Marriage-based immigration can be complicated when the U.S. citizen’s fiancé is not currently in the United States and does not have a valid visa. The K-1“ fiancé visa” simplifies the process by providing a window during which the fiancé of a U.S. citizen may travel to the United States for the purpose of getting married.
It is important to note, though, that the K-1 “fiancé visa” isn’t a substitute for a marriage-based or other type of visa. A K-1 visa is not intended to allow the fiancé of a U.S. citizen to live in the U.S. without actually getting married, and is strictly time-limited. A K-1 visa automatically expires after 90 days and cannot be renewed. The K-1 visa holder who does not marry within the 90-day period and overstays his or her visa is subject to removal from the country and may face limitations on future immigration options.
The Fiancé Visa Process
The petition for a K-1 fiancé visa is initiated by the U.S. citizen. The process begins with the filing of Form I-129F. The petitioner must establish that:
- He or she plans to marry the applicant within 90 days of the fiance’s admission to the United States
- Both the U.S. citizen and the applicant fiancé are legally free to marry
- The couple has met in person at least once in the two years preceding the filing of the petition
The third requirement may be waived on the basis of longstanding cultural or social practice, or if the couple can establish that enforcing the requirement would cause extreme hardship.
The investigation that follows is similar to that associated with marriage-based immigration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will investigate both the citizen and the applicant fiancé, and the petitioning citizen must submit proof that the relationship is authentic. When the petition has been approved, the non-citizen fiancé must schedule an appointment with the appropriate embassy or consulate, submit a visa application, and provide other supporting documents.
After the K-1 Visa is Issued
Once the fiancé visa is issued, the would-be bride or groom is free to travel to the United States for the purpose of marrying. However, the marriage must take place within 90 days of admission.
Since the approval timeline for a K-1 visa is somewhat unpredictable, it may be difficult for the couple to plan a large wedding. In order to comply with the 90-day restriction, it may be necessary to schedule a small ceremony to formalize the marriage promptly.
After the marriage, the non-citizen spouse may apply for a green card. Generally, he or she will be issued a conditional green card, which is valid for two years. Assuming that the foreign spouse is deemed eligible for permanent residence and the couple doesn’t make any mistakes or overlook any obligations in the process, the spouses may jointly petition to remove conditions near the end of the two-year period.
When the couple petitions to remove conditions, additional investigation is likely, and may include:
- Additional interviews with the couple and/or witnesses to the relationship
- Fingerprint collection and additional background checks
- Further investigation or requests for additional information
Seek Assistance with the K-1 Fiancé Visa Process
Small oversights and technical errors may result in significant delays in the visa process. When you’re planning a marriage, the last thing you want is to see your future spouse’s arrival delayed by months—or more—due to avoidable errors. Working with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney can help you avoid pitfalls and keep the fiancé visa application process moving forward efficiently.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation