K1 Visas Explained: Eligibility, Application, and Processing Time

Updated on April 10, 2024

The K1 visa, also known as the fiancé(e) visa, is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage. This visa type has gained popularity among international couples who wish to build a life together in the U.S.

30 Second Recap:

The K1 visa allows the foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. for the purpose of marriage. The couple must meet eligibility requirements, including having met in person and having a bona fide intention to marry. The application process involves filing forms, paying fees, and attending an interview. The processing time can take 6 to 9 months, and the total cost includes various fees. After marriage, the foreign spouse may apply for a green card. The process can be lengthy and challenging, but offers a path to unity for international couples.

K1 Visas Explained

The K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé(e) visa, is a special nonimmigrant visa granted by the United States to the foreign fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens. It permits these foreign nationals to enter the U.S. with the specific intention of marrying their U.S. citizen partners within 90 days of their arrival.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for a K1 visa, the couple must meet the following requirements:

  1. The U.S. citizen sponsor must have met the foreign fiancé(e) in person at least once within the last two years of filing the petition unless the meeting would violate strict and long-established customs of the foreign culture or social practice, or cause extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen sponsor.
  2. The couple must have a bona fide intention to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s admission into the United States.
  3. Both parties must be legally free to marry and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.

For a comprehensive look at the K1 visa eligibility requirements, check out this guide.

Remember that even if you are eligible to file a K-1 visa, it doesn’t guarantee that K-1 visa will be approved. In 2023, 24% of the K-1 visa applications were declined.

What is the application process for K-1 visa?

The K1 visa application process involves three main steps:

Step 1: Form I-129F

The U.S. citizen sponsor initiates the process by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form proves the validity of the relationship. The following documents must be included:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (passport copy, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate)
  • A copy of the foreign fiancé(e)’s passport
  • Evidence proving the relationship is real (pictures together, travel itineraries, letters from family and friends, emails, or text messages)
  • Proof of having met in person at least once within the last two years (flight bookings, hotel itineraries, pictures, emails, etc.)
  • Sworn statements from each partner explaining the nature of the relationship and intent to marry within 90 days of arrival in the U.S.
  • A copy of all previously issued Form I-94 arrival/departure records for the sponsored fiancé(e)
  • One passport-style photo of each partner

Providing evidence of meeting in person, sharing a journey, and building a life together is important. It’s possible that meeting in person is limited but there is evidence of constant communication e.g. messaging on apps like Whatsapp, emails, video calls using FaceTime or Skype. These logs help substantiate the length and depth of the relationship.

USCIS will send a receipt notice within 30 days and may request additional evidence if needed. Once approved, USCIS will send an approval notice.

Step 2: Form DS-160 and Interview

After I-129F approval, the case is forwarded to the U.S. Department of State. The sponsored fiancé(e) will receive a notice from the U.S. Embassy in their home country with interview details and required documents.

The sponsored fiancé(e) must complete the online DS-160 form (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and submit the following documents:

  • Two passport-style photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Valid, unexpired passport
  • Police clearance from all countries of residence of more than six months since age 16
  • Sealed medical exam form from a State Department-authorized physician

The U.S. citizen sponsor must provide:

For a complete list of all the K1 visa required documents, check out this guide.

The K1 visa interview takes place at the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate 4-6 weeks after the initial notice. The interviewing officer typically makes a decision the same day or shortly after. If you’re getting ready for your K1 visa interview. check out this guide to the K1 Visa Interview Questions

Step 3: Arrival and Marriage

If K-1 visa is approved, the sponsored fiancé(e) has six months from the I-129F approval date to travel to the U.S. At this point, the K1 visa holder can start enjoying the benefits of their status, such as K1 visa health insurance. The couple must marry within 90 days of arrival, or the sponsored fiancé(e) must leave the country. After marriage, the couple applies for a marriage-based green card.

What is the processing time for K-1 visas?

The processing time for a K1 visa can vary depending on the workload of USCIS and the U.S. embassy or consulate. On average, the entire process can take 6 to 9 months from the time the U.S. citizen sponsor files the initial I-129F petition to the time the foreign fiancé(e) receives the K1 visa.

The USCIS processing time for Form I-129F is typically between 5 to 7 months. After approval, the case is sent to the NVC, which can take several weeks to process before forwarding it to the U.S. embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate then schedules an interview, which can take several more weeks depending on the location and demand.

To learn how to check the status of a K1 visa application, check out this guide.

How much does it cost to get K-1 visa?

The total cost of a K1 visa (explained in more detail here) can vary but typically includes the following fees:

  1. Form I-129F filing fee: $535
  2. Nonimmigrant visa application fee (DS-160): $265
  3. Medical examination fees: Varies by country and medical facility
  4. Travel expenses for the interview: Varies by location

In addition to these fees, the U.S. citizen sponsor must also provide evidence of sufficient income or assets to support the foreign fiancé(e) upon their arrival in the United States. If you use a lawyer to help with the application and filing, there could be additional fees. The lawyer cost to help with K-1 visa varies from $500 – $2,000.

To learn more about the minimum income required for a Fiancé Visa, check out this guide.

K-2 Visas and K-3 Visa

The K-2 and K-3 visa categories are designed for the children of K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders and the spouses of U.S. citizens, respectively, allowing them to enter and reside in the United States. For both visa types, if the primary U.S. citizen sponsor does not meet the financial requirements alone, a joint sponsor can provide an affidavit of support.

In the case of K-2 visas, the joint sponsor helps ensure that the children accompanying or following to join the K-1 applicant will not become public charges.

For K-3 visas, the joint sponsor guarantees financial support for the spouse of the U.S. citizen, filling out an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134 for K-3) to prove they can meet or exceed the income requirements set by the U.S. government, ensuring the K-3 visa holder is adequately supported financially during their stay.

K1 Visa Joint Sponsorship

Joint K-1 visa sponsorship occurs when the primary sponsor (usually the U.S. citizen fiancé(e) petitioning for their foreign fiancé(e) to come to the United States on a K-1 visa) does not meet the income requirements alone and needs another person to guarantee financial support for the visa applicant. This additional person, known as the joint sponsor, must fill out an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134) and demonstrate that they meet the financial criteria to support the K-1 visa holder, ensuring that the visa holder will not become a public charge while in the U.S. The joint sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and must meet the same income requirements as the primary sponsor.

Challenges and Considerations

While the K1 visa offers a pathway to unity for international couples, it also presents some challenges:

  1. The process can be lengthy, with wait times varying based on the backlog of applications and the workload of the USCIS and U.S. embassy or consulate.
  2. The foreign fiancé(e) is not allowed to work in the U.S. until they receive employment authorization after marrying the U.S. citizen sponsor and applying for adjustment of status.
  3. The couple must carefully document their relationship and provide evidence of their bona fide intention to marry to avoid suspicion of visa fraud.

Despite these challenges, the K1 visa remains a popular choice for international couples committed to building a life together in the United States.

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Frank Gogol

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.

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