What is a K1 Visa?
A K1 visa allows the fiancé of a United States citizen to come to the United States for the purpose marrying their citizen fiancé and adjusting status to become a permanent resident. A K1 visa is initiated by the US citizen fiancé by filing form I-129F with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once the initial I-129F petition is approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the K1 fiancé visa petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center, then to a US embassy abroad. The foreign national fiancé will attend an interview and present documentation at the US embassy, after which the K1 visa will be issued. The K1 visa is typically valid for 6 months giving the foreign national fiancé a large window of time to travel to the US. Once the foreign national fiancé travels to the United States the couple should get married and petition for adjustment of status as soon as is practicable. An attorney can help at every stage of this process. An experienced immigration attorney is especially helpful for consular process cases, such as a K1 petition, taking the guesswork out a complex process.
What are the Requirements for Obtaining a K1 Fiancé Visa?
In order to obtain a K1 fiancé visa, you must meet a number of requirements. First, a foreign national must be the fiancé of a US citizen. A US permanent resident cannot sponsor a fiancé for a K1 visa. Second, the US citizen and foreign national fiancé must have met in person within two years of filing the K1 fiancé visa petition. This requirement can be waived in certain circumstances, such as when there are cultural reasons that the couple did not meet prior to the engagement. Third, the couple must plan to marry within 90 days of the foreign national fiancé’s arrival in the United States. Finally, the foreign national fiancé must not be subject to any immigration bars, such as criminal conviction or fraud based bars.
The Process and Timeline for Obtaining a K1 Visa
The timeline for obtaining a K1 fiancé visa varies depending upon where the foreign national will be processing the K1 visa. Some embassies have a more efficient and streamlined process for K1 visas while others drag out the process. However, you can expect the entire process from filing the I-129F with USCIS to obtaining the K1 fiancé visa to take from 4 to 7 months. The steps and timeline for each are as follows:
When you filed the I-129F petition with USCIS, you will receive a notice of receipt within two to three weeks indicating that your petition has been received and is in processing. While there is no set time for this stage of the K1 fiancé visa petition, the USCIS stage of the process typically takes three months. Once USCIS completes the processing of the I-129F petition, you will receive notice that the case has been forwarded to the National Visa Center.
National Visa Center
Once USCIS approves the petition, you will receive another notice indicating that your I-129F petition was approved and that the case is being forwarded to the National Visa Center (“NVC”). The National Visa Center acts as an intermediary between USCIS and embassies abroad. While you will not submit any substantive forms or documents to the NVC in a K1 fiancé visa petition, the NVC still receives and forwards your application to the embassy abroad. This stage of the process typically takes one month.
Once the case is forwarded to the US embassy where the foreign national fiancé resides, a biometrics, medical exam and interview must be scheduled. There are also forms and documents that must be filed directed with the embassy that cannot be completed prior to this step. The embassy is the most variable stage of the process, and could take anywhere from three weeks to two months depending upon the efficiency of the embassy. After the interview, the foreign national fiancé receives the K1 visa and can travel to the United States.
What Forms and Documents are Required for a K1 Fiancé Visa?
There a number of form and documents you will need to submit to obtain a K1 fiancé visa, both in your initial petition with USCIS and when you move on to the stage of processing your case as the US embassy abroad.
- I-129F: The I-129F is the sent to USCIS in your initial filing. The form notifies the government that you intend to bring your foreign national fiancé to the United States with the intent to marry and adjust status.
- G325A: The G325A provides biographical information to the government. You will submit two G325A forms, for both the foreign national fiancé and the United States citizen petitioner. It includes information such as prior residences and employers.
- DS160: Once your case has made its way to the US embassy abroad, you will fill out and file form DS160 online. This forms asks much more detailed questions about your foreign national fiancé, and you should plan to track down the information needed to fill it out well in advance this step.
- I-134: The I-134 is an affidavit of support that the US citizen petition will fill out and sign showing the ability to support the foreign national fiancé financially. This form will be submitted when the foreign national fiancé appears for an interview at the US embassy abroad.
- Passport style photos: You will submit photos both at the time of filing the I-129F petition and when the foreign national fiancé goes to the interview at the US embassy abroad. You should have these taken according to US passport standards.
- Birth certificates: You will submit copies of birth certificates for both the foreign national fiancé and the US citizen petitioner when filing the I-129F, and the foreign national spouse will bring the original birth certificates to the interview abroad.
- Statements of intent to marry – At the time of filing the I-129F, you will concurrently file a statement of intent to marry within 90 days of arrival in the United States. There must be a statement from both the foreign national fiancé and the US citizen petitioner.
- Divorce decrees – If either the foreign national fiancé or the US citizen petitioner have been previously married, you will need to submit copies of the divorce degrees when filing your petition and bring originals to the interview abroad.
- Proof of meeting within last two years: You will need to submit proof of an in person meeting within the last two years when filing your I-129F. Typically, you should plan to submit copies of plan tickets, passport stamps, and pictures from the meeting.
- Copies of criminal convictions: If the foreign national fiancé has had any criminal convictions, you will need to obtain and provide certified copies of the dispositions.
- Police clearance certificate: The foreign national spouse will need to obtain a police clearance certificate from any country in you have lived for 6 months or more after turning 16, as well as from your home country irrespective of when and for how long you lived there.
- Medical examination :The foreign national fiancé will have a medical examination after the case is forwarded to the embassy abroad and will bring the results of that medical examination to the interview abroad.
- Passport: You will submit copies of your passport bio pages, along with any prior US visas, when filing the I-129F. The foreign national spouse will bring an original passport to the interview abroad.
- Proof of relationship: While there is no silver bullet for proving your relationship, you should submit as much evidence as possible. Common forms of evidence are photos from throughout your relationship, phone call logs, copies of emails, WhatsApp chat histories, and copies of letters from friends or family.
How an Attorney can Help with Your K1 Fiancé Visa
While USCIS does not require you to have an attorney in order to process your fiancé visa, having an experienced immigration attorney can help immensely. An attorney who is familiar with the K1 fiancé visa process can help to ensure that all of your forms are filled out correctly, that you submit the appropriate documents, and that you do not experience avoidable delays in the processing of your case. Every case is different, and an attorney can spot problems in your K1 fiancé visa case that might not be apparent to a lay person. The process of obtaining a K1 fiancé visa is stressful and complicated, and knowing that your case is in good hands of a knowledgeable immigration attorney can relieve much of that stress.