United States citizens who wish to bring a foreign fiancé to the United States must go through an extensive immigration process with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Both the United States citizen and his or her foreign fiancé will not only submit numerous forms and supporting documentation but also appear for interviews.
Bringing a foreign fiancé to the United States for purposes of getting married in the United States requires that the foreign fiancé obtain a K-1 fiancé visa. One of the most common questions asked by both United States citizens and their foreign-born fiancé is how long the entire process will take from the time the initial petition/application is submitted to USCIS to the time the foreign fiancé receives the visa at a United States consulate.
The time it takes to obtain a fiancé visa will be dependent on numerous factors, many of which are unique to each couple. While couples are free to complete USCIS petitions and applications without the assistance of a legal professional, doing so runs the risk of making critical mistakes that amy result in the need to re-file the required forms.
Brief Overview of the K-1 Fiancé Visa
The K-1 fiancé visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the fiancé of a United States citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of marrying the United States citizen. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to individuals who do not intend to stay in the United States permanently. The fiancé visa is a temporary visa that expires within 90 days after entering the United States.
As such, the United States citizen and foreign fiancé must get married within 90 days and must also apply to adjust status within this timeframe. Failure to marry within 90 days results in the expiration of the fiancé visa. If the fiancé remains in the United States without marrying, he or she is in violation of immigration laws and subject to removal/deportation.
Step-by-Step Process and K-1 Fiancé Visa Timeline
The total time it takes to obtain a fiancé visa can be well over one year, and in some cases, two years or more, from the time initial paperwork is filed to the time a foreign fiancé receives the visa at a United States consulate. The key steps to obtaining the K-1 fiancé visa include the following:
- Filing of I-129F – Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with USCIS, which must be filed and submitted by the United States citizen who wishes to bring his/her foreign fiancé to the United States;
- USCIS processing and approval of Form I-129F;
- USCIS submission of the approved Form I-129F to the National Visa Center (NVC);
- NVC provides case number and sends the approved Form I-129F along with the case number to a United States consulate;
- Foreign fiancé appears at United States consulate for an interview, bringing supporting documentation to demonstrate the validity of the engagement to a United States citizen;
- If the interview and supporting documentation are sufficient to demonstrate the legitimacy of the engagement, the foreign fiancé is issued a K-1 fiancé visa;
- Foreign fiancé enters the United States lawfully with the K-1 fiancé visa;
- The United States citizen and foreign fiancé get married within 90 days before the expiration of the K-1 visa; and
- The newly married foreign spouse applies to adjust status to USCIS to establish permanent residency and obtain a green card (a separate process that has its own steps and timeline).
Current Processing Times for the K-1 Fiancé Visa
As of April 2021, it takes approximately 8 months for USCIS to process Form I-129F – Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), which is the first step to obtaining the K-1 fiancé visa. However, the process could last up to two years or longer, depending on what USCIS office is handling the petition, whether the petition has any errors, or whether the petition lacks supporting documentation.
The time it takes from USCIS approval of Form I-129F to the time a visa is ultimately issued to the foreign fiancé at a United States consulate is typically a few months, but as with the processing of the initial Form I-129F, the timeline could be longer for some applicants.
One small error can slow down the entire process, so the timeline is often case-specific. Individuals who work with immigration lawyers can significantly reduce the chances that errors will slow down the process. Making mistakes on complicated USCIS forms is not uncommon, but with the help of a legal professional, such errors are often avoided.
In total, a foreign fiancé may wait as little as one year to receive a K-1 visa from the time the I-129F petition is filed. However, a more realistic timeline for most applicants is well over one year. One question that many couples have is whether it is quicker to obtain a marriage-based visa to enter the United States or obtain the K-1 fiancé visa.
Overall, current processing times for marriage-based visas are essentially the same as that of K-1 fiancé visas. As such, whether to choose entry into the United States based on marriage or with a temporary nonimmigrant visa, such as the K-1 visa, is a matter that should be discussed alongside a qualified K-1 visa lawyer.
Contact Sam Shihab & Associates Today to Discuss Your Visa Options
If you would like more information on the K-1 fiancé visa, including the timeline from start to finish, contact the Columbus immigration lawyers of Sam Shihab &Associates today. Our skilled legal team can provide you with a thorough consultation to determine what legal options are available to you and your fiancé.
At Sam Shihab & Associates, we have office locations in Columbus and Dublin, Ohio, and Michigan, and Texas and provide legal representation to clients nationwide. Our lawyers are equipped to handle immigration matters across the United States and are known for providing superior legal representation to clients.
To find out how we may be able to help you, contact our office today by calling (866) 665-0001 or by completing a form on our website.