K-1 Visa Guide: Timeline, Fees, Requirements, and More

Are you a U.S. citizen planning to marry your foreign fiancé(e) in the United States? This K1 guide can help you obtain a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, the first step toward bringing your partner to the U.S. for your wedding.

Remember that both you and your fiancé(e) must genuinely intend to marry within 90 days of their arrival in the U.S. on the K-1 visa, and the marriage must be formed with the genuine intention of building a life together, not solely for immigration purposes. 

Let’s see below some information on the K1 visa process, the fiancé visa requirements, the timeline, and more to ensure a smooth journey toward your happily ever after.

What Is a K1 Visa?

The K-1 is a special nonimmigrant visa specifically designed for the foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen who wants to enter the United States to get married. The first step to get the K-1 is for you, as the sponsor, to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with USCIS.

Suppose you and your fiancé(e) meet the eligibility requirements and successfully navigate the K1 application process. In that case, the K-1 visa allows them to travel to the U.S. and marry you within 90 days of arrival. For this reason, the K1 is also called the “fiancé visa” or the “90-day fiancé visa.”

However, you must understand that the K-1 visa is not a path to automatic permanent residency. After getting married within the 90-day window, your fiancé(e) can apply for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. It is the first step to obtaining the lawful permanent resident status (Green Card) through the marriage-based green card process.

IMPORTANT! K-1 visas are not intended for those already married, planning to marry outside the U.S., or if your fiancé(e) already has legal residency in the U.S.

When to File Your H-1B Cap-Subject Petition for the Work Visa Lottery

More than understanding the H-1B visa lottery cap, potential applicants need to understand when to file their cap-subject H-1B applications because the windows of opportunity are narrow, and the competition is fierce. So, let’s discuss H-1B timelines!

First, remember that unless the registration requirement is officially suspended, filing an H-1B petition subject to the cap, including those under the advanced degree exemption, is only possible if the named beneficiary has a valid and selected registration. In other words, you cannot proceed with the petition until your registration has been chosen through the lottery system.

As for filing, you can file your H-1B petition up to 6 months before the requested employment start date for the beneficiary. Remember, this is the maximum window; earlier submission is encouraged.

The exact filing period and location for your petition will be communicated through two channels: 

  1. H-1B Registration Selection Notice: This notice will be sent to you if your registration is selected.
  2. USCIS website: If the registration requirement is suspended, instructions will be readily available on the USCIS website.

What Is a Fiancé According to Immigration Law?

The fiancé definition under the U.S. immigration law is the foreign-citizen recipient of an approved Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) who has been subsequently issued a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. This visa grants them entry into the United States to marry their U.S. citizen petitioner.

To be recognized as a fiancé(e) for immigration purposes (inside and outside the U.S.), both parties must have been legally eligible to marry at the time of the petition’s filing and must have maintained that eligibility. Furthermore, the intended marriage must be legally valid within the jurisdiction of the U.S. state where it will occur.

If you are open to the H-1B lottery process and potentially higher competition, the H-1B lottery cap offers a broader eligibility range. However, if you qualify for a specific exemption category and prefer a potentially less competitive route, consider the regular H-1B application.

What Is the K1 Visa 2-Year Rule?

To ensure the legitimacy of your relationship with your fiancé(e), USCIS enforces a crucial K1 requirement known as the “2-year rule.”

This rule stipulates that the U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) must have met in person at least once within the two years preceding the filing of Form I-129F.

What Is the Purpose of the K1 Visa 2-year Rule?

USCIS implements this rule to help verify the good faith of the relationship between the petitioner and the fiancé(e). By requiring an in-person meeting, the agency wants to ensure you have a chance to create a solid foundation for your marriage beyond online interactions.

Are There Exceptions to the Fiancé Visa 2-year rule?

While the 2-year rule serves as a standard requirement, exceptions are available in certain situations:

  • Religious or cultural traditions: A waiver may be granted if meeting in person violates established religious or cultural practices.
  • Extreme hardship: If meeting in person poses a significant hardship to the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) (due to political instability, financial constraints, or severe health issues), a waiver request can also be submitted.

Remember that USCIS evaluates each waiver request on a case-by-case basis, considering the provided evidence and circumstances.

What Happens If You Don't Meet the K-1 2-Year Rule?

Suppose you and your fiancé(e) have not met in person within the specified timeframe but still believe your relationship is genuine. In that case, you can request a waiver along with your Form I-129F application. This waiver request should prove that an in-person meeting was difficult or impossible.

IMPORTANT! Online interactions like video chats and phone calls do not fulfill the 2-year rule requirement!

It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the 2-year rule regarding the fiancé visa and its potential exceptions before embarking on the K-1 visa journey. If you have further questions or require guidance specific to your situation, consulting immigration legal experts is always recommended.

Eligibility Criteria for the K1 Visa

Securing the K1 visa requires meeting specific eligibility criteria, which we will see below.

Fiancé Visa Requirements for the Relationship

Building a life together starts with understanding the K-1 visa requirements of the relationship between you (the petitioner) and your foreign-citizen fiancé(e) (the beneficiary).

  • Marital status: You must be legally single at the time of the application and throughout the process. Evidence of this status may include divorce decrees, annulments, or death certificates of previous spouses.
  • Relationship proof: As we mentioned, you both must provide tangible proof of a genuine relationship. The proof can include photos together, travel records demonstrating shared journeys, or communication records like emails or letters.
  • The in-person meeting requirement: You must prove you have met in person within the two years preceding the K-1 visa application.

Additional K1 Visa Requirements

The U.S. Department of State also has supplementary K1 requirements the applicant and their fiancé(e) must follow:

  • Marriage intention: Both of you must submit a signed statement expressing your honest intention to marry within 90 days of your fiancé’s arrival in the U.S. Supporting evidence like venue bookings or wedding invitations can further strengthen the application.
  • Financial sponsorship: You must meet specific income requirements based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If your income falls below the threshold, you can use a cosponsor to help.

Who Can Sponsor a K-1 Visa?

Only U.S. citizens can sponsor their foreign-citizen fiancés for a K-1 visa. In this context, green card holders (lawful permanent residents) are not eligible to be sponsors.

What Beneficiaries Can Be Sponsored for the K1?

The Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) serves as the initial step in obtaining a visa for your foreign-citizen fiancé(e) (K-1) or their children (K2) to enter the United States for marriage.

This form also applies to petitioning for your spouse and their children (K-3 and K-4 visas) if:

  • Your marriage has already occurred.
  • Your spouse already filed Form I-130 and is awaiting approval.
  • An immigrant visa is unavailable due to a visa backlog.

By filing Form I-129F with USCIS, you are initiating the process of bringing your fiancé(e) or spouse and their children to the United States to either marry or join you while their immigration status is finalized.

Affirming Equal Immigration Rights for Same-Sex Spouses and Their Children

The United States upholds the fundamental principle that all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve equal treatment and opportunities under the law. This includes the field of immigration, where significant strides have been made in recent years.

Key Points for Same-Sex Couples Getting the K-1 Visa

  • An approved Form I-130 or Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker from USCIS is required for K1 immigrant visa processing.
  • Upon receiving an approved petition, U.S. Embassy and Consulate consular officers will adjudicate (process and make decisions on) immigrant K-1 visa applications for same-sex spouses and their children.

Potential Ineligibilities for K1 Visa Applicants

It’s essential to be aware that various conditions and actions can render you, the applicant, ineligible for a K1 visa. Some common examples of such ineligibilities include:

  • Involvement in drug trafficking
  • Overstaying a previous visa
  • Submitting fraudulent documents

You will be notified promptly if the Consular Officer identifies any potential K1 ineligibility during the application process. Additionally, you will be informed of the possibility of a waiver for your specific case. The officer will provide detailed guidance if a waiver process is applicable, outlining the steps involved.

The list above doesn’t include all potential ineligibilities. Consulting with immigration lawyers can offer valuable guidance and ensure your complete understanding of the relevant regulations and potential limitations to your K-1 application.

IMPORTANT! Form I-129F is only the foundation for further proceedings on the K1 but does not guarantee visa issuance. Consulting with immigration service providers or law firms can ensure you complete the form accurately and navigate the subsequent steps effectively.

What Documents Are Needed for A Fiancé Visa?

Providing complete and accurate documentation impacts the efficiency and potential success of your K-1 visa application.

K-1 Visa Application: Required Documents for the U.S. Citizen Fiancé(e)

The following table outlines the required items for the U.S. citizen fiancé(e) to submit with Form I-129F.

Document

Proof of U.S. citizenship

Foreign fiancé(e)'s passport copy

Evidence of bona fide relationship

Proof of in-person meeting (if applicable)

Sworn statements

U.S. citizen fiancé(e)'s previous Arrival/departure records (if any)

Passport-sized photographs

Explanation

Passport, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate copy demonstrating your U.S. citizenship status.

A recent copy of your foreign fiancé(e)'s valid passport, allowing them to travel internationally.

Documentation demonstrates your relationship's genuineness with your foreign fiancé(e). This can include photos of you together, trips taken together, family and friends' written confirmation of the relationship (letters, emails), written messages between you two (letters, texts, emails), and other relevant materials.

If you and your fiancé(e) have met in person within the two years before submitting the form, provide evidence such as flight bookings, itineraries, pictures, emails, etc.

You and your fiancé(e) signed statements explaining the nature of your relationship and your intention to get married within 90 days after your foreign fiancé(e) arrives in the U.S.

Copies of all previously issued Form I-94 arrival/departure records documenting any past entries or exits from the United States.

One passport-sized photograph meets the required specifications for you and your foreign fiancé(e).

K-1 Visa Application: Required Documents for the Foreign-Fiancé(e) and Children (K-2)

Obtaining a K-1 visa involves presenting various documents at the visa interview. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the essential documents required for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) and any eligible children applying for K-2 visas:

Document

Valid passport

Birth certificate

Marriage termination documents (if applicable)

Police certificates

Medical examination

Evidence of financial support:

Two passport-sized photographs

Evidence of relationship with U.S. citizen fiancé(e):

Visa fee payment

Description

Controls the annual number of H-1B visas issued by randomly selecting petitions from a pool exceeding the available cap.

Must be valid for travel to the U.S. and have an expiry date at least six months beyond the fiancé(e) 's intended stay (exceptions might apply based on country-specific agreements).

Original copy of the fiancé(e) 's birth certificate.

Original copies of divorce or death certificates for previous spouses (the fiancé(e) 's and the U.S. citizen sponsor.

From the fiancé(e) 's current country of residence and all countries where they have lived for six months or more since turning 16. Children aged 16+ applying for K-2 visas also require police certificates from the same countries.

Get a medical examination with an authorized physician.

The consular officer may request it. This could include proof of the fiancé(e) 's financial means or an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134) submitted by the U.S. citizen fiancé(e).

Meeting the required specifications outlined by the DOS

Provide documentation demonstrating the genuineness of your relationship, such as photos, travel records, or communication records.

Pay the required visa application fee.

Notes

Allows direct application for an H-1B visa without participating in the lottery.

Ensure the passport meets the validity requirements.

Obtain these documents from the relevant authorities in each country.

The U.S. Embassy/Consulate will provide instructions on finding authorized physicians.

Consult a lawyer if unsure about financial documentation.

Consult a lawyer for guidance on suitable evidence.

Refer to the U.S. Department of State website for current fees.

Understanding Medical and Vaccination Requirements for K-1 Visa Applicants

As part of the K-1 visa application process, all beneficiaries, irrespective of age, must get a medical examination by an authorized panel physician. The medical examination typically involves a physical checkup, blood tests, and chest X-rays. This examination is mandatory to ensure public health and safety.

While getting the vaccinations required for U.S. immigrant visa applicants is not mandatory for obtaining a K-1 visa, it’s strongly recommended. The K-1 beneficiary must get vaccinated when adjusting to the permanent resident status following the marriage. Find the list of required vaccinations and more information on the U.S. Department of State website.

The K-1 Visa Processing Time: How Long Does It Take to Get a Fiancé Visa?

Since the I-129F petition is the foundation for the entire K-1 visa process, the K-1 visa timeline heavily depends on how long it takes USCIS to adjudicate Form I-129F. In turn, it is directly influenced by the completeness and accuracy of the submitted documents.

After filing your Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), expect the processing time for a K-1 visa to range from approximately 6 to 16 months. Nevertheless, as with all immigration documents, variations in the K1 visa processing time and timeline can occur, with some cases being resolved faster and others taking longer. Here’s why:

1. Form I-129F Processing Times

While the current processing time for Form I-129F is approximately 9 months, recent forecasts indicate a potential shift. Some sources suggest that newly submitted petitions could experience a significantly faster processing timeline, potentially as short as five months. You must acknowledge that these forecasts are not definitive, and the actual processing time might vary depending on various factors, like USCIS’s workload, your case’s complexity, staffing levels, and resource allocation.

2. Multiple Agencies Involved in the K-1 Adjudication Process

If you wonder how long does a K1 visa take, remember the process is not a simple, single-step affair. It involves a complex interaction between government agencies, each responsible for a specific application stage. Let’s break down the leading players and their role in the K1 adjudication:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: This is where your K1 timeline clock starts ticking. USCIS handles the initial adjudication of Form I-129F by reviewing your relationship evidence and supporting documents.
  • Department of State: Once USCIS approves your petition, your case is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), part of the DOS. The NVC prepares the case for your fiancé(e)’s visa interview and forwards it to the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  • The consular officer at the Embassy/Consulate conducts the interview and ultimately decides whether to approve the K-1 visa.

As each agency has its internal procedures and workloads, the time they take to process your K-1 case can contribute to the overall duration of the K1 visa application. Changes in workloads, staffing, or procedural updates within these agencies can all cause fluctuations in the overall processing timeline.

3. Your K-1 Application's Quality

A poorly prepared K-1 visa petition is a recipe for trouble. Incomplete applications, errors in your paperwork, or missing supporting documents not only lead to significant delays but can even result in the outright denial of your petition.

Think of it this way: incomplete or inaccurate information creates roadblocks for the government agencies reviewing your application. This forces them to pause your case and request further clarification or documentation.

Such requests prolong the review time as you gather the necessary materials, leading to frustrating delays at each process stage. Worse yet, significant inconsistencies or evidence that fails to meet the K-1 visa requirements could jeopardize your entire application, increasing the risk of denial.

IMPORTANT! The quality of your application directly influences the processing time for your K-1 visa. A well-prepared petition with complete and accurate information allows each agency to process its part efficiently, contributing to a smoother and faster K1 timeline.

Investing time and resources into ensuring your application is accurate is crucial for minimizing delays and maximizing your chances of a successful K-1 visa outcome. Consulting with immigration attorneys can offer valuable guidance and ensure your application is well-prepared, efficiently navigating you through the process.

How Much Does the K1 Visa Cost?

The K-1 visa application process involves various fees, with some mandatory and others optional. Here’s a breakdown of the current fiancé visa fees, effective April 1, 2024, to help you budget effectively.

Mandatory Government Fees Related to the K-1 Visa Application

Form

I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e))

Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160)

Cost

$675 (increased from $535)

The form is free.

Payment Method

Allows direct application for an H-1B visa without participating in the lottery.

Notes

Payment to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The visa costs $265 and is required for each K-1 visa applicant.

Additional Costs Related to Getting Your K-1 Visa

Expense Description

Medical examination

Document translation and photocopying

I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e))

Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160)

Approximate Cost

$200 (average)

Varies

Varies

Varies

Notes

Varies by provider

Depends on the number of documents and translation services needed

Fees associated with obtaining specific documents in your home country

Depends on location and travel arrangements

While the core government fees total $940 ($675 + $265), the actual cost of obtaining a K-1 visa can vary significantly depending on other factors (mentioned above). It’s essential to budget carefully and factor in potential additional expenses beyond the government fees.

The information provided solely focuses on the K-1 visa application stage. Remember, you’ll need to consider the cost of filing Form I-485 ($1,440 from April 1, 2024) later to adjust your status to permanent resident after marriage.

IMPORTANT! The cost of U.S. immigration forms and applications is subject to change. Consult the official USCIS website for the most current fee information before submitting documents to prevent delays or denials.

Consulting immigration attorneys or experts can provide personalized guidance and cost estimates based on your circumstances, so don’t hesitate to ask for help!

How to Apply for a K-1 Visa

If you embark on a K-1 journey, you must understand the step-by-step fiancé visa application guide.

Step 1: File Form I-129F

The U.S. citizen fiancé(e) files Form I-129F with USCIS. This form establishes the bona fide nature of your relationship with your foreign fiancé(e).

Required Documents with Form I-129F

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (passport copy, citizenship certificate, or birth certificate)
  • Foreign fiancé(e)’s passport copy
  • Evidence of your relationship (photos, travel itineraries, letters, emails, etc.)
  • Proof of in-person meetings within the past two years (flight bookings, hotel/trip itineraries, etc.)
  • Sworn statements from both partners explaining the relationship and intention to marry within 90 days
  • Copies of all previously issued Form I-94 arrival/departure records (sponsored fiancé(e))
  • Passport-sized photos of both partners

After filing the I-129F form, USCIS typically sends a receipt notice within 30 days. They may request additional information (RFE) if needed. Upon approval, you’ll receive an approval notice.

Step 2: Form DS-160 and Interview

Once USCIS approves Form I-129F, the case is transferred to the Department of State for further processing. Next, your fiancé(e) completes Form DS-160, the actual K-1 visa application.

Required Documents by the State Department from the Sponsored Fiancé(e)

  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Valid passport
  • Police clearances from all countries of residence exceeding six months since age 16
  • Sealed medical exam form from a State Department-authorized physician
  • Affidavit of support (Form I-134) from you – the U.S. citizen fiancé(e) – demonstrating your ability to support them financially
  • The most recent tax returns of the U.S. citizen fiancé(e)
  • Proof of relationship (copy of approved Form I-129F)

The interview takes place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the sponsored fiancé(e)’s home country, typically 4-6 weeks after the initial notice. The officer will decide on the case on the spot or shortly after.

Step 3: Visa Issuance, Fiancé(e)’s Arrival, and Marriage

Upon K-1 visa approval, the Consular Officer will return the passport containing the visa to the foreign citizen’s fiancé(e) and a sealed packet. This packet will hold the fiancé(e) submitted civil documents and additional materials prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Crucially, the fiancé(e) must not open this sealed packet. It will be opened solely by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration official upon entry into the United States.

As a K-1 visa holder, the fiancé(e) must enter the U.S. before or concurrently with any qualifying children holding K-2 visas. The K-1 visa grants eligibility to apply for a single entry at any U.S. port of entry within the visa’s validity period, a maximum of six months from the date of the K-1 visa issuance.

Then, you must marry your foreign citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days of their arrival. Failure to do so will result in losing the K-1 status and leaving the country.

Unlike other visas, the K-1 doesn’t allow changing to another visa category or adjusting status to a Green Card through anyone other than the original U.S. citizen sponsor.

Step 4: Your (Now) Spouse Applies for a Green Card

After marriage, the next step for your spouse is to submit a marriage Green Card petition sponsored by you (the U.S. citizen fiancé(e)).

Since specific requirements and procedures might vary depending on your situation, consulting with immigration service providers or lawyers is always recommended.

Can the U.S. DOS Deny a K1 Visa Application?

The K-1 process is complex, so, unfortunately, denial is possible. Here are some of the most common reasons for K-1 visa denial:

  • Insufficient evidence of a genuine relationship
  • No proof of a meeting in person
  • Ineligibility to marry (existing marriages are not officially dissolved)
  • You (the sponsor) don’t meet the income requirements
  • Failure to show readiness to marry within 90 days
  • Administrative errors, missing documents, misrepresenting information, late filing, or incorrect fees.

What to Do If the DOS Denies the K1 Visa

You must consult an immigration lawyer. They can help you understand the reason for denial and explore options like a motion to reopen or reconsider the application.

How to Increase Your Chances of K1 Approval

  • Gather all necessary documents and keep copies (applies to both K1 visa parties).
  • Be honest and avoid misrepresenting any information (applies to both K1 visa parties).
  • Prepare thoroughly for the K1 interview and arrive on time (applies to the foreign citizen fiancé(e)).
  • Meet deadlines and pay fees accurately (applies to both K1 visa parties).
  • Consider working with an immigration lawyer for guidance and assistance (applies to both K1 visa parties).

By taking these steps and demonstrating a genuine relationship, you can boost your chances of going through the K-1 visa application and starting a life together in the United States.

Start Your K-1 (Error-Free) Visa Application Today!

ImmigrationDirect helps you reunite with your fiancé(e) worry-free! Our user-friendly online software helps avoid K-1 visa application mistakes, provides personalized filling tips, and increases your chances of approval. Don’t delay; build your future together now!

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