The process for receiving a K-1 visa requires an applicant and his or her U.S. citizen fiance(e) to go through various background and security checks through national security databases, for criminal history about the applicant and the U.S. citizen, as well as other information.
Step One: Filling out the Form I-129F with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
The first step to receive a K-1 visa is for the U.S. citizen fiance(e) to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien fiance(e)(e). By filing this form, the U.S. citizen is asking the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to recognize the relationship between the U.S. citizen and the applicant.
The USCIS will then review the submitted Form I-129F and may request additional information or documentation.
If the USCIS establishes the applicant’s eligibility for the K-1 visa, the Form I-129F is approved and then sent to the United States Department of State National Visa Center. The approved Form I-129F is valid for four months from the date of approval by the USCIS. A consular officer may extend the validity of the Form I-129F if it expires before processing is complete.
If the USCIS denies the applicant’s Form I-129F, the applicant will be notified of the reasons why it was denied. Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible, including drug trafficking, overstaying a previous visa, or submitting fraudulent documents. Some ineligibilities may be waived, while others may not.
After the Form I-129F is approved, the K-1 visa applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application by filling out Form DS-160. While completing the Form DS-160, the K-1 visa applicant must upload a photo that meets certain photograph requirements.
Step Two: Visa Application and Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
After the National Visa Center receives the K-1 visa applicant’s approved Form I-129F, the form will be forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest to the K-1 visa applicant. The U.S. Embassy or consulate will then notify the applicant of the day and time of the applicant’s visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or consulate.
Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
The K-1 visa applicant must attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them. At the interview, the applicant needs to establish that they meet the qualifications for the K-1 visa. The K-1 visa applicant must bring certain items with them to the interview as required by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that hosts the interview. These items and documents help the United States Department of State verify the applicant’s qualifications for the K-1 visa and the legitimacy of his or her engagement with the U.S. citizen fiance(e).
The K-1 visa applicant must bring the following documents to the interview:
- Completed Form DS-160
- A valid passport for travel
- Birth certificate
- Divorce or death certificates of any former spouse(s)
- Police certificates from the applicant’s present country of residence and all countries where the applicant has lived for six months or more since age 16
- Medical examination documents
- Evidence of financial support, including Form I-134, if requested
- Two photographs conforming to photograph requirements
- Evidence of the applicant’s relationship with the U.S. citizen fiance(e)
- Payment of all applicable fees
Step Three: Entering the United States
After a K-1 visa is issued to an applicant, the Consular Officer will provide the applicant with a passport containing the K-1 visa and a sealed packet that contains the documents the applicant provided as well as documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The new K-1 visa holder must not open the sealed packet. The sealed packet will be opened by the DHS immigration official when the new K-1 visa holder enters the United States. The new K-1 visa holder must seek entry into the United States within 6 months from the date the visa was issued.
A K-1 visa holder must marry the U.S. citizen fiance(e) within 90 days of arrival to the United States. After the marriage, the U.S. citizen fiance(e) will need to submit Form I-485 to the USCIS with application for adjustment of status so that the K-1 visa holder can become a legal permanent resident.
After the U.S. citizen spouse submits the Form I-485 with accompanying documents, the application to register for permanent residence is reviewed by the USCIS. Both of the new spouses are usually required to appear for an interview. Approval of the Form I-485 will grant the foreign citizen spouse a Green Card valid for 10 years.
If the marriage is less than two years old at the time the Form I-485 is approved, the USCIS will grant the foreign citizen spouse conditional permanent resident status and issue him or her a Green Card valid for 2 years. The conditions will then need to be removed by the foreign citizen spouse filing Form I-751 in the 90 days before his or her Green Card expires.