Getting engaged is an exciting time, full of possibility and joy. Congratulations on finding the person who makes your heart sing! But while you are sharing the happy news with family and friends, don’t forget about an important process to help you bring your fiancé(e) to the U.S. for your big day.
If you are a U.S. citizen and your fiancé(e) is a foreign national living in another country, you must obtain a fiancé visa (formally known as the “K-1 visa”) to allow your partner to enter the U.S.
This is a two-step process that involves first getting an approved K-1 petition and then getting a K-1 nonimmigrant visa for temporary travel to the U.S. The K-1 petition is basically permission to apply for the actual K-1 visa.
Are You and Your Fiancé Visa Eligible?
Three criteria must be met to be eligible to apply for the fiancé visa:
- The petitioner (person applying) must be a U.S. citizen.
- The foreign national fiancé wishes to enter the U.S. only for the purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen.
- The marriage must take place within 90 days of the foreign national’s entry to the U.S.
Any minor children of the fiancé may accompany their parent to the U.S.
Before you apply for the K-1 fiancé 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 visa process.
What are the Fiancé Visa Requirements?
The U.S. citizen must file a fiancé visa form I-129F along with any supporting documentation and fees with the USCIS. The petition must be filed in the U.S. and approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Along with this application, you must meet certain fiancé visa requirements, which include proving that:
- Both partners have a bona fide (meaning “real” or “genuine”) intent to marry within 90 days of the fiancé’s entry to the U.S.
- There are no legal impediments to your future marriage. Some legal impediments can include age, marital status (cannot already be married), mental capacity, and blood relation between the parties.
- NOTE: Same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states in 2015, therefore gender is no longer a barrier to a legal marriage.
You will also need to provide any documentation of a criminal record, if applicable to your individual case. The USCIS may disclose to the beneficiary the petitioner’s criminal history involving violence or sex offenses.
Steps After K-1 Petition Approval
After you meet the fiancé visa requirement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your K-1 visa petition and sends it to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
An approved K-1 petition is valid for four months. Remember, that an approved K-1 petition only gives your fiancé permission to secure their K-1 visa. An approved K-1 (fiancé visa) petition is not the same as getting the K-1 fiancé visa.
Therefore, during this time, the foreign national fiancé must file a visa application (Form DS-160) with the U.S. embassy or consulate closest to where they live. This nonimmigrant visa, if approved, will allow the fiancé to travel to the U.S. for the marriage ceremony. As you may have concluded, the fiancé visa timeline can range from 6-18 months depending on many factors including the country of residence of your fiancé.
A benefit of an approved K-1 petition is that it can be re-validated every four months by the consular officer. This allows the foreign national fiancé time to file the nonimmigrant visa application along with any supporting documentation, pay the appropriate fee, and attend the in-person interview.
It is the responsibility of the fiancé to schedule their own interview. The U.S. embassy or consulate will not schedule an interview for them.
After the K-1 Fiancé Visa is Secured
Congratulations! Your fiancé(e) is now eligible to travel to the U.S. for your marriage ceremony, which must take place within 90 days of their arrival. Also, keep in mind that the K-1 visa stamp is valid for six months. Therefore, your fiancé(e) has six months after receiving the K-1 visa to come to the U.S.
We completely understand that this process can seem complicated and difficult to navigate. Planning a wedding is already a stressful time, without the added pressure of figuring out the fiancé visa process. Let our experienced Columbus immigration attorneys at Sam Shihab & Associates help you make this process easier. Contact us today!