Marriage Is A Big Step . . .
Especially When You Live In Different Countries
Often, our clients are citizens who want to immigrate and bring the person they love to live with them in the United States. A fiancé visa is frequently their best solution.
- Maybe you’re a U.S. citizen engaged to your future wife whom you met during your vacation in another country.
- Perhaps while you were working overseas, you feel in love with and already married the woman of your dreams.
- Or your future spouse has children from a previous marriage and you want to raise them as part of your family unit.
What Is A Fiancé Visa?
A fiancé visa, also known as a K-1 visa, is a visa issued to a foreign-born fiancé to enter the United States for 90 days for the purpose of marrying a U.S. citizen. If the marriage does not occur within that time period, the immigrant fiancé must leave the country.
The rules for K-1 visas apply equally to fiancés and fiancées. For the sake of simplicity, we primarily use fiancé on this page.
Both fiancé and fiancée are French words. The two words confuse many English speakers.
- Fiancé (with one “e”) is a man who is engaged to be married.
- Fiancée (with two “e’s”) is a woman who is engaged to be married.
Thus, the K-1 rules discussed here apply equally to both males and females engaged to be married.
What Are The Requirements For Fiancé K-1 Visas?
As noted earlier, a fiancé visa allows U.S. citizens to bring their future spouses, who live in another country, into the United States in order for the couple to get married. Here is a brief summary of how you qualify for a fiancé visa.
- 1. You Must Be A U.S. Citizen
- 2. You And Your Fiancé Must Intend To Get Married Within 90 Days
- 3. You Must Have Met With Your Fiancé Within The Past Two Years
- 4. You And Your Fiancé Must Be Lawfully Eligible To Marry
- 5. You Must Meet The Minimum Income Requirements
- 6. Your Fiancé Must Not Fall Into Any Of The Inadmissibility Categories
1. You Must Be A U.S. Citizen
Whether you were born in the U.S. or obtained your citizenship through the naturalization, derivation, or acquisition process, you are eligible to immigrant your future spouse through the fiancé visa process.
If you are only a permanent resident, you do not qualify to use the fiancé visa process.
2. You And Your Fiancé Must Intend To Get Married Within 90 Days
Once your fiancé enters the U.S., you and your fiancé have 90 days to marry and apply for permanent residency.
This means, to qualify for the K-1 visa, you need to show you have made some marriage plans. Since you do not know exactly when the visa will be approved, some of the details will not be specific.
However, letters from companies which cater weddings, print shops which produce wedding invitations, and halls which host wedding receptions can help prove your seriousness.
Notarized letters from you and your fiancé are also helpful.
3. You Must Have Met With Your Fiancé Within The Past Two Years
Nowadays, many couples meet over the internet. If this is the case, you need to arrange to meet with your loved one prior to filing immigration documents.
Again, the government requires firm evidence of this meeting. Items which are useful to show such a meeting actually took place include:
- Hotel and lodging receipts
- Airplane tickets, receipts, and departure/landing schedules
- Copies of your passport with stamps showing entries and exits
- Credit card statements showing payments
- Photos taken together during your visit
- Restaurant, transportation, parking tickets, and similar items
In some limited situations, you may be excused from this requirement. For example, in some cultures, a husband and wife cannot meet before their marriage date. Or perhaps a medical or physical condition prevents you from traveling abroad.
4. You And Your Fiancé Must Be Lawfully Eligible To Marry
Here are the most common stumbling blocks:
- You or your fiancé is under 18 years old.
- You or your fiancé has been previously married
- You and your fiancé are related by blood
5. You Must Meet The Minimum Income Requirements
You must agree to be your fiancé’s financial sponsor. If you do not meet the government’s income requirements, you can ask a relative or friend to serve as your fiancé’s financial co-sponsor.
6. Your Fiancé Must Not Fall Into Any Of The Inadmissibility Categories
The inadmissibility list includes certain diseases, criminal convictions, memberships in certain organizations, past history of immigration fraud, living unlawfully in the U.S., and drug trafficking.
The Future Of Fiancé Visas In 2022
Under President Biden
On April 8, 2021, The Department of State announced that the processing of fiancé visa petitions will be fully resumed. K-1 applicants will no longer be restricted from obtaining visas and entering the United States.
This ends a four year effort to dismantle family immigration programs under the pejorative guise of eliminating illegitimate chain migration schemes.
Like other immigration measures, during the Trump Administration, fiancé visas started to come under attack. Stricter requirements and tighter evaluations were imposed on those who applied for such visas.
In 2020, due to the combination of COVID-19 and the immigrant ban measures enacted by the Trump Administration, the number of K-1 approvals suffered a sharp decline.
Official totals for 2020 and 2021 have not been released in full yet. The preliminary numbers are far lower than in years past.
Despite the steep drop in approvals, the same 15 countries appear to top the list.
With the election of Joe Biden to the presidency, it is anticipated the fiancé visas program will be restored to its former limits. The April 8, 2021 DOS announcement was a step in this direction.
K-1 Visa Approvals By Country
Over the past decade, the 15 countries with the largest amount of fiance visa approvals has remained relatively consistent. Their annual totals have fluctuated, and their yearly rankings have varied only slightly.
- Philippine Islands
- United Kingdom
- Dominican Repubic
In 2019, a total of 35,881 K-1 visas were approved.
To date, the full 2020 and 2021 figures have not been published.
K-1 Visas Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. I Am Going To Marry A Person Who Lives In Another Country. I Also Want To Sponsor Her For A Green Card. Does It Matter Where We Get Married?
- 2. Can My Fiancé Visit Me In The U.S. While Our Case Is Pending?
- 3. How Long Does The K-1 Fiancé Visa Process Take?
- 4. Which Way Is Faster To Allow Us To Live Together In The United States – A Fiancé Visa Or An Immigrant Marriage Petition?
- 5. How Long Is The K-1 Visa Valid For? How Long After Approval Can My Fiancé Stay In Her Country Before Moving To The U.S.?
- 6. What Types Of Questions Will We Be Asked At Our K-1 Visa Consulate Interview?
- 7. After My Fiancé Arrives In The United States, Can We Delay The Marriage Date?
- 8. After We Get Married, Does My Fiancé-Turned-Spouse Automatically Become A Citizen?
- 9. What Is Conditional Permanent Residency?
- 10. What If My Spouse And I Separate After Our Marriage?
- 11. What Would Happen If I Pass Away Before My Fiancé Becomes A Permanent Resident?
- 12. What Happens If My Fiancé And I Do Not Get Married After She Enters The U.S.?
- 13. What Is The Best Path To Winning A Green Card For My Future Spouse: A Marriage Visa Or A Fiancé Visa?
- 14. What Happens If My K-1 Fiancé Visa Application Is Denied?
- 15. What Happens If I Brought A Previous Fiancé To The United States On A K-1 Visa, But We Didn’t Get Married? She Returned To Her Country. Can I Sponsor A New Fiancé Who Lives Abroad?
1. I Am Going To Marry A Person Who Lives In Another Country. I Also Want To Sponsor Her For A Green Card. Does It Matter Where We Get Married?
If you want to get married in the United States, you will need to file a K-1 fiancé visa for your future spouse. If you want to marry in the home country of your fiancée, you will need to file an immigrant relative I-130 petition.
There is another possibility. Your fiancé could enter the U.S. on a visitor (B-2) visa, and then you can marry here. In this case, your fiancé must return home after the marriage. However, there is a danger in the latter option, as explained in the next question.
2. Can My Fiancé Visit Me In The U.S. While Our Case Is Pending?
Technically, yes. However, this is an ill-advised action.
Once you file for a fiancé visa, it will be difficult for your future spouse to obtain a visitor’s visa. Most immigration officers will review the tourist visa request with skepticism.
Because the K-1 petition has been filed, it is obvious the immigrant plans to move to and live in the United States. They may doubt the immigrant’s sincerity to return home within the allotted six-month visa period.
Aware of this likelihood, some immigrant fiancés fail to mention or downplay the K-1 visa application when seeking to visit their future spouse. This can lead to a denial. When the fiancé visa interview is later scheduled, the denial may be an issue based on the incomplete information given earlier.
On the other hand, if the tourist visa is granted, some immigrants decide they want to stay in the U.S. rather than return home. The couple gets married. Then, the immigrant seeks green card status as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, perhaps immediately, perhaps several years afterwards. Even if this sequence of actions was not planned in advance, many officers are going to doubt the immigrant’s true intentions at the time of entry and suspect visa fraud.
Patience is warranted in such situations. It’s legally prudent for the U.S. spouse to travel abroad if the couple wants to spend time together during the waiting period.
3. How Long Does The K-1 Fiancé Visa Process Take?
There is no one timeline to fit all cases. Some cases move faster, some cases move slower. It depends on the complexity and circumstances of your case. The more complicated your situation, the more issues for review, the more evidence is required, leading to a slower process.
Any time estimate begins when the application is submitted. How long it takes to prepare a thorough packet of supporting documents is dependent on the couple’s ability to gather the evidence necessary for success. Once this packet is completed, it’s time to move on to the submission process.
In the relatively recent past, once the fiancé visa I-129F petition was filed by the U.S. citizen fiancé, it was fair to estimate a 6 – 10 months from submission to decision. Under the current administration, all bets are off. Every type of immigration application is taking longer than ever before, due to heightened government review.
There are three key steps in the K-1 process. First, there is the review by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) review of the I-129F petition. This is normally the slowest part, taking nowadays up to 12 months or longer.
Once the petition is approved, the second step begins. The petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) which processes the petition and forwards it to the U.S. Embassy office that will schedule the interview with the immigrant fiancé. The NVC generally completes its processing in about 2 – 3 months.
During the third step, delays often occur again due to a heavy workload at certain consulate offices. The Embassy part of the process usually took another 2 – 3 months. In recent months, this step is also taking more time. Thus, it is now reasonable to anticipate a process that may last 12 – 18 months from submission of the visa petition to the K-1 decision.
The graph below illustrates the fiancé visa process in a visual format.
4. Which Way Is Faster To Allow Us To Live Together In The United States – A Fiancé Visa Or An Immigrant Marriage Petition?
There is no clear answer. For couples living in different countries, both approaches require consulate processing of your application. The time it takes to process any petition in such matters vary from case-to-case, country-to-country.
Yet, a fiancé visa is often quicker to process than an application for an immigrant visa. Here’s why. Even though the USCIS approval of I-129F fiancé visa petitions usually takes slightly longer than the approval of I-130 family-based spousal petitions, the processing with consular offices for family relative petitions involve several extra procedures that require several more months than for fiancé visa petitions.
5. How Long Is The K-1 Visa Valid For? How Long After Approval Can My Fiancé Stay In Her Country Before Moving To The U.S.?
The K-1 visa is valid for six months after approval. This means your fiancé must travel to the United States before the six month period expires.
As a result, since you are required to get married within 90 days of arrival, your marriage must occur no later than 90 days after your visa is approved.
To prevent any problems, it is preferable to travel and marry as soon as possible after the fiancé visa is approved.
6. What Types Of Questions Will We Be Asked At Our K-1 Visa Consulate Interview?
There are two keys to a successful interview. First, be sure to bring the original copies of the documents you have provided the government as part of your K-1 application – items like photographs, travel, hotel, and airline receipts, police clearance certificates, birth and divorce documents, medical exams, financial statements, email and telephone records, as well as your engagement rings, and the like. Be prepared to show such documents if you’re asked a question that pertains to such evidence.
Second, be prepared to respond to wide variety of inquiries, ranging from how the two of you met, to whether you have been introduced to each other’s family, to work and career plans after marriage. Almost no question is out of bounds. The interview is intended only for the foreign fiancé. Even though the U.S. citizen may attend with his or her spouse-to-be for moral support, it is the foreign fiancé who is the subject of the interview and must address the questions asked.
For a list of potential questions, see this article on essential tips for K-1 fiancé visa interview success.
Just keep in mind that the government’s goal is to weed out the bad apples, to detect and reject fraudulent petitions. Keep your nerves under control and you’ll do great.
7. After My Fiancé Arrives In The United States, Can We Delay The Marriage Date?
Once your fiancé arrives, you have 90 days to get married. If this does not happen, your fiancé must return to his or her home country. You cannot delay marriage past that period.
At that point, if your fiancé remains in the U.S., he or she will be considered an “overstay” living in the United States unlawfully.
8. After We Get Married, Does My Fiancé-Turned-Spouse Automatically Become A Citizen?
No. As a U.S. citizen, you cannot transfer your citizenship to your new spouse. But you can file documents seeking lawful permanent resident status for him or her.
As soon as you get married, your immigrant fiancé-turned-spouse can immediately apply for a green card. Or more precisely, the day after the certificate of marriage is received.
Do not miss this step. Many citizens think that once their fiancé enters the United States, the fiancé automatically becomes a permanent resident or a citizen. The failure to take appropriate actions after marriage can lead to disastrous consequences for the immigrant spouse, including deportation.
Due to the necessity to file for permanent residence soon after marriage, most immigrant fiancés-turned-spouses will only be granted conditional permanent residency.
Three years after green card status is granted, assuming the marriage has remained intact, the immigrant is entitled to seek naturalized citizenship.
9. What Is Conditional Permanent Residency?
If your fiancé is granted a green card before your second year of marriage, she will be deemed to have conditional permanent resident status. This status last two years, during which time she will have the same rights of a regular green card holder. She can work, go to school, and even travel outside the country.
At the end of the two years, you have to again prove that your relationship is authentic and seek to remove the conditions on her permanent resident status. This requires the filing of a I-751 Petition To Remove Conditions On Residence. You and your spouse are required to file this petition jointly.
10. What If My Spouse And I Separate After Our Marriage?
If you separate after your spouse receives permanent resident status, she retains her green card status.
On the other hand, if you separate before she receives permanent resident status, she will need to request a waiver that allows her to file to remove the conditions alone. The request must show the existence of a divorce, extreme hardship, or domestic violence.
Because she entered the country via a K-1 visa and the marriage lasted less than two years, immigration authorities will seek strong evidence showing that your marriage was legitimate and in good faith. These situations are closely reviewed for possible immigration fraud.
If she is unable to overcome the government’s suspicions, she will be instructed to leave the country within 30 days or face removal proceedings.
For a thorough discussion on this issue, see Can A Separated Immigrant Spouse Remove The Conditions On Her Green Card Without A Joint Petition?
11. What Would Happen If I Pass Away Before My Fiancé Becomes A Permanent Resident?
As long as you and your fiancé were able to marry within 90 days of her arrival in the U.S., she will be allowed to file the I-485 form required to adjust her status to residency. Once the two of you tie the knot, she is a spouse of a U.S. citizen and can rely on the provisions of the Widow Petition law to remain in the country.
If you were to pass away before getting married, she will be out of luck.
12. What Happens If My Fiancé And I Do Not Get Married After She Enters The U.S.?
She will need to return to her country of origin within 90 days of her arrival to avoid negative consequences.
When an immigrant enters on a K-1 fiancé visa, she is not allowed to marry a different person and seek adjustment of status to permanent residence through that spouse. In fact, she is barred from winning a green card through any other program.
Further, if she does not depart timely, her failure may constitute a serious immigration violation if she ever wants to return to the United States.
It is not uncommon for such actions to undermine subsequent efforts to win permanent residence through a new K-1 visa application or other immigration program.
13. What Is The Best Path To Winning A Green Card For My Future Spouse: A Marriage Visa Or A Fiancé Visa?
Quite often, we’re asked by couples who want to spend their lives together, “What is the best path to permanent residency for my spouse?”
- Sometimes the couple is already married, other times they’re planning to get married.
- Sometimes the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen, other times a permanent resident.
- Sometimes the immigrant lives in the U.S., other times in their home country.
Each answer leads to a potentially different course of action which the couple can take.
You may want to read this article, Fiancé Visa vs Marriage Visa: Which Path Should You Choose. It not only discusses how this decision varies from couple-to-couple, but also provides insights to help you find the best route for you and your soon-to-be-spouse.
14. What Happens If My K-1 Fiancé Visa Application Is Denied?
If your K-1 visa is denied, you have three options:
- You can file to appeal the denial
- You can start over and file a new fiancé visa petition
- You can get married and file an I-130 marriage-based petition
Filing an appeal is not possible in all cases involving a K-1 visa denial. Because consular officers have nearly exclusive authority, there is no appellate process for reversing such determinations. (However, an advisory opinion seeking a review of the legal issues may be requested.)
K-1 cases are sometimes returned to USCIS for further processing, which is followed by an adverse decision. In these situations, you can challenge the denial by filing either a motion to reopen, a motion to reconsider, or a combined motion to reopen and reconsider.
Motions to reopen are based on factual grounds. In the K-1 context, these motions are centered upon new or omitted evidence. On the other hand, motions to reconsider are based on legal grounds. They focus on errors of law, policy, or procedure.
Starting over and filing a new fiancé visa petition is another possibility. The primary benefit to this approach is that you know what went wrong with your first attempt. You’ll be able to correct such missteps with the new filing.
The third option is that you can travel to your fiancé’s home country and get married over then. Then you can file an I-130 immigrant relative petition for your spouse, bypassing the K-1 visa process altogether.
15. What Happens If I Brought A Previous Fiancé To The United States On A K-1 Visa, But We Didn’t Get Married? She Returned To Her Country. Can I Sponsor A New Fiancé Who Lives Abroad?
You can only file a K-1 fiancé visa one time in a two-year period.
So if it has been more than two years since your previous K-1 visa was filed, you are okay.
If it has been less than two years, you will need a waiver. In this situation, it is often easier just to get married and file a spousal visa instead of waiting and hoping for a waiver which may not be granted.
Also, you can only file two K-1 visa petitions in your lifetime without getting a waiver. It is simpler, again, to get married and file a marriage-based petition. No limitation applies to how many spousal visas you are allowed to file.
K-2 Visas: Minor Children Of Your Fiancé
If your fiancé has children born in another country, even if they are not your biological children, they may be able to join your fiancé on a K-2 visa.
The children must be under the age of 21 and unmarried. 5,201 K-2 visas were approved in 2019.
To qualify, they must go through the same process as your fiancé. In addition, you must be able to financially sponsor them, as well as your fiancé.
K-3 And K-4 Visas Nearing Their End
Historically, the K-3 and K-4 visas were helpful due to the long waiting times before your I-130 petition was approved. In recent years, as the time it takes for the I-130 approval has greatly shortened, the need to file K-3 and K-4 visas has become rare and may soon be phased out. Only 5 K-3 visas were issued in 2019. No K-4 visas were approved.
K-3 Visas: Marriage Visas
If you are a U.S. citizen and already married to someone living in another country, you can apply for a K-3 visa. These visas permit your wife or husband to enter and reside in the U.S. until the immigration process is complete.
K-4 Visas: Minor Children Of Your Spouse
K-4 visas are similar to K-2 visas. If your spouse has children born in another country, even if they are not your biological children, they may be able to join you and your spouse. The children must be under the age of 21 and unmarried.
To qualify, they must go through the same process as your fiancé. In addition, you must be able to financially sponsor them, as well as your spouse.
Nationwide And Worldwide Fiancé Visa Services For Clients Living Abroad
We offer a hybrid of traditional and modern legal services for clients worldwide.
We have physical offices to meet face-to-face in various cities throughout Southern California for clients who would like to work with us in a traditional manner.
Even though these brick-and-mortar offices are located in the Inland Empire Region – covering all of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties – our services for K-1 visa applicants help clients on a national and global basis.
Over two decades ago, long before COVID-19 increased awareness about working with clients long distance, we developed innovative immigration virtual law services to assist fiancés, spouses, and other family members living abroad.
By using traditional communications like e-mail, telephone, U.S. mail and fax — as well as advanced technology such as video-conferencing and online client files – we are able to assist you and your family wherever you live, with the same ease as if you lived next door.
In short, this approach allows our immigration offices to help your family, even if divided by state and national boundaries, in an efficient and cost-cutting manner.
So why wait any longer?
Ready to take a serious and honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of your immigration case? Let’s get started with a personalized strategy and planning consultation . . .