These days, it is not uncommon for a U.S. citizen to fall in love with and eventually marry a citizen of a foreign country. Because becoming a lawful permanent resident can be a lengthy process involving substantial funds and paperwork, many people choose to apply for a K1 Visa during the interim so that the marriage ceremony can take place after the foreign national’s legal entry into the United States.
What is a K1 Visa?
A K1 visa classification is designed for the foreign-born fiancés and fiancées of U.S. citizens. The visa will only be issued if the U.S. citizen and the fiancé(e) agree to be married soon after the foreign national enters the country.
This visa class acts as a placeholder, allowing the fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. and get married while they seek Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. After the marriage, the fiancé(e) will be able to stay in the country as long as the USCIS is processing their green card.
What are the Requirements?
In order to be eligible to apply for a K1 visa, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen filing on behalf of a fiancé(e)
- The marriage between you and your fiancé(e) will take place within 90 days of the foreign national’s arrival to the U.S.
- You and your fiancé(e) have met each other in person at least one time in the two years prior to your application.
- Any binding marital obligations have been settled. This means that all previous marriages have been ended due to death, annulment, or divorce.
What if We Are Unable to Meet?
There are exceptions to the requirement that you and your fiancé(e) meet in person. If the cultural environment in your fiancé(e)’s home country prevents you from meeting or if you can prove that meeting would mean enduring “extreme hardship”, you can file a waiver to be exempt from this qualification.
The K1 Visa Process
The USCIS breaks the K1 visa process down into 5 steps.
- The U.S. citizen must submit a completed I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)s. The USCIS will then consider your eligibility and perform a background check before making an approval decision. Once it has been approved, the USCIS will send the petition to a bureau of the U.S. Department of State called the Nationa Visa Center (NVC). When the NVC forwards the petition to a consulate or embassy in your fiancé(e)’s home country, you’re ready to move to the next step.
- When the NVC receives the approved I-129F petition, they will notify you. Your fiancé(e) must then go to the consulate or embassy indicated on the form to apply for a K1 visa. Be sure to have him/her bring proof of your relationship, identification, and an approved medical examination. After the NVC runs a second background check, they will be asked to appear for a visa interview with the US Embassy/ Consulate to determine if the relationship is legitimate.
- Once the K1 visa has been issued, the fiancé(e) must go to a U.S. port of entry to undergo a screening and a biometrics capture. This will be done when the foreign national seeks admission into the United States on a K-1 visa. You and your fiancé(e) will then have 90 days to get married before the visa expires.
- After the marriage, your fiancé(e) can apply for lawful permanent resident status. This is done by filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status form or I-485. If this is approved before your two-year anniversary, the K1 holder will be issued a conditional two-year Green Card.
- Since the conditional Green Card cannot be renewed, you must remove the conditions before its expiration. An I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence must be filed no earlier than 90 days before the conditional Green Card expires.
It is important to note that an approved I-129F does not grant your fiancé(e) access to the U.S. He or she must still apply for the visa at the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.
Once your fiancé(e)’s K1 visa has been issued, it will be valid for 6 months. Then will then be authorized for a single-entry, 90-day visit to the U.S for the purpose of marrying you, the citizen petitioner.
How Long is the K1 Visa Processing Time?
The entire process could take between 4-6 months (based on current processing times), so it is important to plan your marriage ceremony accordingly. Because the USCIS processes petitions as it receives them, the timeline for each case can vary widely. To get a better understanding of your K1 visa processing time, ask your immigration lawyer.
What Can I Expect in the K1 Visa Interview?
When your fiancé(e) goes to the designated U.S. consulate or embassy after the I-129F has been approved, they will be interviewed by an immigration officer. This interview is designed to separate those who truly want to be married in the U.S. from those that are using this visa to enter the country under false pretenses.
During the interview, your fiancé(e) will be asked questions about the relationship and about you, the U.S. citizen he or she will be marrying. The officer will be looking for inconsistencies as well as other signs that your fiancé(e) is not telling the truth.
If your relationship is legitimate, these questions should be easy and the interview will be over quickly. Just be sure that you and your fiancé(e) know each other well enough to answer basic questions about your relationship.
How Much Does the K1 Visa Cost?
The basic filing fee for the I-129F is 535 USD as of December 23, 2016. Your lawyer can help you take any extra fees and expenses into account. These could include traveling cost, medical exams, and attorney fees.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Whenever you are dealing with the complicated visa filing process, having missing information can easily cost you time and money. That’s why it is important to consult a qualified immigration attorney to make sure that you are making the best choices regarding your visa.
At SGM Law Group, our highly experienced lawyers have been assisting people with sorting and filing necessary visa documents for years. As experts in the field, we can assess your situation and help bring your fiancé(e) into the country.
Contact us today see if you meet the qualifications for a free consultation.