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 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 the requirements.
- 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 K-1 Fiancé Visas
As part of the Trump Administration’s cutbacks on family immigration – under the guise of chain migration – the fiancé visas program started to come under attack.
Stricter requirements and tighter evaluations were imposed on those who apply for fiancé visas. As of 2019 Department of State visa statistics showed only a minor decline of approved fiancé visas.
The 2020 numbers will likely show a much larger decrease of K-1 visas, due not only to strict bans mandated under President Trump, but also to Covid-19 concerns.
Although there was a fear that fiance visas would be cut off completely under the Trump administration, the K-1 visa program should remain intact under the Biden administration. A decrease in the total number of grantees may still occur due to the worldwide pandemic.
Over the past decade, the countries with the largest number of K-1 visa applicants has been consistent.
The graph above shows the 15 countries that have produced the vast bulk of successful fiance visa candidates between 2017 and 2019.
Those nations with the highest amount of K-1 grantees, of course, are also the nations with the greatest risk of being subject to new regulations.
K-2 Visas: Your Fiancé’s Minor Children
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.
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.
Which Path Is Better: To Get A Marriage Visa Or 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.
This article, Fiancé Visa vs Marriage Visa: Which Path Should You Choose, discusses how this decision varies from couple-to-couple and provides insights to help you find the best route for you and your soon-to-be-spouse.
Frequently Asked K-1 Visa Questions
I am going to marry a person who lives in another country. I also want to sponsor him 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.
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.
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.
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.
What types of questions will we be asked at our K-1 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.
The government’s goal is to weed out the bad apples, to detect and reject fraudulent petitions. For a fairly extensive list of potential questions, see this article on eight essential tips for K-1 fiancé visa interview success.
After my fiancé arrives here, can we delay the marriage date?
No. Once your fiancé arrives, you have 90 days to get married. If this does not take place, your fiancé must return to his home country.
At that point, if your fiancé remains in the U.S., he or she will now be considered an “overstay” living in the United States unlawfully.
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.
Three years after green card status is granted, assuming the marriage has remained intact, the immigrant is entitled to seek naturalized citizenship.
K-3 And K-4 Visas Nearing The End
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.
A K-3 visa permits your wife or husband to enter and reside in the United States until the immigration process is complete.
In order for the foreign spouse of a U.S citizen to qualify for a K-3 visa, certain requirements must be met, including the following:
Certain requirements for the K-3 visa are the same as the K-1 visa:
- You Must Be A U.S. Citizen
- You Must Meet The Minimum Income Requirements
- Your Wife Must Not Fall Into Any Of The Inadmissibility Categories
A few requirements are different.
Your Marriage Must Be Genuine
Before granting a K-3 visa, the U.S. government wants to be assured your marriage is real, not a sham.
As with K-1 visas, you will need to show items such as hotel and airplane receipts showing trips taken together or visits to see each other; copies of letters, emails, and phone bills showing communications with each other; photos taken together; and, statements from relatives and friends confirming your marital relationship.
Approved I-130 Petition
An I-130 petition is an immigration application to immigrate an immigrant family member. This form is used to document your relationship as husband and wife. Once this is approved, you can proceed with filing documents to obtain your spouse’s K-3 visa.
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.
K-4 Visas: Your Spouse’s Minor Children
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 your spouse through a K-4 visa. 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
Helping bring and keep families together is the number one goal of attorney Carlos Batara’s immigration family immigration services. With roots from six different cultural lines, Carlos knows the challenges facing mixed immigration families.
As a result, Carlos has developed expertise in guiding immigrants through the K-1 fiancée visa and spousal visa processes through innovative immigration virtual law services.
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 . . .