Often referred to as the great melting pot, the United States is seen as a fusion of nationalities. As many as 20% of all married couples in the U.S. have at least one foreign-born spouse. Foreign nationals have multiple ways to legally live in the U.S. when sponsored by a family member who is a citizen.
A K-1 visa, also called a fiance visa, is issued to a fiance of a United States citizen. It grants an immigrant lawful entry into the country to marry the U.S. citizen petitioner. Eligibility requirements, fees, and time limits apply, and you’ll need to know them before filing the K-1.
How Does a Fiance Visa Work?
A United States citizen who wishes to bring a foreign fiance into the country to get married needs to petition for a fiance visa. The first step is to file a Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e). If your fiance is granted a K-1 visa, you must get married within 90 days of their entry to the United States.
If you marry your fiance within 90 days of being admitted to the U.S., the next step is to sponsor your spouse for a permanent resident card, also called a green card. This will allow your spouse to live and work in the United States as you two build your life together.
Who Is Eligible for a Fiance Visa?
A K-1 visa will allow you to bring your foreign spouse to the United States. However, you must meet eligibility requirements. You may apply for a fiance visa if:
- The sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen
- The sponsoring spouse meets the income requirements
- Both partners are free to marry
- The couple has met in person within the last two years
You will need supporting documents to prove the legitimacy of your relationship. This includes photographs, letters, and your wedding plans. You will also need to provide a signed statement declaring your intention to get married within 90 days of your fiance’s arrival to the U.S.
What About Same-Sex Couples?
Same-sex marriage has been legal in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court voided all state bans on June 26, 2015. Whether or not your fiance’s country of origin allows same-sex marriage, U.S. fiance visas are available to same-sex couples.
Who Cannot Apply for a Fiance Visa?
Not everyone will qualify for a fiance visa. You are not eligible to apply for a fiance visa if:
- The sponsoring spouse is a green card holder
- Your fiance lives in the U.S.
- You two are already married
- You plan to get married in your fiance’s home country
Applying for a Fiance Visa
There are three main steps to securing a fiance visa for legal entry into the United States: filing Form I-129F, filing Form DS-160, and an in-person interview. Each step requires specific documentation. If there is not enough information to make a decision, you will receive a request for evidence (RFE).
The first step to obtaining a fiance visa is filing Form I-129F with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form validates your relationship and eligibility for a fiance visa. Be sure to include evidence such as:
- Proof of the sponsor’s U.S. citizenship
- A copy of the foreign fiance’s passport
- Photos or other proof of a relationship
- Evidence of an in-person meeting in the last two years
- A written statement from both parties stating their intent to marry within 90 days
- A passport-style photo of both parties
Form I-129F has a $535 filing fee. After your application and all required documents are received, USCIS will mail a notice of receipt within 30 days. You will receive written notification when your request has been approved.
Next, the foreign fiance completes Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, on the State Department’s website. This form applies for a K-1 visa. The following documents are required at this stage:
- Two passport-style photos of the foreign fiance
- The foreign fiance’s birth certificate
- Proof of the foreign fiance’s valid passport
- A sealed medical exam form
- A police clearance certificate that is less than six months old
- A copy of your I-129F document packet
- The U.S. citizen’s most recent tax returns
- The U.S. citizen’s Form I-134, affidavit of support
Form DS-160 requires applicants to pay a $265 visa fee. After submitting the form, print the confirmation page.
The next step towards obtaining a fiance visa is an interview conducted by the U.S. Department of State. The foreign fiance will be notified of the date, time, and the U.S. embassy in their home country where they will attend an interview. The U.S. Department of State will provide a list of documents to bring to the interview.
After a Fiance Visa Is Issued
Once your fiance visa application has been approved, the sponsored fiance is issued a visa to enter the United States. This visa is valid for up to six months after the date it is issued. You must get married within 90 days or the K-1 visa becomes null and void.
After getting married, you may apply for a green card by filing Form I-485, Adjustment of Status. This requests permanent residency so your spouse may live and work in the United States indefinitely.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Fiance Visa?
From start to finish, it can take about a year to get a fiance visa. Processing times may vary. Errors, conflicting information, or missing documents resulting in a request for evidence may delay your application process.
It can take up to five weeks for your Form DS-160 to process. USCIS may take up to 10 months to process your Form I-129F application. It may be another six weeks before USCIS sends an interview request at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Your petition for a fiance visa may be approved as soon as your interview is complete or soon after.
How Much Does a Fiance Visa Cost?
In total, you can expect a fiance visa application to cost about $2,025. However, additional fees may apply. Between filing fees, the medical exam, and legal counsel, the entire process of applying for a fiance visa can cost up to $5,000.
What if a Foreign Fiance Has Children?
Unmarried children under age 21 may accompany a parent traveling to the United States on a fiance visa. The only requirement is that they be legally recognized as the petitioner’s children. Children of an alien fiance may enter the U.S. on a K-2 visa. Children eligible for a K-2 visa include:
- Children parented together with the sponsoring U.S. citizen
- Children from a previous relationship
- Children born out of wedlock
- Adopted children
You can file for a K-2 visa concurrently with a fiance visa. When filing Form I-129F, include the names of any children in Part 2. Extra sets of forms required for the K-2 visa will be sent.
What if You Don’t Get Married?
If for whatever reason, you do not marry your fiance within the allotted 90-day period, your fiance will need to leave the country immediately when the K-1 visa expires. Any dependants will also lose their visa status and have to leave the country.
A fiance visa cannot be extended beyond 90 days, nor can it be renewed. A foreign national who enters the U.S. on a K-1 visa cannot convert to another visa. They also cannot obtain a green card through marriage after marrying anyone other than their approved U.S. citizen sponsor.