Understanding The K-1 Visa

by | Jan 12, 2021 | Immigration, K-1 Visa

The K-1 visa process is quite lengthy, intricate and might seem overwhelming. The following details of  the eligibility criteria, visa timeline, associated costs, documents required, and the steps involved can make the process easier to understand and less confusing.

Eligibility Criteria

A K-1 visa enables a US citizen to sponsor their fiancé’s entry into the country. After the sponsored fiancé arrives in the United States from abroad, both partners must intend to marry within 90 days from the fiancé’s date of arrival.

Some of the specific requirements to be eligible for a K-1 visa are as follows:

  • The sponsoring partner must be a citizen of the United States. Green card holders (permanent residents) in the United States are not allowed to sponsor a K-1 visa for a fiancé.
  • Both partners must be legally allowed to marry, which means they must be single. Any past divorce judgments, annulments, or death certificates must be presented as proof showing that any previous marriages were ended.
  • Same-sex partners are also eligible to apply for a K-1 visa, even if same-sex marriage is not recognized in the fiancé’s country. It is recognized and legal in the United States and the sponsoring partner can apply for a same-sex partner’s visa.
  • The partners must be able to prove that their relationship is legitimate. They can supply photographs, itineraries of trips taken together as a couple, written declarations from friends or coworkers, letters or emails exchanged between the partners as proof.
  • The partners must prove that they have met in-person at least once during the two years preceding the K-1 visa application. Exceptional circumstances such as when in-person would break cultural, religious, or societal norms will be considered. Documents used for evidence may include dated images, airline tickets, hotel bookings, or completed trip itineraries.
  • Each partner must produce a signed declaration declaring their intention to get married within 90 days upon the sponsored fiancé’s arrival in the United States. It’s also a good idea to provide documentation such as wedding invitations, receipts for venue deposits, and so on if solid wedding arrangements have been established.
  • The sponsoring fiancé, who is a citizen of the United States, must meet certain income criteria before they can sponsor their partner. The adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must be equal to or greater than 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. A joint financial sponsor must file an additional affidavit of support if the sponsoring partner is unable to achieve this criterion on their own. (It’s worth noting that the income criteria for marriage green card sponsorship are different—and more stringent.)

11 Easy Steps For Obtaining The Visa

There are three key steps to obtaining a K-1 visa. They are in the following order:

  1. The U.S. citizen fiancé must file Form I-129F with USCIS as the initial step for an eligible couple. The major goal of this form is to establish the relationship’s legitimacy, so you will have to submit the proof mentioned above (in the “Eligibility Criteria” section). Once the I-129F is approved, it will automatically be forwarded to the National Visa Center.
  2. After approximately 30 days of  the I-129F approval, the sponsored fiancé will receive a notification from the National Visa Center who will work with  the US embassy in their home country to schedule an  interview date. It will also contain a list of documents they must carry for the interview.
  3. At step 2, the sponsored fiancé will require the following documents:
  4. Complete the Form DS-160 online
  5. Two passport-style photographs
  6. Birth certificate and a valid passport
  7. Police clearance obtained from all countries of residence of more than six months since the age of 16
  8. Sealed medical examination form (obtained through a State Department authorized physician abroad)
  9. At step 2, the sponsoring fiancé will require an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134), proof of relationship (you can use a copy of package approved at step 1), and most recent tax returns and proof of income.
  10. Once the sponsored fiancé clears the visa interview and both partners meet all the documentation requirements, the sponsored fiancé can arrive in the United States. The visa is valid for six months from the date of issue and the partner must arrive in the country within that timeline.
  11. Once the sponsored partner arrives in the United States, both partners must get married within 90 days of arrival. If the partners fail to meet this requirement, the sponsored fiancé’s K-1 visa will expire. In case the partners decide to cancel the marriage, the sponsored fiancé must leave the country immediately.

Often referred to as the “fiancé visa,” the K-1 visa has become much more well-known thanks to the TLC reality TV show “90 Day Fiancé.” For residents of California who are trying to find a way to get legal U.S. residency for their spouses, there is plenty of information about the K-1 visa and the process that can be lengthy and complicated.

Estimated Timeline

As of October 2021, the K-1 visa application process could take more than 9 months on average. The processing of Form I-129F (technically known as the “Petition for Alien Fiancé“) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes approximately 5 to 9 months. It also takes an additional 3 to 4 weeks for receiving instructions to continue the process from the National Visa Center (NVC).

However, the K-1 visa timeline for completing the entire process varies by the case depending on the applicants’ individual circumstances. You can check the status of your application on the USCIS website. 

Estimated Cost

A K-1 visa will cost you roughly $1000. Here is where your money will go during the process:

  • The government charges a fee of $535 for Form I-129F. Money orders, cashier’s checks, and personal checks are all acceptable forms of payment and you can choose one most suitable to you. You can use your credit card if you’re filing your application at a USCIS lockbox facility by filling out Form G-1450 (“Authorization for Credit Card Transactions”). If you choose to pay by check, address the check as payable to the Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America.
  • The fiancé must undergo a medical exam once Form I-129F is approved, and while the cost of the exam differs from provider to provider, the typical range is around $200.
  • Finally, the application fee for the K-1 visa is $265. This money is normally paid at the time of the interview, but it’s necessary to read the embassy’s interview notice for exact instructions on payment time and location.

These calculations do not include additional fees you may incur such as costs for obtaining birth certificates or other documents of proof. You may also incur translation, printing, and photocopying costs in addition to the application costs.

Basic Requirements

While there are plenty of citizenship requirements to meet before receiving a K-1 visa, some of them are quite basic. For instance, the sponsoring partner must be a legal United States resident, and both parties must be legally able to marry at the time of filing. There will also be an inquiry by the Department of Immigration where the validity of the relationship will require verification through photos, travel itineraries and other means.

Same-Sex Marriage Questions

The K-1 visa is available for same-sex couples, even if the home country of the applicant does not recognize such relationships. Since the United States recognizes homosexual marriage, it does not matter if the home country of the applicant does as long as the relationship is legitimate.

90 Days To Get Married

Once the application goes through and both partners are in the United States, the couple has 90 days to get legally married. Should the couple decide not to get married or fail to marry within the 90-day window, the applicant partner is legally required to leave the United States.

There are many forms and interviews that will take place during the K-1 visa process, many of which need legal representation. Finding an immigration attorney who is well-versed in the immigration process can ensure that you and your significant other are able to legally pursue the future that you have dreamed of.

Contact Us To Speak With An Immigration Lawyer In San Jose Today!