For many couples planning to unite in marriage but who reside in separate countries, the fiancé visa is a legal bridge they must cross before starting their life together in the United States.
However, as a fiance visa lawyer, I have seen firsthand how navigating the K-1 process can be confusing for U.S. citizens and their soon-to-be spouses born abroad.
To minimize such uncertainty, you will find 15 frequently asked questions about the K-1 visa process, which clients often ask below. Our goal is to help ensure your love journey ends in success, with the person you love here in the United States.
A Short Guide To K-1 Fiance Visas
Table Of Contents
- 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?
- Can My Fiancé Visit Me In The U.S. While Our Case Is Pending?
- How Long Does The K-1 Fiancé Visa Process Take?
- Which Way Is Faster To Allow Us To Live Together In The United States – A Fiancé Visa Or An Immigrant Marriage Petition?
- 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.?
- What Types Of Questions Will We Be Asked At Our K-1 Visa Consulate Interview?
- After My Fiancé Arrives In The United States, Can We Delay The Marriage Date?
- After We Get Married, Does My Fiancé-Turned-Spouse Automatically Become A Citizen?
- What Is Conditional Permanent Residency?
- What If My Spouse And I Separate After Our Marriage?
- What Would Happen If I Pass Away Before My Fiancé Becomes A Permanent Resident?
- What Happens If My Fiance And I Do Not Get Married After She Enters The U.S.?
- What Is The Best Path To Winning A Green Card For My Future Spouse: A Marriage Visa Or A Fiancé Visa?
- What Happens If My K-1 Fiance Visa Application Is Denied?
- 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?
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 intend 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.
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 fiances 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.
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 fiance 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.
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.
However, a fiancé visa is often quicker to reach the stage where the love of your life can enter the United States. 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 subsequent processing with consular offices for spousal green cards involve extra procedures. Thus, completing this aspect of the green card process requires several more months, making the waiting time involved longer than that for K-! visas.
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.
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.
In short, you must demonstrate that you are committed to a bona fide marriage.
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.
Once your fiance 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.
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 fiance 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.
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.
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 government suspicions that the promise of marrige was fraudulent, 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?
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.
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 fiance 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.
Under K-1 visa law, when an immigrant is pledged to a future mate, he or she can only immigrate via matrimony to that specific person.
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.
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.
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 fiance 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 fiance’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.
You can only file a K-1 fiance 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.
If you’re thinking about bringing your fiancé to the United States, and you’re serious about discovering how to win a K-1 visa . . .
Let’s schedule your Strategy And Planning Session today.