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Many people all over the world get married each day with ease, but when it comes to marriages where one of the parties is a U.S. citizen, and the other is not, things get a little more complicated. The road to obtaining a marriage-based visa requires that the couple make critical, and at times, difficult decisions based on factors such as cost, wait times, children, and others.
In this blog post, we will expand on the process of obtaining a K-1 visa, in an effort to help you understand and decide if this visa type makes sense for you.
Let’s get started.
Need help with applying for a Marriage Based Visa? Contact Agarwal Law Group today for a free consultation!
What Is a K-1 Visa?
A K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the fiancé of a United States citizen, to enter the U.S. to get married. Normally, visas in the nonimmigrant category only allow a person to come to the United States temporarily, as long as they do not have an intent to stay permanently. Nonetheless, K-1 visas are known for being “dual intent” visas. This means that they allow the person to come to the U.S to marry their U.S. citizen fiancé, while also having the intent of staying and adjusting to permanent resident status, while in the U.S.
The sole purpose of the K-1 visa is to allow a foreign national fiancé to enter the U.S. and marry their U.S. citizen fiancé, within 90 days of their entry. The marriage must take place in the U.S. Once the couple gets married, the foreign spouse can proceed to the next step: obtaining their permanent residence or green card, based on marriage to the U.S. citizen who sponsored them.
Applying for the K-1 visa is an excellent option, if the U.S. citizen fiancé can’t travel overseas to get married to their foreign partner. Obtaining a K-1 can be faster than obtaining a green card based on marriage through consular processing.
Is the K-1 Visa Right for Me?
Want to know if it makes sense to skip the fiancé visa process entirely, and just head straight into applying for an immigrant visa as the spouse of a U.S. citizen? This will depend on several factors:
- Where does the U.S. citizen partner currently live?
- Is the foreign national partner currently in the U.S. or abroad?
- Will you be willing to get married in the U.S.?
- Have you met in-person within the last 2 years?
- Are you ready to get married or does it make sense to spend time together in the same country before marriage?
Obtaining legal counsel can ease the burden of decision making by providing an extensive assessment of your case, and informing you of all the pros and cons of the options available for you and your fiancé.
Who is Eligible for the K-1 Visa?
You must comply with the below mentioned requirements in order to qualify for a K-1 visa:
- The petitioning fiancé must be a U.S. citizen. Permanent residents or green card holders cannot petition for their fiancés. This is a privilege only afforded to people who are U.S. citizens, whether by birth or by naturalization.
- The marriage must take place within 90 days of entry into the U.S.
- Both parties are willing and legally able to get married. (K-1 visas extend to same sex marriages)
- All past marriages must be legally terminated by death, divorce, or annulment.
- You and your fiancé must have seen each other in person within the last 2 years prior to filing the petition. The petitioner can request to be exempted from this requirement, if they can prove that meeting in person would violate strict and long-established customs of the fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice, or the meeting would result in extreme hardship for the petitioner.
- You and your fiancé need to prove that the relationship is authentic and legitimate, and was not entered into for the purpose of defrauding the immigration laws. You can achieve this authenticity in various ways, such as establishing when, where, and how you met, presenting evidence of your continued relationship, and your intention to be married and start a life together.
- The U.S. citizen fiancé must show that, if a visa is issued, the K-1 fiance will not become a public charge. If the income is insufficient, the U.S. citizen could present a co-sponsor.
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What are the Steps for applying for the K-1 Visa?
When applying for a K-1 Visa, there are specific steps that must be followed:
Step 1: File Form I-129F with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Step 2: File Form DS-160 and pay the required fee
Step 3: Medical examination and biometrics appointment
Step 4: K-1 visa Interview
Step 5: Enter the U.S. and get married!
STEP 1: Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
Filing Form I-129F is the first step in obtaining a K-1 visa. The U.S. citizen fiancé files this form with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with the purpose of demonstrating to USCIS, that the couple has a real relationship with the intention of getting married.
The processing time for the I-129F is usually between 9 and 12 months, with current processing times.
STEP 2: File Form DS-160 and pay the required Visa Fee
Once USCIS approves the petition, that approval is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Unlike a spousal petition, NVC will not require an immigrant visa application. NVC will send your case information to the embassy or consulate that will conduct the interview, and will send a notice indicating that the case has been transferred.
The embassy or consulate closest to your foreign national fiance will send instructions for appearing at an interview.
Need help with the K-1 Visa application process? Contact Agarwal Law Group today for a consultation!
STEP 3: Medical Examination and Fingerprint Appointments
After the DS-160 has been submitted, a fingerprinting appointment and medical examination must be completed. The embassy or consulate will provide instructions on the respective appointments.
Please take with you a copy of the DS-160 confirmation page, interview appointment notice, and your passport to both appointments.
Please note that the medical examination must be completed by an approved physician. The embassy or consulate conducting your interview will provide a list of approved physicians who can complete the medical exam. You should plan to schedule your medical examination as soon as possible as it may be difficult to secure an appointment before your visa interview. Do not schedule a medical examination before your visa interview is scheduled. Some physicians require proof of an interview before they conduct the medical examination. Also, the medical exam often requires appointments over multiple days, so please plan accordingly.
The cost of these exams will vary and can be paid directly to the physician completing the exam. The medical office will either provide results of the exam to the applicant in a sealed envelope or deliver results directly to the embassy or consulate conducting the interview. The envelope must not be opened and must be presented to the embassy with the seal.
STEP 4: Interview
The visa interview takes place at the U.S. embassy that was originally listed on the NVC notice. Typically, the interview location is determined by the foreign fiancé´s country of citizenship, legal place of residence, or country where the person is legally allowed to be in or remain. Only the foreign national requesting a visa can attend the interview. The U.S. citizen fiance is not required (and in many cases, not permitted) to attend.
Since the petition approval has a 4 month validity period, from the date of approval by USCIS, the interview normally has to take place during that period of time.The validity period can be extended by a consular officer, if it expires before visa processing is completed. Extending the validity period is at the discretion of the officer. It is highly recommended that you prepare and present a letter from the U.S. citizen fiance requesting revalidation, if necessary.
Once the interview date has arrived, try to stay as calm as possible. The interview is typically a straightforward process, where the officer will ask questions regarding the relationship, unless there are other issues that could prevent visa issuance.
Even though immigration attorneys are not allowed at consular interviews, it is always best to consult with one, since they are better equipped to analyze a case, identify possible issues that could arise during the interview, and can help with creating strategies, in an effort to obtain the best possible outcome. In addition, NVC’s has provided information that can help you better prepare for the visa interview.
STEP 5: Arrival and Marriage within 90 Days
Once the visa is approved, the passport is stamped with a K-1 visa. Typically a K-1 visa is valid for 6 months and the visa holder can enter the U.S. any time during this period.
After entering the U.S., you must get married within 90 days. If the marriage does not occur within 90 days, the K-1 visa holder is no longer in status and must return to their home country or otherwise leave the U.S.
Note, you must marry the person who sponsored the K-1 visa. After the marriage takes place, the next step would be to file for permanent residence or green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen.
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What Documents are Needed?
Below are the documents that you must have to obtain your K-1 Visa:
- Completed Form DS-160 and its Confirmation Page
- An unexpired passport that is valid for travel to the U.S., that contains a validity date that extends at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
- Birth certificate
- Divorce or Death certificates, evidencing the termination of previous marriages
- Police clearances from your current country of residence, and all countries where you have lived for more than six months since you were 16
- A sealed medical exam
- Evidence of financial support from your U.S. citizen fiancé and completed form I-134
- Two passport style photographs
- Evidence of your relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé
- Evidence of fee payment
- Statements from both parties detailing how you met, in-person meetings within the last 2 years, and your intention to get married within 90 days after entering in K-1 visa status
How do I apply for a Green Card After Entering the U.S. with a K-1 Visa?
Once you are married, you can start the process of applying for permanent residence or a green card, using Form I-485. This is considered the formal application to “Register Permanent Residence” or “Adjust Status.” An underlying spousal petition will not be necessary, as long as the marriage took place within the 90 days of being admitted into the U.S.
Related Links: VAWA: How Long Does A Petition Take?
Can I Extend My K-1 Visa?
A K-1 visa cannot be extended. It will expire after 90 days, whether you marry your fiancé or not. Accordingly, it is important to get married after entering in K-1 status and apply for permanent residence as soon as possible.
Applying for a K-1 fiancé visa can be challenging, but working with an experienced immigration attorney can streamline the process and increase your chances of approval.
Contact The Agarwal Law Group today for a confidential consultation!