The K-1 Visa Explained
The best part of a long-distance relationship is finally being together with your partner. If you are a fiancé of a U.S. citizen, it would be a great idea to join them in the United States. But first things first, you’ll need a K 1 visa.
A K-1 visa is also known as a fiancé (e) visa or the nonimmigrant visa application. It grants a foreign national entry into the U.S. to get married to a U.S. citizen fiancé. Once the foreign fiancé crosses over to the U.S, the law requires that the couple gets married within 90 days.
If the 90 days elapse without the couple getting married, the visa expires. An expired visa renders the stay of the foreign fiancé in the U.S. invalid, and they may have to go back to their country- unmarried. It is vital that while going through the visa process, every requirement for qualification of the visa should be observed and met.
It is also important to note that the word fiancé is used to describe all genders, male or female and that the US recognizes same-sex marriages as legal marriages. This law still stands regardless of the sponsored fiancé’s country of origin disallows this type of marriage.
Read more: Marriage Based Green Card Explained
The Importance Of This Type Of Visa
The K1 visa petition is made by the partner who is a US citizen by completing an application form referred to as the I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). The completed form is then mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after paying the necessary application fees. The K1 Visa is specifically for unmarried couples who wish to get married in the US and it can be easily confused with the marriage-based visa (I-130).
The K 1 fiancé visa is more desirable because it allows non-U S citizens to get into America with nonimmigrant status. This means that they may not have to go through a lot of immigration paperwork as required by other types of visas.
The Difference Between Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) and I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national outside the U.S., and the couple decides to settle back in the United States, the U.S. citizen’s fiancé may petition for their partner to join them by filing Form I-130 (read more). On the other hand, when an engaged couple wishes to get married in the United States, the U.S. citizen may file Form I-129F to sponsor their fiancé to the U.S.
Requirements And Eligibility
The K 1 visa has a set of requirements that both partners must meet to prove the authenticity of their relationship. As mentioned earlier, the petition must be made by the spouse who is a legal citizen of the United States.
Requirements For Filing Form I-129F
The petitioner and their spouse should meet the following requirements:
The petitioner has to be a citizen of the United States. Holding a permanent resident status through a green card, for example, does not classify one as a US citizen fiancé eligible for filing for the visa process.
The petitioner and their spouse must be legally free to marry. This means that they should not be married to other partners. If they were previously married, they have to prove that their previous marriage ended by providing legal documents such as divorce decrees, annulments, and death certificates in case of death of a previous spouse.
There has to be proof of the validity of the relationship. The couple has to prove that they have been in a serious relationship leading to their decision for marriage. The evidence presented for this proof may include photographs of the couple, hotel reservations, engagement photos, and written statements from witnesses of the relationship, such as family and friends who know the couple and their intentions to marry.
The couple must have met in person at least once within the past two years preceding the visa process. In some cases, there are some hindrances to this requirement such as religious, cultural, or social norms that may be violated by the couple meeting up. Otherwise, the couple may provide dated photos, flight tickets, and hotel reservations as evidence of the meeting.
The couple must sign a statement that declares their intentions of getting married to each other within the 90-day period that the visa provides. This statement should be backed up with sufficient evidence of wedding plans being made. They may include wedding invitation cards, venue reservations with deposits made a guest lists, and so on.
The petitioner is required to meet a certain financial threshold stipulated by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This requirement specifically states that the petitioner’s most recent tax returns must be above 100 percent. If they do not meet this requirement, the petitioner is allowed to invite a sponsor who will provide a signed affidavit of support, also known as Form I-864, to append on the required financial support.
The non-US citizen fiancé is also bound by the visa requirements of their country that may be different from this set or may have additional requirements.
An additional requirement of this visa category may need to be fulfilled if the couple met through a marriage broker. The petitioner has to disclose this information in their application. Such connections are guided by the International Marriage Broker Regulatory Act (IMBRA). The international spouse must consent to the sharing or release of their personal information to the petitioner, and the consent document provided as proof.
Filing The K 1 Visa
The visa process starts with the US fiancé filling the I-129F, and mailing it to the USCIS. Basically, the form gives all the information required by this U S department of state to acknowledge the relationship as legitimate. If there is a need for more information as proof of legitimacy, the USCIS may request the petitioner to provide more information. Once approved, the application is forwarded to the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC). It is important to note that this petition must be filed in the U.S. and not from a U.S. embassy or Consulate, or USCIS offices outside the U.S.
Supporting Documents For Form I-129F
The U S citizen sponsor needs to provide other documents that accompany their petition. These forms may include the following:
• Proof of U S citizenship, which may include a birth certificate, copy of passport, or Certificate of Naturalization.
• A copy of their fiancé’s passport
• One US style passport photo for the petitioner (US citizen fiancé) and the sponsored fiancé.
• If the sponsored fiancé was previously issued with a Form I-94, a copy of this should be provided too. This form keeps travel records of a foreign national into and out of the country.
• All other documents as required for the application of the petition.
If approved, the application is sent to the U.S. consulate of the fiancé’s native country. The fiancé shall be required to fill the Form DS-160 for the online nonimmigrant visa application, or submit it in accordance with the consulate instructions of their country. A copy of the confirmation has to be printed and kept by the fiancé.
Supporting Documents For The DS 160 Form
The fiancé shall be required to provide the following documents alongside their form DS 160 form:
• Birth certificate of the foreign fiancé
• A passport size photo
• A valid passport
• Police clearance certificate from the country of residence where the sponsored fiancé has been living for the past six months
• A medical exam report provided after an evaluation by a physician approved by the State Department
• An affidavit of support form filled by the U S citizen sponsor (Form I-134)
• Copy of their recent tax returns
• Proof of relationship as approved by the sponsor’s petition application to the USCIS
Once this application is complete, the fiancé shall be invited for a visa interview with a consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country, or one closest to them within four to six weeks after the notice. They may be required to present additional information during the visa interview as deemed necessary.
After a successful interview, the fiancé is awarded a visa stamped in their passport to allow them to travel to the United States within a period of six months. The period is calculated from the date of the approval of the initial I-129F form.
What To Do After Receiving The K 1 Visa
The sponsored fiancé must make arrangements to travel to the United States. The marriage has to take place within 90 days.
The final step of the process is to apply for a green card. The green card application should be sponsored by the initial petitioner of the K 1 Visa who is presumably their legal spouse. Once the foreign fiancé becomes a green card holder, their status changes to that of a lawful permanent resident.
What Happens If The Couple Does Not Marry Within 90 Days?
The sole purpose of the K 1 visa is to get the fiancé of the U.S. citizen sponsor to enter the United States for their marriage. If the couple does not marry within 90 days, the fiancé loses their visa holder status and will no longer be eligible to stay in the United States. The fiancé cannot use their status to marry any other person other than the US citizen sponsor, neither can they adjust status by changing their visa to other forms of visas.
Reasons For Denial Of A K-1 Visa
The most common reason for a K 1 visa denial is the lack of sufficient evidence to back up the relationship status of the couple. Once the consular officer suspects foul play in the application or inconsistencies in the evidence provided, the decision to decline the request is inevitable. Most of these mistakes are avoidable, especially because, the requirements for the eligibility of the application are clear. A US citizen sponsor has to ensure that they have met all the requirements of the form I 129 F Petition For Alien fiancé (e) before filing their application.
Another reason may be related to the criminal records of a U.S. citizen sponsor or the sponsored fiancé. If their criminal records show a history of trial or conviction for murder, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, homicide, and such cases, the Department of Homeland Security may deny the application.
The U.S. government keenly examines applications to verify the information provided. Other reasons, such as age differences of the couple and communication frequency may be examined further prior to making a final decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions applicants ask about the K-1 visa.
How Long Does It Take To Process The K 1 Visa For The Non U S Citizen?
It takes an average of seven months for the USCIS to fully process the petition for the alien fiancé form (I-129 form). Once the application goes through, the alien fiancé will expect a 4-6 weeks period before their interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Does The K-1 Visa Allow The Fiancé To Travel With Their Child Or Children If They Have Any?
Children of foreign fiancé under the age of 18, and unmarried, can accompany their parent to the United States under a different visa called the K 2 Visa. In this context, children can be both biological or adopted, and they do not necessarily need to be children of the US citizen fiancé.
How Long Does It Take Before The Interviewing Officer Makes The Decision About The K 1 Visa Application?
The decision may be made on the same day unless the officer requires further documentation. If that happens, then the decision will be made soon after all the requirements requested by the officer are met.
Now that you know what a K 1 visa is and how it works, you may have an easier time filing. However, if you ever need help, it is always a