The K-1 visa, more commonly referred to as the fiancé(e) visa, permits a U.S. citizen’s fiancé(e) to enter into the country for the purpose of marrying them within 90 days of stepping foot on U.S. soil. There are many K-1 visa benefits, which we’ll explore extensively in this post. Some of the K-1 visa benefits include being able to apply for lawful permanent residency (otherwise known as the green card process) and the ability to quickly get married once your spouse arrives in the U.S. There are, of course, disadvantages as well, which we’ll also explore in depth.
K-1 Visa Benefits & Requirements
The most common question asked about the K-1 visa is what happens if you don’t get married within the 90-day window. According to USCIS, should you fail to get married within the 90 days, then the immigrant fiancé and any children they brought with them will not be able to adjust their status. They’ll have to return to their home country. If the immigrant partner fails to leave and stays in the U.S. for more than six months after their visa expires without getting married, then the immigrant may also be banned from entering the United States again for up to 10 years. If you do get married, but it’s not within the 90 days, then you need to file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
Assuming the plan goes accordingly and you do marry your fiancé within the 90 days, then the citizen spouse will be able to file the I-485 Form, Adjustment of Status on behalf of the foreign spouse. At the same time, you can request travel documents and a work permit while their green card is processing. The ability to get legal permanent resident status is the biggest K-1 visa benefit. Another K-1 visa benefit is that you have three months to get to know your fiancé better before you take the plunge into marriage. Sometimes, couples may realize within that time that their partner is not a good fit for them so having the 90-day period is really a good opportunity to make a more confident life decision. For some people who want to expedite the process, it may be a better choice to not opt for the fiancé visa and instead get married and then apply for the spouse visa.
K-1 Visa Process Overview
The process to get the K-1 visa involves first having met your fiancé in person within the past two years. The in-person meeting requirement has to happen before you petition for them to come to the United States. After that first requirement has been met, the U.S. citizen—petitioner—will need to file Form I-129F, Petition for Fiancé(e), with USCIS. Along with that, the U.S. citizen partner will need to provide proof to USCIS that they are in fact a citizen. A passport or birth certificate will be sufficient proof. The petitioner will also need to provide proof of the relationship and intention of marriage. These are known as supporting documents and are essentially needed to establish the presence of a bonafide relationship.
The I-129F takes around five to seven months to process. Two to three weeks after you’ve submitted the I-129F, USCIS will notify the petitioning spouse that they’ve received it and at that time may indicate if they need additional documents.
If your I-129F form is approved by USCIS, the next step is for it to be forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). From there, the NVC will forward the I-129F to the fiancé’s home country, so they can take the steps there to file for the K-1 visa and submit their Form DS-160 plus the consular processing fees.
About two weeks after receiving the case, either the consulate or the U.S. embassy will dispatch a letter with instructions and a schedule for the foreign fiancé to coordinate their visa interview and medical exam.
K-1 Visa Income Requirements
There are a few forms related to the K-1 visa income requirements. The first form is the I-134, Affidavit of Support, and it must be submitted in the beginning stages of the K-1 visa process. USCIS will use the U.S. citizen’s household income in relation to the 2021 Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines. For your I-134 to be approved, you (as the petitioning fiancé) must demonstrate that you make enough money to support them.
After your fiancé arrives in the U.S. with their visa in hand, you’ll need to get married in the 90 days, then file the I-485, Adjustment of Status. With the I-485, you need to file a different affidavit of support form known as the I-864. For the I-864, you need to demonstrate that you can support your spouse after they are a legal permanent resident. For this form, you have to make at least 25% more than the HHS poverty guideline.
The K-1 Visa Interview
The interview is very important in the success of obtaining the K-1 visa, so do everything you can to be at the interview at your scheduled date and time. Only the immigrant fiancé is allowed at the interview. The U.S. citizen partner is not able to attend. Based on the interview and all other supporting documents, the consular officer will decide whether the foreign fiancé should be granted the K-1 visa.
Here are the documents you typically need to take to your interview:
- Your birth certificate
- Medical Exam Report
- Any certificates for a past divorce or spouse’s death (applies for foreign fiancé and U.S. citizen petitioner)
- Documents demonstrating financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support might be required)
- 2 U.S. passport-style photos
- Documents demonstrating relationship
- Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Valid passport
- Any visa fee monies
Read this guide to see what types of K-1 visa interview questions will be asked. You have a six-month time frame from the point when the K-1 visa is issued to travel to the United States. Note that the Customs and Border Protection officer still reserves the right to not grant you admission past the port of entry even if you have your approved visa in hand.
Common K-1 Visa Denials
One of the drawbacks of the K-1 visa is that not all petitions are approved. In fact, the rate of approvals used to be 99 percent, but with all the attempted fraud efforts, USCIS now only approves about 66 percent of applications. Some of the most common reasons a K-1 visa will be denied are:
- Inadequate income (or the petitioning spouse) to meet the requirements
- Past crime convictions for either of the two fiancés
- Past history of violating U.S. immigration laws
- Past K-1 petitions from the U.S. citizen partner – they must not have filed more than two before
- Any disease that the foreign fiancé could potentially threaten the public with
- Inability to show supporting evidence
- Not complying with the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act.
Learn more about common K-1 visa income requirements with this guide.
Consequences of Overstaying Your K-1 Visa
We have to clarify that if the immigrant fiancé stays in the U.S. more than 6 months after the visa expires without getting married, the immigrant fiancé could be banned from entering the United States again for up to 10 years. If you did get married, then your U.S. citizen spouse should fill out an I-130 on your behalf along with your green card application and send it to USCIS. You should receive a receipt document from USCIS a few weeks after sending them your petition.
Married A Different U.S. Citizen
There have been cases when a foreign fiancé entered the U.S. on a K-1 Visa but ended up marrying a different U.S. citizen than the one who petitioned their visa. In that case, you may still be able to get a green card, but you may have to leave the U.S. first, then have the new citizen spouse file an I-130 for you, and finally go through the application and visa process in your home country. Be aware, however, if you did overstay your visa in the U.S. for more than six months, there could be consequences.
K-1 Visa and the COVID-19
With the global pandemic, there have been many delays with immigration processing, and for a long time, there were travel restrictions for many countries to travel to the United States. According to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs:
Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services that post is currently able to offer. The I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is typically valid for four months; however, consular officers may revalidate the I-129F petition in four month increments. For most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 travel restrictions it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.
Our lawyers can help you navigate this tricky process if your case has been delayed or you have put off filing for your partner’s K-1 visa due to the Coronavirus pandemic.