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K-1 Visa: Guide for Fiancé(e) to Enter and Marry in the US

Are you engaged to a U.S. citizen and planning to get married in the United States? The K-1 visa, commonly known as the fiancé(e) visa, is designed specifically for this purpose. It allows foreign nationals engaged to U.S. citizens to enter the U.S. and marry within 90 days of arrival. 

In this blog, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to the K-1 visa process, from eligibility criteria and application procedures to what happens after you tie the knot. Whether you’re just starting to gather information or are ready to apply, this guide will help you navigate the journey ahead.

What is the K-1 Visa? 

The K-1 nonimmigrant fiancé(e) visa allows the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States to marry their U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.

To qualify for the K-1 visa, the couple must prove they have met in person within the last 2 years, have a genuine relationship, and intend to marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)’s entry to the U.S.

The U.S. citizen sponsor must file a petition (Form I-129F) on behalf of their foreign fiancé(e), and the foreign fiancé(e) must then apply for the K-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Once the K-1 visa is approved, the foreign fiancé(e) can travel to the United States, get married, and then apply to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident.

The process involves submitting additional documentation and attending an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Can a fiance(e) permanently live in the U.S. using a K-1 visa?

This is not permanent. This is the nonimmigrant visa available for foreign citizens who are engaged to be married to a U.S. citizen to travel to the United States to marry a U.S. citizen shortly after arrival in the United States. 

K-1 visa holders must apply for adjustment of status with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after arriving in the United States in order to become permanent U.S. residents. The foreign citizen fiance(e) must meet certain requirements in order to be granted a K-1 visa.  

Who is Eligible for a K-1 visa? 

To qualify for the K-1 visa, an applicant and his or her U.S. citizen fiance(e) must meet several criteria: 

  • The foreign-born fiancé of a U.S. citizen who is legally free and able to marry has met the U.S. citizen partner in person within the last two years and has not been convicted of serious crimes.
  • The U.S. citizen sponsor must be able to prove their U.S. citizenship through various documents like a U.S. birth certificate, unexpired U.S. passport, or other acceptable proof of citizenship.
  • The couple must have met in person within two years before filing Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)).
  • The foreign partner must live outside the United States, be free and able to marry, and not have committed crimes that would prohibit entry to the United States
  • The applicant and the U.S. citizen intend to marry each other within 90 days of the foreign citizen fiance(e)’s admission to the United States; 
  • The applicant and the U.S. citizen are both legally able to marry in the United States and any previous marriages have been legally terminated by divorce, death, and annulment; 
  • The applicant and the U.S. citizen may have the in-person meeting requirement waived if: 
  • Meeting in person would violate strict and long-established customs of the foreign citizen’s culture or social practice; or 
  • Meeting in person would result in extreme hardship to the applicant or the U.S. citizen. 

What is the Process to Apply for a K-1 Visa? 

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.  The steps to this process are described below: 

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 filling out 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 this 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 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, this applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application by filling out Form DS-160. While completing the Form DS-160, Thisapplicant must upload a photo that meets certain photograph requirements.

Step Two: Schedule an Interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

After the National Visa Center receives This applicant’s approved Form I-129F, the form will be forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest to this 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. 

Step Three: Prepare for an Interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

The 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 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 this and the legitimacy of his or her engagement with the U.S. citizen fiance(e). 

This 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 Four: Enter the United States 

After a K-1 visa is issued to an applicant, the Consular Officer will provide the applicant with a passport containing This 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.  

Step Five: Get Married 

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 the application for adjustment of status so that the holder can become a legal permanent resident. 

After the U.S. citizen spouse submits 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 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. 

For How Long Is This Valid? 

Generally, This is valid for 90 days after arrival to the United States. The foreign citizen fiance(e) and his or her U.S. citizen fiance(e) must be married within these 90 days in order for

This holder to stay in the United States.  If the U.S. citizen fiance(e) and K-1 visa holder are not married within 90 days, This holder must leave the United States. 

How Much Does it Cost to Apply for the K-1 Visa? 

  • The Form I-129F filing fee is $535
  • DS-160 fee is $160
  • Potential biometrics fee is $85
  • Embassy fee is $265
  • Form I-485 fee is $1,140
  • Form I-751 fee is $595
  • Medical exam cost varies


Can This holder work in the U.S. before marriage?

No, This holder cannot work in the U.S. before getting married and adjusting their status.

How long does this visa process typically take?

The entire K-1 visa process can take 6-9 months from filing the initial petition.

What happens if the marriage doesn’t take place within 90 days?

If not married within 90 days, This holder must depart the U.S.

Can this visa holder bring children to the U.S.?

No, this does not allow children to accompany the fiancé(e) to the U.S.

What are the income requirements for the U.S. citizen sponsor?

The U.S. citizen sponsor must meet minimum income requirements based on poverty guidelines.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.