As a U.S. citizen, immigration law allows you to sponsor a nonimmigrant visa to bring your fiancé(e) into the U.S., get married in the U.S. and live together as a family. After your marriage, as part of your citizenship rights, you may also sponsor your fiancé(e)’s (now married spouse’s) application for permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. In this article, we will give you a breakdown of the steps, the timeline, and the requirements for the whole process.
What Are The Requirements for a K-1 Visa Application?
Before you proceed, the following are the eligibility requirements for both the U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign national beneficiary:
- You must be a U.S. citizen (Note: A U.S. permanent resident is not eligible to sponsor a fiancé(e) visa)
- You and your sponsored fiancé(e) must be eligible to marry
- You and your fiancé(e) must prove that you have genuine intent to marry and are ready to provide a signed statement showing that you are going to get married within 90 days of your sponsored fiancé(e)’s entry to the U.S.
- You and your fiancé(e) must prove that your relationship is legitimate and not just an arrangement to gain entry and permanent residence in the U.S.
- You must prove that the two of you have met in person at least once before applying for the visa. Evidence of time spent together such as pictures and/or tickets for trips and events you attended together as a couple, hotel reservations, or proof of messages exchanged will be very helpful in convincing the immigration officers.
- You (the petitioner) must prove that you have a certain amount of gross income which must not be below the poverty line.
K-1 Visa Timeline Process: Step by Step
Now that you know the K-1 visa requirements, you will need to follow these steps in order to complete the fiancé(e) nonimmigrant visa process:
File an I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé
Filing the I-129F is the first step for your K-1 visa application, which will be filed by the U.S. citizen petitioner. The essence of this petition is to ask the USCIS to recognize you as an eligible K-1 visa petitioner and to establish that a bona fide relationship exists between you and your fiancé(e).
In the petition, you must demonstrate that you two are free to and have the intention of marrying within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission to the U.S. as a K-1 nonimmigrant. The USCIS will run a background check on both of you to determine the authenticity of the information in your petition.
Notice of Receipt of Petition
After submitting the I-129, you will receive a Notice of Action Form I-797C from the USCIS in the mail to confirm the receipt of your petition. This is usually sent 2 or 3 weeks after you have filed your petition. The notice may also be for the rejection of your petition if the I-129 wasn’t correctly filed or a Request for Evidence (RFE) if you didn’t provide all the required documents. A rejection or an RFE will cause a delay in the whole process, so it is crucial that all necessary documents are submitted at the initial stage.
The USCIS Processes Your I-129 Petition
At this stage, the USCIS will proceed to process the I-129F to establish the eligibility of both you and your fiancé(e). This may take 5 to 7 months. If your eligibility is established, you will receive another notification known as Notice of Action numbered I-797 “NOA2”. This is a one-page letter to confirm the approval of your petition by the USCIS. The approved I-129 will then be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). From the NVC, the approved petition will be forwarded to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the beneficiary fiancé(e) ’s home country for the next line of action.
File the K-1 Nonimmigrant Visa Application
The beneficiary fiancé(e) will have to apply for a K-1 visa at the embassy or consulate where the case is sent in his or her country of residence. About two weeks after the embassy receives the case, an interview and medical examination will be scheduled for the beneficiary fiancé(e). You will be sent a letter stating the date, time, and venue of the interview.
Before the interview date, you (the beneficiary) will need to file for your actual K-1 visa by completing the Department of States’ online nonimmigrant visa application DS-160. Upon completion of the online form, be sure you print the confirmation page with the barcode. It is part of the documents to take to your interview.
Other necessary documents to be brought to the visa interview will also be listed in the letter. Depending on the caseload at the designated embassy, interview date may take place 2 to 8 weeks after receiving the scheduling notice. You need to prepare for the interview by gathering all the requested documents.
Attend the Visa Interview
This is the first time the immigration officers will have the opportunity to interact with you as a visa applicant, you are therefore expected to prepare well for the interview.
The K-1 visa interview is usually given a significant amount of attention by the U.S. government due to the historical cases of fraudulent marriages arranged just to gain admission to the United States. This will make the officials more interested in your relationship history, so you can expect that they will ask questions in order to be convinced that you both are entering this marriage in good faith.
Many embassies don’t allow the U.S. citizen petitioner to be present at the interview. It is usually the beneficiary fiancé(e) and other immediate family members included in the petition. You may be asked questions such as how and where you two met and how long you have been dating. The consulate officer may also want to know if you have been arrested or involved in any criminal cases in the past.
Additionally, questions about your future plans will also be asked. If you have started planning your wedding and you have evidence of that such as invitation cards or receipts for food, souvenirs, or venues, you may take them along to further prove your case. The K-1 interview usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes.
After the interview, if the consular officer is convinced that you are qualified, and your relationship with the U.S. citizen petitioner is indeed bona fide, he or she will grant you a K-1 nonimmigrant visa with a 6-month validity period and single entry to the U.S. This means you have just 6 months to travel to the U.S. and seek admission.
Travel to the United States
Now that you have your K-1 visa, you can schedule your journey to the U.S. to meet with your future spouse. You should, however, know that your visa at this stage is only a travel document and not a guarantee of admission. You will need to seek admission at the point of entry (e.g. airport or border station). Your admissibility is subject to inspection and approval by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Your travel documents will be verified, and you will be asked questions about the purpose of your visit. There will also be a collection of your biometrics (digital picture, identifying information, and fingerprints) at the point of entry.
K-1 Visa: Failure to Marry Within 90 Days
As stated above, it is mandatory that you marry your citizen spouse within 90 days of the beneficiary fiancé(e)’s arrival into the U.S. Failure to do this will mean the beneficiary fiancé(e) must leave the U.S. at the end of the 90 days. Not leaving will amount to a violation of the United States immigration laws, and this may lead to deportation and affect your chances of future entry into the U.S.
Green Card After Marriage
Once you are married, it is only natural that you will want to live together as a family. As a U.S. citizen, you are able to sponsor your spouse’s green card by filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative concurrently with an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence and Adjust Status. If this is approved, your spouse will be issued a green card with a two-year validity period. Marriage-based green card applicants who have been married for less than two years are issued a conditional permanent resident status which is renewable after two years. If your marriage is still in effect after the validity period, you can then apply to remove the conditions and acquire an unconditional green card with a ten-year validity period. You may also apply for U.S. citizenship.
K-1 Visa Application Denial
A K-1 visa application may be denied after the interview or at any other point in the K-1 visa timeline. Failure to prove the legitimacy of your relationship to the consular officer will generally lead to denial. In this case, the DOS will return the I-129 to the USCIS after it has expired. You are permitted to restart the process by filing a new I-129 if you so wish. However, it is important that you understand what led to your denial and ensure you don’t repeat the same mistakes. The best thing to do in such a situation is to consult an experienced immigration attorney.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
At Immi-USA, our dedicated team of immigration lawyers will help you file your application and ensure potential pitfalls that could lead to denial are completely avoided. We will also offer you the best legal support all through the process. Get started with your K-1 visa timeline schedule an appointment with one of our immigration attorneys by filling out this contact form today.