K-1 Visa

What is the K-1 Visa?

The K-1 visa allows non-U.S. foreign citizens who are engaged to be married to a United States citizen to come to
the United States to marry his or her U.S. citizen fiance(e) within 90 days of arrival to the United States.

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

The K-1 visa is not permanent. The K-1 visa 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 a permanent U.S. resident. 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 applicant is the fiance(e) of a United States citizen;
  • 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 met each other in person at least once within the 2-year period before the
    applicant files his or her petition.
  • 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 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: Schedule 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.

Step Three: Prepare for 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 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 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.

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 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.

For How Long is the K-1 Visa Valid?

Generally, the K-1 visa 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 the K-1 visa 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, the K-1 visa
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

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.