Fiancé(e) Visa Lawyer

Family Immigration

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    K-1 Visa in General

    K-1 Visa in General The K-1 Visa, often referred to as a Fiancé visa, allows a foreign fiancé of a U.S. citizen to come to the United States as long as both the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé intend and in fact do get married within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival to the United States. Only U.S. citizens can petition for a K-1 Visa for their fiancés.
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    K-1 Visa in General

    The K-1 Visa, often referred to as a Fiancé visa, allows a foreign fiancé of a U.S. citizen to come to the United States as long as both the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé intend and in fact do get married within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival to the United States. Only U.S. citizens can petition for a K-1 Visa for their fiancés.

    The general process for obtaining a K-1 Visa for your fiancé is outlined below:

    1. You Petition for Your Fiancé by Submitting Form I-129F. The first step in the process is submitting a Form I-129F to USCIS. This form is your request to the U.S. government for your fiancé to receive their K-1 Visa and be allowed to enter the United States with the intention of getting married within 90 days.

      Along with the Form I-129F, USCIS requires both the petitioner and the beneficiary (foreign fiancé) provide certain documentation. Evidence that the petitioner is a U.S. citizen is required to be submitted with the form, as well as biographical information and evidence of the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary. Once USCIS approves the I-129F petition, your fiancé must apply for their K-1 Visa at the U.S. consulate in their country. This next step is often referred to as “consular processing.”

    2. Your Fiancé Goes Through Consular Processing. Once you and your fiancé’s I-129F has been approved, your fiancé must apply for their K-1 Visa at their U.S. consulate. This includes filing an online nonimmigrant visa application, the DS-160, through the U.S. Department of State.

      The U.S. Consulate will then request that your fiancé attend a consular interview. At this interview, your fiancé can expect an official to ask questions pertaining to your relationship, confirm your intent to marry, and ensure that your relationship is legitimate. If all goes well, your fiancé will be issued their K-1 Visa and be allowed to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married.

    3. Your Fiancé Enters the U.S.

      Once your fiancé uses their K-1 Visa to enter the United States, the countdown begins, and you and your fiancé must get married within 90 days of their arrival to the U.S. If you do not get married within the 90-day timeframe, your fiancé’s visa will expire, and they must leave the U.S. immediately. K-1 Visas are not eligible for a change of status to another temporary visa, nor can they be extended. Because the only way to adjust status after receiving a K-1 Visa is to get married, it is important to get married in the 90-day time frame, or your fiancé must leave the U.S.

    4. Marriage-Based Adjustment of Status

      Congratulations! After you and your fiancé get married, your spouse is now eligible for a marriage-based adjustment of status. After your spouse has filed their adjustment of status application, USCIS may schedule an interview with both you and your spouse to again ensure the legitimacy of your relationship. After the completion of a successful interview, USCIS will send your spouse’s green card through the mail. Your spouse is now a permanent resident of the United States!



    K-1 Visa Requirements

    To help determine whether you and your fiancé qualify for a K-1 Visa, consider the following requirements below: 

    • Meet-in-Person Requirement

      You and your fiancé must have met each other in the past two years in person. There are some very limited exceptions to the meet-in-person requirement. The law allows for a waiver of this requirement if meeting in person would violate cultural or religious traditions or if meeting would be an extreme hardship for the U.S. petitioner. If it is possible to meet in person prior to filing your petition, that is the best course of action. 

    • U.S. Citizen Petitioner and Foreign-Born Fiancé Living Abroad

      You, as the petitioner, must be a U.S. citizen. Further, your foreign fiancé must be living abroad (not in the U.S.). If your fiancé is in the U.S., a fiancé visa is not appropriate. 

    • No Serious Criminal Convictions

      Your foreign fiancé cannot have any serious criminal convictions that would render them inadmissible to the United States. 

    • Legally Able to Enter into Marriage

      Both you and your fiancé must be legally able to enter a marriage at the time your petition is filed. This means that if either of you have been married before, you must be able to show that the prior marriage has legally ended. 

    • Ability to Get Married within 90 Days

      Finally, you and your fiancé must intend and have the ability to get married within 90 days of your fiancé’s arrival into the United States. If you have not gotten married by the 90-day mark, then your fiancé must immediately leave the country as their K-1 Visa is no longer valid. 

    If you and your fiancé meet all the above requirements, then you may qualify for a K-1 Visa! 



    What is the 90-day rule? 

    The 90-day rule states that once a K-1 Visa Holder arrives in the United States, they have 90 days to get married to the U.S. citizen who petition for their visa. The 90 days cannot be extended, nor can the K-1 visa be changed into another temporary visa. Further, the K-1 Visa holder must marry the person who petitioned for their visa—so a K-1 Visa holder cannot marry another U.S. citizen to get around this requirement. 

    Documents Required for K-1 Visa Petition

    Quite a bit of documentation is necessary for your K-1 Visa petition. It may seem overwhelming, but every document serves as a piece of evidence for USCIS. Below is a general list of what kind of evidence is necessary for your petition and what types of documents will suffice as evidence. These can all be submitted in copy form.  For the U.S. Citizen Petitioner, you will need: 
    • Evidence of your U.S. Citizenship
      • Sufficient documents: 
        • U.S. Birth Certificate
        • Naturalization or Citizenship Certificate 
        • Current U.S. Passport 
    • Evidence that any prior marriages have ended (If Applicable) 
      • Sufficient documents
        • Divorce Decree
        • Annulment Order
        • Death Certificate
    • Two Passport style photos

    For the Foreign Fiancé, you will need:

    • Two Passport Style Photos 
    • Evidence that any prior marriages have ended (If Applicable) 
      • Sufficient documents: 
        • Divorce Decree
        • Annulment Order
        • Death Certificate
    • Current passport

    From both, you will need: 

    • Signed Statements of Intent to Marry
    • Documentation of upcoming wedding plans (If Applicable)
    • Evidence that you have met in person in the past two years 
      • Sufficient documents: 
        • Photos
        • Correspondence (Email, text, phone, etc.)
        • Travel itineraries 
    • Evidence of your legitimate relationship
      • Sufficient documents: 
        • Photos 
        • Correspondence (Email, text, phone, etc.)
        • Statements from friends and family
        • Etc. 


    How Long does it take to get a K-1 Visa? 

    Because petitioning, applying for, and receiving a K-1 Visa is a multistep process, and the timing can vary during each step, it is difficult to know exactly how long it will take to receive your K-1 Visa and when you can travel to the United States. 

    Typically, you can expect to wait around six months for your petition, Form I-129F, to be reviewed and approved by USCIS. However, approval of your petition is only the first step in the process of obtaining a K-1 Visa. Once your I-129F is approved, it takes about a month (or more) for the National Visa Center to contact your fiancé’s local consulate. The timing for your consulate to schedule an interview with your fiancé can vary greatly. Because of ever-changing political circumstances across the world, waiting times at your closest consulate can vary greatly. 



    Preparing for the Interview

    The K-1 Visa interview may seem like a daunting step in the process of obtaining your visa. However, as long as you are prepared there should be nothing to worry about. After your I-29F has been approved and you have filed your Form DS-160, the Department of State will schedule your interview at the nearest U.S. Consulate. The purpose of the interview is to ensure the validity of your relationship. Only the foreign fiancé will attend this interview. 

    Make sure to bring your DS-160 confirmation page, your current passport, your birth certificate, your medical exam, your affidavit of support (Form I-134), two passport style photos, and any evidence you have showing the legitimacy of your relationship to your interview. 

    During the interview, the officer will ask questions to help them determine the legitimacy of your relationship. Be prepared to explain how you and your fiancé met, your first dates, when you got engaged and how long you’ve been engaged, and what your plans for married life are. It is very important not to lie during the interview. If all goes well, the officer will approve your K-1 Visa and you will soon be on your way to the U.S. to get married! 



    Cost of a K-1 Visa

    Immigration to the U.S. is not cheap. The filing fee for Form I-129F, the first step in the process, is $535. The next step, filing the DS-160, costs $265. The cost of the medical exam varies by provider, however, be prepared to spend a several hundred dollars for that, as well. There are other miscellaneous fees that can vary—like the cost of getting passport style photos, vaccination fees, travel expenses, etc. Therefore, it is important to be financially prepared for this process. 

    Finally, once you are in the U.S. and married, the filing fees for your adjustment of status application are $1,140, plus a biometrics fee of $85. 



    What’s the difference between a K-1 Visa and a K-3 Visa? 

    A K-3 Visa allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. while waiting for their green card. The couple must be married, and the U.S. based petitioner must be a U.S. citizen, not a legal permanent resident. However, K-3 Visas are rarely used due to their longer processing times and redundancy. The spouse of a U.S. citizen is eligible for a CR-1 Visa, which is obtained by filing a Form I-130 Petition, and CR-1 Visas tend to have faster processing times than K-3 Visas. 

    The process of obtaining a K-3 Visa is essentially the same as obtaining K-1 Visa. The major differences are that there is no filing fee associated with the petition for a K-3 Visa, the couple must be married, not engaged, and the longer processing times. 



    What is the Meet in Person Requirement and How Can I get it Waived? 

    Generally, you and your fiancé must have met in person in the two years prior to you filing your petition. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is if meeting in person would violate strict and long-established social, cultural, or religious norms. The second is if meeting in person would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. petitioner. The first exception can be established easily—however, the second exception is much broader and more difficult to prove. 

    It is up to USCIS’s discretion to grant a waiver of the meet in person requirement. Further, the extreme hardship the petitioner would face if forced to meet in person must be properly and adequately documented. This can be difficult. For example, in June 2021, the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS denied the appeal of a petitioner who claimed he would face extreme hardship if required to meet his fiancé in person. 

    The petitioner claimed that meeting this requirement would cause extreme hardship because he is blind and that he would be arrested in Iran for failing to serve in their military. USCIS denied his appeal because the petition failed to adequately support these claims would result in extreme hardship. The petitioner did not provide evidence to USCIS that being blind limited his ability to travel, nor did he provide support for his claims that he would be arrested for not serving in the Iranian military. Finally, the petitioner ignored or failed to provide evidence that meeting in a third country would result in extreme hardship. 

    This administrative decision is a great example of how difficult it can be to prove the extreme hardship waiver to the meet in person requirement. Not only does the petitioner have to face extreme hardship if forced to meet in person, but they also must be able to thoroughly document that extreme hardship. Finally, there can be no other feasible alternatives for that extreme hardship to satisfy the waiver requirement. Even if you can meet all the requirements for the waiver, it is still up to USCIS’s discretion to grant the waiver. Therefore, if meeting in person is at all feasible, it is best do so. 



    Criminal Convictions that Can Cause Issues 

    Certain criminal convictions cause one to become inadmissible to the United States. Before the K-1 applicant can schedule their consulate interview, they must submit a police certificate from every place you have lived for more than six months. This is to show USCIS that you are not inadmissible to the United States due to criminal charges.

    You can find out how to request police certificates from different countries at this Department of State site. In general, crimes involving “moral turpitude” or crimes involving theft can amount to inadmissibility. Please seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney if you have criminal charges that may cause issues with your fiancé visa. 

    Further, there are certain convictions a U.S. petitioner may have that can disqualify them from petitioning for their foreign fiancé. In general, any offenses against a minor will automatically disqualify one from being able to petition for their fiancé. However, there are other criminal convictions that, while not automatically disqualifying, will likely lead to challenges to your petition. Domestic violence charges can be problematic for a petitioner. If the petitioner has a history of domestic violence, those convictions may alert USCIS to a potential pattern of behavior. 



    How do I gather evidence of the termination of my previous marriage?

    If either you or your foreign fiancé has been married previously, you must show proof that that marriage has ended when filing your fiancé petition. The evidence showing the termination of your prior marriage varies depending on how your prior marriage ended. If your marriage ended because your spouse passed away, then a copy of their death certificate is sufficient evidence to show that your marriage has ended. If your prior marriage ended in divorce, then a copy of your divorce decree will suffice. 

    Obtaining a copy of your divorce decree or a copy of a death certificate differs depending on the location. Usually, states in the U.S. have a vital records office where birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees can be obtained. For those looking for copies of divorce decrees or other similar documents abroad, there should be a civil registrar where those documents can be found. 



    Should I get a Fiancé Visa or a Spousal Visa?

    There are several main differences between the fiancé and the spousal visas. A fiancé visa allows your fiancé to come to the U.S. before you get married—meaning one benefit is the ability to hold your wedding in the United States. If that is one of your goals, then a fiancé visa may be the better fit for you. Further, a fiancé visa typically has a shorter processing time than a spousal visa. So, if time is of the essence, a fiancé visa might be a better fit as well. 

    However, if getting married as soon as possible is your main goal and you do not mind getting married outside of the U.S., then a spousal visa may be a good option. The spousal visa also costs slightly less—about $800 less. So, if cost is a concern, this may be the better visa option. 

    If you are still unsure which past is the best fit for you, contact the attorneys at Sam Shihab & Associates, and we will help you decide the best path forward for you and your fiancé! 

    STEP 1: Petition for Your Fiancé(e)

    The first step of the fiancé(e) process is to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). Like the I-130 petition for a spouse, you will be expected to submit documentation as to the legitimacy of your relationship. Further, you will have to confirm your intent to marry once your fiancé(e) arrives in the United States. Once the I-129F petition is approved, your fiancé(e) will be able to apply for the K-1 visa.

    Remember that an approved petition is valid for four months, during which time your fiancé(e) must apply for the K-1 visa. Also, an approved petition only gives your fiancé(e) permission to secure their K-1 visa. An approved K-1 (fiancé(e) visa) petition does not confer any immigration status or benefit.

    STEP 2: Consular Processing

    After an approved petition, all fiancé(e)s must then go through a process called “Consular Processing” which means they will apply for the K-1 visa at a U.S. consulate in their home country. They will need to file form DS-160: Online Non-immigrant Visa Application

    As part of the process, the foreign national fiancé(e) will need to attend an interview during which a consular official will question your fiancé(e) to confirm their intent to marry you in the United States as well as the legitimacy of the relationship.

    To be eligible for the visa, these three criteria must be met:

      1. The petitioner (person applying) must be a U.S. citizen. 
      2. The foreign national fiancé(e) wishes to enter the U.S. only for the purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen.
      3. The marriage must take place within 90 days of the foreign national’s entry to the U.S. 

    In addition, before you apply for the K-1 fiancé(e) visa, you and your fiancé(e) must have met in person within the two years prior to filing the visa petition. There are limited situations in which this requirement is waived, therefore please discuss your individual case with an experience immigration attorney.

    Failure to comply with this requirement can result in unlawful entry and subsequent denial of naturalization. The law firm of Sam Shihab & Associates is experienced to guide you through the K-1 fiancé(e) visa process.

    It is vital to plan ahead and make sure you are applying with plenty of time before your marriage ceremony, since the fiancé(e) visa timeline can range from 6-18 months depending on many factors including the country of residence of your fiancé(e).  

    For more details around qualifications for the fiancé(e) visa, please refer to our blog Fiancé Visa: Before You Say “I Do.”

    STEP 3: Entrance to the U.S.

    Once a fiancé visa is approved, your intended spouse will be issued a short term (90 day) visa to enter the United States.  Once they arrive in the United States, they will be required to marry you within 90 days.

    There is no requirement for the kind of wedding ceremony you must have. The main point to consider is that you need to be legally married within 90 days of the arrival of your fiancé(e) to the U.S. This is usually done via a small civil ceremony conducted by a government official. Due to the unpredictable timing and processing of the visa, it may be difficult to plan a large ceremony ahead of time.

    STEP 4: Adjustment of Status

    After you are married your spouse will then be required to file for Adjustment of Status in the United States. During this interview, a USCIS officer will interview you and your spouse to confirm the legitimacy of your marriage. 

    After a successful Adjustment of Status interview, your spouse will receive their green card in the mail in a few weeks. 

    A Note About Conditional Permanent Residency

    If you and your spouse are married for less than two years at the time the green card is issued (a certainty in a fiancé(e) visa case), your spouse will be given a “conditional” green card with a two-year duration.  

    In the 90 days before the conditional green card is set to expire you will be required to file a “Removal of Conditions” application. During this process, which may include another interview, USCIS will once again evaluate your marriage to confirm it is legitimate.

    The reasoning behind the conditional green card, as well as the multiple interviews, is that the government is concerned with marriage fraud. Individuals have been known to marry a U.S. citizen for the sole purpose of securing a green card.  

    A skilled immigration lawyer can help you identify any issues in your case that might create a concern about marriage fraud and help you to address them before they become a bigger problem.

    Read more about the Fiance Visa from USCIS here.

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    How We Can Help

    The attorneys of Sam Shihab & Associates have helped many families navigate the complexities of the U.S. immigration process. Please call or email us for a free consultation with an experience family-based immigration attorney and learn more about the process of petitioning for your foreign-born fiancé. 

    Our immigration attorneys will review your forms and applications for thoroughness and accuracy. Immigration laws will continually change, but an experienced immigration attorney will always be able to give you the most up-to-date immigration advice you need.

    We have offices in Dublin and Columbus, OhioMichigan, and Texas. But our full suite of immigration law services is available to clients nationwide and even around the world.

    Contact us today!