I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.See all posts Frank Gogol
What You Need to Know About the K1 Visa
First of all, congratulations! You’re engaged to be married and you’ve chosen the U.S. as the home base for your wedding and married life. But, how do you get a visa to do the wedding in the U.S.? And what visa will allow you to stay with your partner in the U.S. after you get married?
Have you heard of a K1 visa? It is probably the best option you have. Below you can find more information on how to apply for and use this visa to plan and execute the wedding of your dreams in the U.S.!
What is a K1 Visa?
A K1 visa is sometimes also referred to as a fiancé(e) visa. This visa specifically grants a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen the privilege of living in the U.S. for 90 days after their entry through a U.S. border crossing. If you enter the U.S. on this visa, you and your future spouse are required to get married within the 90-day validity period of the visa. If the marriage does not take place within the 90-day validity period, the foreign fiancé will need to leave the U.S. The visa will also lose its validity if the engagement is broken before the marriage.
There are some basic eligibility requirements which the visa beneficiary must fulfill before the visa is granted, however.
Who is Eligible for a K1 Visa?
Most immigration processes with visas have strict eligibility requirements. The U.S. government determines these regulations and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) ensures it is enforced. A K1 visa is no different and it also only allows a specific group of people entry into the U.S.
Here are the basic eligibility requirements for a K1 visa:
- The sponsoring partner must be a U.S. citizen. Green Card holders can not be a sponsor for a K1 visa.
- Both partners are legally able to marry. Divorce papers, death certificates, and other supporting documents claiming the termination of previous marriages needs to be present.
- K1 visas are available to same-sex partners even if the foreign fiancé’s country of birth does not acknowledge same-sex marriages.
- You will need to prove the legitimacy of the relationship with emails, itineraries, photos, and written testimonials from friends and family. Include traveling arrangements and tickets that prove combined trips.
- The couple must prove at least one personal meeting in the two years leading up to the visa application. This requirement may be waived if the foreign spouse could not do so due to extreme hardship as a result of religious, cultural, or social norms.
- Both partners need to prove intent to marry within 90 days of entry by supplying written confirmation. Wedding plans, invites, supplier deposits, and other types of travel arrangements for the wedding itself will help support this.
- The foreign spouse must prove financial means of at least equal to 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If this is not possible, someone in the U.S. (usually the partner) needs to sign an affidavit of support claiming to be a financial sponsor of the foreign spouse.
The above points are the basic requirements set out by the USCIS. Each situation is unique, however. You may need to contact an immigration attorney to help you with your immigration process. It is also important to remember that the U.S. citizen partner (the petitioner) files the K1 visa application on behalf of the foreign fiancé (the visa beneficiary).
Documents Required for a K1 Visa
So, what documents do you need to file a petition for a K1 visa? As mentioned previously, your situation is unique and may require additional documents. But for now, here is the basic documents required in every K1 visa application:
- Form DS-160 – You and all of your minor dependents need to complete an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160). Print the confirmation page and keep it for proof at your visa interview. Each person needs an individual DS-160.
- Form I-129F – The actual petition for an Alien Fiancé.
- A Valid passport – From your country of residence.
- Divorce or death certificates – To prove the annulment of previous marriages.
- Police clearances – One from every country where you have lived for more than 6 months from the age of 16.
- Medical examination – From a registered physician.
- Evidence of financial support – Form I-134 which is an affidavit of support (if necessary).
- Two photographs – Two passport-style photographs of the beneficiary.
- Evidence of the relationship – Physical proof of the relationship as mentioned before.
- Payment receipts – Proof that the processing fees have been settled.
These are the required documents in the average case. Ask for the professional help from an immigration attorney if you are unsure about what to submit for your specific application.
How to Apply for a K1 Visa
Let’s get down to business. How do you apply for a K1 visa? You can follow these easy steps.
Step 1 – Form I-129F
The sponsor fiancé needs to file Form I-129F on behalf of the beneficiary. All the supporting information mentioned above needs to be included in the application. The sponsor spouse also needs to include the following information about themselves:
- Proof of citizenship
- Passport style photo.
After about 30 days the USCIS will notify you that they have received the case. Keep those notifications for future reference. They may also send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) if they require more information. Please provide any additional requested information as fast as possible to minimize the processing time on your case.
Step 2 – Form DS-160 and Interview
Your fiancé is still abroad in a foreign country. They need to complete an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160). The USCIS will notify them about an interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in their country of residence. They need to provide the confirmation page of their successful Form DS-160 application. The sponsored fiancé also needs to bring along a copy of the information used to file Form I-129F.
The officer presiding over the case will either decide on the same day of the interview or the day after whether your application is successful. So make sure you have all the required proof and supporting documents at your interview and prepare well for the interview by studying some of the possible K1 visa interview questions.
Step 3 – U.S. Entry and Marriage
You have 4 months to go to the U.S. after the visa is approved. Your 90-day period in which you have to get married starts as soon as you arrive. Note the K1 visa does not allow for a transfer of status to any other nonimmigrant visas like H1B or F. It is only after you get married that you can start the process called Adjustment of Status.
How Much Does a K1 Visa Cost?
The Form 129F has a filing fee of $535. At your visa interview, you’ll also need to pay the visa fee of $265. So the official filing fees require a total of $800. This does not, however, take into account the medical examination costs or any other expenses you need to cover in pursuit of your K1 visa.
K1 Visa Processing Time?
It takes about 30 days for the USCIS to note the acceptance of your initial Form I-129F. After this, it may take an additional 6-9 months before they process it (not including the extra time added if they issue a Request for Evidence). It is only after this period that the foreign fiancé can start the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application process. This process can take anything from 4 to 6 weeks, from application acceptance to the request for an interview at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Keep in mind these processing times are based on the average case without any issues. So it can take anything from 10 months to over a year for you to get a K1 visa.
Can a K1 Visa Holder Transition to a Green Card?
Your next question is probably what do you do once you’ve married your U.S. citizen spouse? What immigration documentation will allow you to stay and work in the U.S. with them?
After your wedding, you can apply for a marriage-based Green Card. Best of all, your kids (dependent minors under the age of 21) on a K2 visa will also enjoy the benefits of permanent residency through your marriage-based Green Card. A foreign spouse who is already married to a U.S. citizen can move here on a K3 visa whilst they are in the process of applying for a marriage-based Green Card.
- Everything You Need to Know About the K1 Visa Interview Questions
- K2 Visas: The Complete Guide
- How to Apply for K1 Visa Adjustment of Status
- What Is the Minimum Income Requirement for a Fiance Visa?
- The Complete Guide to K3 Visas
You probably can’t wait anymore! The only thing standing between you and your big day is getting the right to be in the U.S. with your fiancé. Follow the above guidelines and apply for your K1 visa today. You’ll be one step closer to your dream wedding!