The process of obtaining a K-1 nonimmigrant fiancé(e) visa begins when the U.S. citizen sponsor files Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) petition with USCIS.
A U.S. citizen sponsoring their foreign born fiancé(e) for a K-1 visa is called “Petitioner” and the foreign citizen fiancé(e) applying for a visa is called “Beneficiary”.
The Form I-129F requests basic personal information about both parties, such as their addresses, whether either has been married previously, and the names of any children of the foreign-national fiancé(e).
The U.S. citizen petitioner must submit proof that they are a U.S. citizen and that each party is free to marry.
The following documents can be used to prove the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship status (provide at least one document):
- Unexpired U.S. passport
- U.S. birth certificate (if petitioner was born in the U.S.)
- Naturalization certificate
- Citizenship certificate, or
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are not allowed to file K-1 visa petitions. Instead, they must apply for a spousal visa. This category is also known as F2A (spouses of permanent residents).
The U.S. citizen petitioner must swear that each party intends to marry the other within 90 days of the foreign national fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States on a K-1 visa.
If the couple meets the requirements and USCIS is satisfied that the parties have the legal capacity and the intention to marry, it will approve the petition and send it to the National Visa Center (NVC), which then forwards it to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the beneficiary’s country of residence.
Upon receiving the approved K-1 visa petition, a consular officer will notify the fiancé(e) of the documents they need to bring to their interview. Beneficiary must prepare and bring the following original documents to the U.S. Embassy:
- Completed Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
- Birth certificate, plus English translation
- Divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s) for both you and the U.S. citizen sponsor (if applicable)
- Police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since age 16
- Medical examination
- Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support)
- Two (2) 2×2 photographs
- Evidence of relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e)
- Payment of fees
Each U.S. Embassy/Consulate have their specific K-1 documents requirements that the beneficiary must follow.
If the consular officer finds the applicant to be admissible and eligible as a fiancé(e), the consulate will issue a K-1 visa which will be valid for one entry to the U.S. for up to 90 days.
Previous Meeting Requirement
One of the most important K-1 visa requirements is that a couple must have “met in person” within two years preceding the filing of Form I-129F fiancé(e) petition. However, USCIS is also was aware that in some countries it is still common practice for persons to enter prearranged marriages.
In some countries customs may prevent couples from meeting between the time the marriage is arranged and the wedding day.
To accommodate these situations, the U.S. immigration law allows to waive the “previous meeting” requirement. USCIS regulations permit waiving the “previous meeting” requirement for the following couples:
- For persons who can show that they are following strict cultural or social practices;
- For those who would experience extreme hardship if forced to comply with this requirement.
“Established Custom” Exemption
To satisfy requirements for “Established Custom” exemption, the couple must show both that the personal meeting would violate established customs and that all other aspects of the traditional marriage arrangements will be followed. If the couple is following cultural or social practices, they should submit affidavits from religious or other appropriate persons attesting to the details of those traditional arrangements. Affidavits from family members also might help prove that the parties are complying with customs and traditions that they did not meet before the marriage.
“Extreme Hardship” Exception
If an “extreme hardship” exception is being claimed, the couple should submit all available supporting evidence. This might include the following documents:
- The couple had met before the two-year period
- Political conditions preventing travel to the fiancé(e)’s country;
- Problems preventing the fiancé(e) from leaving the home country and traveling to the United States;
- Financial barriers; or
- Medical problems that have affected the mobility of either party.
K-1 visa petitioners should provide as much documentation as possible to show a bona fide intent to marry and eligibility for the requested exemption. Many situations that could give rise to a legitimate claim by the parties that hardship prevented them from meeting each other during the preceding two years are conceivable. Cases are common in which couples have met and carried on a long-distance relationship, but because of personal, financial, political, or medical reasons have been unable to meet during the preceding two years.
Filing the Form I-129F and Supporting Documents
Form I-129F fiancé(e) petition and all supporting documents should be filed by the U.S. citizen fiancé(e) with USCIS. The correct service center can be found on the USCIS K-1 visa page. Always check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date filing address and filing fee. The current Form I-129F filing fee is $535. U.S. citizen petitioners must submit the evidence of in person meeting over the course of the preceding two years. Examples of acceptable documents include:
- Copies of airline tickets
- Passport stamps
- Annotated personal photos of the couple together, and
- Affidavits from family and friends who have personal knowledge of the couple’s meeting(s).
Evidence of a couple’s bona fide intention to marry could include:
- “Intent to Marry” declaration signed by Petitioner and Beneficiary
- Copies of correspondence, including telephone calls and text messages
- Receipts for engagement rings
- Proof of wedding venue reservation
- Wedding invitations
- Any other receipts for wedding preparations
USCIS and consular officials expect submission of a significant amount of evidence accompanying K visa applicants, so the couple must provide as much evidence as possible for their petition to be approved.
Adjustment of Status for Fiancé(e)s in the U.S.
The foreign national fiancé(e) is required to marry the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry on K-1 visa.
If a beneficiary does not marry their petitioner, the foreign national spouse will lose their lawful status and be subject to deportation.
If the parties marry within 90 days, the person who received the fiancé(e) visa must apply for Adjustment of Status with USCIS in the U.S. If their Adjustment of Status application is approved within two years of marriage, beneficiaries will be subject to the two-year conditional residence requirement. If their green card applications are approved more than two years after the marriage, they will not be subject to those requirements. A K-1 visa holder must marry the fiancé(e) petitioner to be able to file for adjustment. In other words, if the parties did not marry but instead broke their relationship, and the foreign national fiancé(e) subsequently married another U.S. citizen, the applicant will not be able to adjust status in the United States. U.S. citizen petitioner is required to submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA with the beneficiary’s Adjustment of Status application.
Unmarried children of a foreign national granted a K-1 visa may obtain a K-2 visa to accompany or follow-to-join the fiancé(e). After the parent has married the U.S. citizen, the children may adjust status in the same way as the parent. The biological parent’s marriage to a U.S. citizen petitioner must occur before the child’s 18th birthday.