The K-1 visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their fiancé to come to the United States. Both partners must have the intention to get married within 90 days after the sponsored fiancé arrives in the United States from abroad.
Specific requirements include:
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It takes 6-9 months (7 months on average) for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process Form I-129F (technically called the “Petition for Alien Fiancé”), and an additional 4-6 weeks for the agency to send an interview request at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The first step for an eligible couple is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to file Form I-129F with USCIS. The primary purpose of this form is to prove the validity of the relationship.
The following supporting documents should be attached to the completed form as evidence:
The government’s required fee for Form I-129F is $535. After the form and supporting documents are filed at the appropriate address, USCIS will typically send a receipt notice within 30 days. USCIS may also send a Request for Evidence (RFE), if they need more information. Once the Form I-129F is approved, USCIS will send an approval notice.
At this point, USCIS hands off the case to the U.S. Department of State. Within about 30 days after the the I-129F fiancé sponsorship form is approved, the sponsored fiancé will receive a notice from the U.S. embassy in their home country, including the date and location of their visa interview and a list of required documents.
Next, the sponsored fiancé must complete the State Department’s online DS-160 form (technically called the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application”). This is the actual K-1 visa application, and it’s very important to print the confirmation page once the form has been submitted online.
The State Department then requires the following documents:
The visa interview takes place at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the sponsored fiancé’s home country, usually about 4–6 weeks after the embassy’s initial notice. The visa fee of $265 is usually paid at the interview—but it’s important to review specific instructions regarding time and place of payment, included in the embassy’s interview notice, which can vary by home country.
The interviewing officer will typically make a decision on the case either the same day of the interview or shortly afterward. If they need additional evidence, they will request that it be submitted directly to the U.S. consulate.
Once requirements are met and the K-1 visa is approved, the sponsored fiancé is given a total of six months from the date of approval of the initial I-129F form to travel to the United States.
Upon arrival, the couple must get married within 90 days, or the sponsored fiancé will lose their K-1 status. If the couple decides not to get married, the sponsored partner will not be eligible to remain in the United States and is required to leave the country right away.
Unlike other visas, the K-1 does not allow for a change to another temporary visa (F-1, H-1B, etc.). It’s also forbidden to “adjust status” from a K-1 visa to a green card based on marriage to anyone other than the original U.S. citizen sponsor. The sole purpose of the K-1 visa is for the sponsored fiancé to enter the United States to join the sponsoring fiancé and get married within 90 days.
Of course, after getting married, the final step is to apply for a marriage-based green card, which will be sponsored by the same partner who originally sponsored the K-1 fiancé visa.