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K-1 Fiancé(e)Visa: Five Things You Must Know

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If you are a U.S. citizen, engaged to be married to a foreign national, there is much more to the process of bringing them to the United States than having a plan to say “I do.” Here are the essentials you need to know if your fiancé(e) is to join you in the United States. He or she will need to enter the country on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa

Who Can Apply for a K-1 Visa?

If you want to bring your fiancé(e)to the United States, you must meet four criteria:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen;
  • You must marry each other within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States on the K-1 visa;
  • You and your fiancé(e) must both be legally free to marry; if either of you had been previously married, that marriage must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment;
  • Within the two-year period prior to filing the petition for the K-1 visa, you and your fiancé(e)must have met in person at least one time.

The requirement of the in-person meeting may be waived under some circumstances. You may qualify for a waiver if you can show that meeting in person would violate “strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice” or that the meeting requirement would have caused you (the U.S. citizen) extreme hardship.

What is the Process for Applying for a K-1 Visa?

The first step is for the U.S citizen to file a Form 1-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)). United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review your petition. They may ask for additional documentation in order to recognize the relationship between you and your fiancé(e). If the petition is approved, USCIS forwards the approved form to the DOS National Visa Center (NVC).

The next step is for the NVC to send the approved petition to the U.S. Embassy or consulate where your fiancé(e) plans to apply for a K-1 visa. Typically, this will be the Embassy or consulate in their home country. The Embassy or consulate will schedule a visa interview for your fiancé(e) and will notify you. Your fiancé(e) will appear for the interview and bring supporting documents. During the interview, an officer will determine whether your fiancé(e) meets the requirements for the K-1 visa. If the requirements are met, a visa, valid for up to six months for a single entry, will be issued. (If not, the petition will be returned to USCIS. You can, if necessary, file a new form I-129F at a later date.)

If your fiancé(e) is issued a K-1 visa, they will travel to the United States and be inspected at a point of entry. It is important to remember that no visa, including a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, guarantees admission to the United States. If your fiancé(e) is admitted, you must marry within 90 days, after which time your new spouse can apply for a green card.

What Happens If We Don’t Marry Within 90 Days?

If you and your fiancé(e) have not married within 90 days after their entry into the United States, their K-1 nonimmigrant status automatically expires. This status cannot be extended, and your fiancé(e) will need to leave the country. If they fail to do so, they could risk deportation and jeopardize their ability to immigrate to the U.S. in the future.

If you marry outside the 90 period, you can file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). If that petition is approved, your spouse may then apply for a green card.

Can My Fiancé(e)’s Child Come to the United States With Them?

Your fiancé(e)’s child may be eligible to come to the United States with their parent, but they will have to enter on a K-2 nonimmigrant visa for children of K-1 visa holders. In order for the child to obtain a K-2 visa, their name must be included as a child of the fiancé(e) on the Form 1-129F.

To qualify, the child must be under the age of 21 and unmarried (and must remain so at the time of entry into the United States). The child may travel to the United States with your fiancé(e) or within one year from the date the visa is issued. They may not enter the country prior to your fiance.

If you and your fiancé(e) marry within the 90 day required time period, the child may apply for a green card.

Can My Fiancé(e) Work in the U.S. on a K-1 Visa?

Yes, your fiancé(e) is eligible to apply for work authorization. They must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Work authorization is valid for 90 days after entry into the United States on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. However, after your marriage, they can apply for employment authorization at the same time they apply for a green card; that work authorization is valid for one year, and may be extended a year at a time.

The help of an experienced immigration attorney can make the process of applying for a visa for a fiancé(e) much easier. If you have more questions about the K-1 nonimmigrant fiancé(e) visa, please contact our law office.

Categories: Immigration Law