K-1 Visas For Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens

K-1 Visa

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The K-1 nonimmigrant visa is used by fiancés of U.S. citizens seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of marrying and filing for permanent residency through adjustment of status

K-1 visa applicants are required to complete medical examinations and to submit police certificates.

The K-2 visa is available to unmarried, minor children (under 21) of the K-1 fiancé(e).

The U.S. citizen is called “Petitioner”, the fiancé(e) is called “Beneficiary”.

Who Can Apply for a K-1 Visa?

The K-1 visa has the following requirements:

  • The couple has a bona fide intent to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the United States;
  • U.S. citizen and his/her fiancé(e) are legally able to marry; and
  • The couple has met in person within two years of filing the petition (with some exceptions provided below).

Each requirement will be discussed below.

The Couple Has a Bona Fide Intent to Marry Within 90 Days of the Foreign National Entering the United States

The K-1 visa requires that the couple plan to get married in the U.S. within 90 days of entering on K-1 visa.

It can be difficult to predict when the Department of State will issue the visa, so the couple’s wedding plans should be flexible.

The evidence required to demonstrate this doesn’t need to be precise regarding the exact date and place of the wedding. 

For example, a letter of intent from the couple would be sufficient.

Each Member of the Couple Is Legally Able to Marry

Both the petitioner and the beneficiary must be able to demonstrate that any prior marriage has been terminated before submitting a petition.

Also, the marriage must be legal in the jurisdiction where it is to take place (e.g., over the legal age to marry, not an illegally close family relationship, etc.).

The Couple Has Met in Person within Two Years of Filing the Petition

We will discuss the examples of documents that can meet this requirement.

It’s a relatively straightforward requirement, but there are some exceptions.

Exceptions are available in the following circumstances:

  1. When the in-person meeting requirement would result in extreme hardship to the petitioner;
  2. When the in-person meeting requirement would violate strict and long-established customs of the petitioner’s fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice.

K-1 Visa Application Steps

Advantages and Disadvantages of K-1 Visa

While the K-1 is the only visa specifically intended for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, there are other options available you want to consider.

In general, all options available include:

  • Obtain a K-1 visa, enter the United States and marry, and then apply to adjust status;
  • Enter the United States in another nonimmigrant status (for example, ESTA, B-1/B-2, etc.), marry, and then apply for adjustment of status status; and
  • Marry abroad and apply for a CR-1/IR-1 spousal visa (recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Marry abroad, enter the United States on a K-3 visa, and then apply to adjust status.

Some applicants may have the option to enter the United States in another nonimmigrant status (visitor visa, student visa) and then marry and apply for adjustment of status. 

However, you need to keep the 90-day rule in mind before getting married in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status.

Entering the United States on a nonimmigrant intent visa could lead to a finding of entering the United States with fraudulent intent.

For those coming into the United States with a dual-intent visa (like an H-1B) or who has been present in the United States for more than 90 days , the 90-day rule is not a problem.

However, for those beneficiaries entering on the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA), the only way to avoid the 90-day rule is to overstay it. Consult an immigration attorney if you face this issue.

Another alternative is to marry abroad and either:

  • Apply for a K-3 visa, or
  • File Form I-130 and enter the United States on an immigrant visa. 

The K-3 visa’s original advantage was that Form I-130 processing times were longer compared to Form I-129F processing times, so the beneficiary could enter the United States more quickly.

However, due to the backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Form I-130 processing time can be shorter than Form I-129F processing time.

Moreover, the waiting time for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visa interviews in the U.S. Embassies around the world have significantly increased, up to 12 months.

It might be more beneficial to file Form I-130 and enter the United States with an immigrant visa. 

K-1 visas have the advantage of not having to file separate Form I-130s for the children of the K-1 fiancé(e)s, and children between the ages of 18 and 20 can get K-2 visas, whereas petitioning for stepchildren means that the children have to be under the age of 18. 

Additionally, as long as the K-2 visa holders are under 21 when they enter the U.S., their age is frozen for purposes of being able to file an adjustment application. 

Note that children over the age of 18 do not get this advantage for K-3 visas, and separate Form I-130s must be filed.

K-1 Visa Checklist of Documents

The following forms and documents should be submitted with the K-1 visa application to USCIS:

Type of document

Examples of acceptable documents

Who provides it

Immigration form

  • Completed and signed I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)

Petitioner

Government fee

  • $535 fee

Petitioner

Proof of U.S. citizenship

  • Copy of a U.S. birth certificate;
  • Copy of an original Certificate of Naturalization;
  • Copy of an original Certificate of Citizenship;
  • Copy of a Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States;
  • Copy of an unexpired U.S. passport or passport card issued with a validity period of at least five years; or
  • A statement executed by a U.S. consular officer certifying that you are a U.S. citizen and the bearer of a currently valid U.S. passport.

Petitioner

Proof of the termination of previous marriage(s)

  • Divorce decree, 
  • Annulment, or 
  • Death certificate issued by a civil authority

Petitioner and Beneficiary

Passport-style photographs

  • One 2-inch by 2-inch color of the petitioner and one of the beneficiary each taken within 30 days of filing the petition

Petitioner and Beneficiary

Legal name change

  • Marriage certificate,
  • Adoption decree, or 
  • Court order

Only if Petitioner and/or Beneficiary changed their names

Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record

  • I-94 form

Only if beneficiary is in the United States at the time of filing the petition

Evidence that the couple met in person during the 2-year period immediately before the filing of this petition

  • Written statement from both the beneficiary and petitioner stating the circumstances of the meeting
  • Photographs 
  • Proof of expenses (dining, traveling together, engagement rings, etc.)
  • Copy of airline tickets, passport pages, or other evidence.

Petitioner and Beneficiary

Evidence that the petitioner and their fiancé(e) intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s entry as a K-1 nonimmigrant.

  • Statements of intent to marry signed by the petitioner and their fiancé(e) or any other evidence that establishes that mutual intention.

Petitioner and Beneficiary

The following forms and documents must be submitted to the National Visa Center after Form I-129F is approved:

Type of document

Examples of acceptable documents

Who provides it

Visa application form

Beneficiary

Government fee

  • Proof of payment of the visa application

Beneficiary

Passport

  • Passport valid for travel

Beneficiary

Documentation of the termination of prior marriages

  • Marriage certificate,
  • Adoption decree, or 
  • Court order

Petitioner and Beneficiary

Police certificates

  • Police certificates from all countries where the applicant has lived for six months or more since age 16

Beneficiary

Medical examination

  • Sealed medical examination on Form DS-2054 or DS-7794, Report of Medical Examination by Panel Physician, and associated worksheets

Beneficiary

Form I-134

  • Form I-134 and supporting financial documentation

Petitioner

Birth certificates for any children

  • Birth certificates for any children

Beneficiary

Military records 

  • Military records, if applicable

Beneficiary

Passport style photographs

  • Two 2-inch by 2-inch passport-style photographs

Beneficiary

Petitioner’s Criminal History and K-1 Visa

A U.S. citizen who has been convicted under §111(7) of the Adam Walsh Act for a “specified offense against a minor” is not eligible to file a K-1 visa petition unless the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines that the U.S. citizen poses no risk to the K-1 visa beneficiary.

The following offenses are covered under the law:

  • An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving kidnapping;
  • An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving false imprisonment;
  • Solicitation to engage in sexual conduct;
  • Use in a sexual performance;
  • Solicitation to practice prostitution;
  • Video voyeurism as described in §1801 of title 18, United States Code;
  • Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography;
  • Criminal sexual conduct involving a minor or the use of the internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct;
  • Any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor.

A conviction for an offense described in §101(a)(48)(A) would seemingly be covered.

What Happens After K-1 Visa is Issued

An approved K-1 visa petition is valid for four months from the date USCIS approved Form I-129F.

However, consular officers may extend it if they decide that the petitioner and the beneficiary continue to intend to marry within 90 days of entering the U.S.

The K-1 visa stamp validity period matches the validity period of the medical exam.

After a K-1 visa is approved, the applicant will receive a sealed envelope with the K-visa petition, medical examination, and supporting documents.

K-2 children following to join will have the same documents in a sealed envelope together with a copy of the approved K-visa petition.

Adjustment of Status in the U.S.

Within 90 days of entering the U.S. on a K-1 visa, the beneficiary must marry the U.S. citizen petitioner.

The adjustment of status application (Form I-485) must be based on marriage to the K-1 petitioner only.

There is no specific deadline on when the adjustment of status application needs to be submitted to USCIS but we recommend filing it soon after the marriage.

If the K-1 beneficiary is married to a U.S. citizen petitioner for less than 2 years at the time the green card is approved, the beneficiary will become a conditional permanent resident. 

It means that the green card will be valid for 2 years only.

90 days before the expiration date of the conditional green card, Form I-751 must be filed.

Filing Form I-751 is called “Removal of Conditions on Residence”.

If the couple is married for more than two years at the time of adjustment of status interview, the beneficiary will receive unconditional permanent residency (10-year green card).

In this case, filing Form I-751 is not required.

Beneficiaries will become eligible for applying for U.S. citizenship 2 years and 9 months after becoming a permanent resident (conditional or unconditional).

If the couple marry within the 90-day period and filing for adjustment of status, the K-1 beneficiary may still become a permanent resident even if the couple divorces prior to adjustment.

If the marriage doesn’t take place within 90 days, but the K-1 beneficiary and K-1 petitioner still marry, adjustment of status is normally still permitted by USCIS.

If the petitioner dies or withdraws the petition prior to the beneficiary’s entry to the United States, the approval of the petition will automatically be terminated.

K-1 visa holders cannot change status to another nonimmigrant category or adjust status to permanent residency on any grounds other than marriage to the K-1 petitioner.

K-2 children are eligible to adjust status as long as they enter the United States before age 21 and the parent marries the K-1 petitioner within 90 days.

As mentioned previously, if the K-2 child turns 21 prior to filing the adjustment of status, it’s not a problem. He or she will still be eligible for a green card in the U.S.

Related links:

K-1 Visa – How to Bring Your Fiance(é) to the U.S.

Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)

Form I-129F Instructions, How to Fill Out

Adjustment of Status for Fiancé(e)s