you, such as your identity and relationship with your foreign fiancé(e) or spouse. Required documents include:
- Proof of your U.S. citizenship, such as a copy of your birth certificate, your naturalization or citizenship certificate, or a copy of your current U.S. passport.
- A passport-style, colored photograph each of you and your fiancé(e) taken within 30 days of filing.
- If you have legally changed your name at any point in your life, you must provide proof of this legal name change.
- If you and your fiancé(e) have ever married other people before, you must show proof that these marriages have ended. This evidence may include your divorce decrees or annulment orders.
Those petitioning for their fiancé(e) to enter the United States on a K-1 visa should also include:
- Proof that you and your fiancé(e) will marry within 90 days after their arrival to the United States.
- Proof that you and your fiancé(e) have previously met in person within two years of filing Form I-129F. Certain exceptions described in the eligibility section may apply. If one of these exceptions applies to you and your fiancé(e), provide proof that meeting beforehand would have presented a hardship or broken a tradition.
Those petitioning for their spouse to enter the United States on a K-3 visa should also include:
What is the Form I-129F to green card timeline?
Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your Form I-129F, your sponsored fiancé(e) or spouse must apply for their visa, attend a visa interview, and enter the United States. If USCIS approves your fiancé(e)’s K-1 visa application, they must enter the United States within six months of approval. After your fiancé(e) enters the United States, you must marry within 90 days. Once your sponsored fiancé(e) officially becomes your spouse, they may begin the green card application process. They should file Form I-485 (the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”) to begin their marriage-based green card application process. They will wait a few months to a few years to hear back.
If your spouse arrived in the United States on a K-3 visa, they may use the same adjustment of status process described above. However, it may make more sense for your spouse to apply for their U.S. green card from abroad. They will need to use consular processing at a local U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. By applying through their U.S. embassy or consulate, your spouse will be able to continue working in their home country until they receive approval for their green card. If your spouse had instead adjusted their status from within the United States, they would need to obtain a work permit to continue working here.
How long does it take for Form I-129F to be approved?
You can check U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’s) anticipated processing times on their website. Processing times for Form I-129F can vary based on a USCIS office’s workload. To ensure the quickest approval for your Form I-129F, you should double-check the accuracy and completeness of your answers before filing. If you filled everything out correctly, and attached sufficient supporting documentation, there won’t be unnecessary delays.
Can you expedite processing for Form I-129F?
It is not possible to request premium processing for Form I-129F. However, you might be able to request expedited processing for this form through the USCIS Contact Center if you provide them with your 13-digit USCIS case receipt number. USCIS will consider the reasons for your request before deciding to expedite. You must provide documentation showing why expedited processing is necessary to support your request.
Eventually transferring from a K-1 or K-3 visa to lawful permanent resident status can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, 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!