K-1 Visa

Another Path to American Citizenship

When exploring the best ways to become a Permanent Resident or American citizen, there are multiple routes to achieve this, and one of them is through the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. This visa allows a U.S. citizen to petition for their foreign-born fiancé(e) to come to the United States. To be eligible for this visa, certain conditions must be met, such as having met in person at least once during the last two years, and the couple must marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)’s arrival. 


This process enables the foreign-born fiancé(e) to apply for a type of permanent status, such as a Permanent Resident, which, after the marriage, leads to obtaining the Green Card. 


Eligibility Conditions 


To qualify for a K-1 visa, both the U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign fiancé(e) must meet various conditions: 


• The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen; permanent residents cannot file an I-129F on behalf of a foreign-born fiancé(e). 

• Both parties must intend to marry each other within the following 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)’s admission to the United States on the K-1 visa. 

• Both parties must be legally eligible to marry in the United States. 

• Government documents, such as divorce papers or a death certificate, confirming the legal termination of any previous marriage, must be provided. 

• The U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign fiancé(e) must have met in person at least once in the two years before filing the K-1 visa petition. 

• A waiver of the required meeting can be requested if it is demonstrated that the meeting would violate the strict and established customs or social practice of the foreign fiancé(e)’s culture. 

• In case of extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen petitioner. 


Application Process 


Every visa requires a specific process. Here, we’ll explain step by step how to apply for the K-1 Visa: 

1. Submit the Fiancé(e) Petition to USCIS


The first step in obtaining a K-1 visa is for the U.S. citizen to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), on behalf of the foreign-born fiancé(e) with the nearest USCIS office. This form must be submitted within the United States and not at an embassy, consulate, or USCIS office outside the United States. 


USCIS will review the form and any accompanying documents. If necessary, USCIS may issue a “Request for Evidence” to obtain additional information or documentation. If the petition is denied, USCIS will formally notify the petitioner, explaining the reason for denial. If approved, the petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. Once assigned a case number, it will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 


The approved petition and Form I-129F remain valid for 4 months after the approval date. During these 4 months, the foreign-born fiancé(e) must apply for the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. 


Note: A consular officer may extend the validity period of K-1 visa petitions if the visa processing is not completed before the expiration date. 

2. Steps for the Foreign-Born Fiancé(e)


Once the U.S. Embassy or Consulate receives the approved I-129F petition, a consular officer will contact the foreign-born fiancé(e) to provide instructions and necessary forms to continue the K-1 visa process. The consular officer will also inform them of authorized doctors for the required medical exams. 

3. Complete Form DS-160


In the next step, the foreign-born fiancé(e) must complete the DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application form. 


After completing these steps and submitting all mentioned forms, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the foreign-born fiancé(e) resides will contact them to schedule the K-1 visa interview. 


The Interview 


What to expect during the K-1 Visa interview? 


Most U.S. entry visas require interviews where Embassy or Consulate officials have the opportunity to meet applicants and ask questions before potential immigration to the country. 


The K-1 visa interview serves two purposes: 1. Determine the validity of the potential marriage and 2. Prevent attempts to enter the U.S. solely for immigration purposes. 


In most cases, the interview lasts no more than 30 minutes. The American citizen fiancé(e) can attend for moral support, provided they have received prior authorization from the Embassy. This moment should not be stressful for those in a legitimate relationship. Answer each question to the best of your ability and have confidence. 


The purpose of these questions is to establish the legitimacy of the marriage and may include inquiries about the foreign fiancé(e), the U.S. citizen sponsor, the relationship, and the wedding. 


Here are several examples of questions that may be asked during the interview: 


• What are your academic qualifications? 

• What languages do you (the foreign fiancé) speak? 

• When do you plan to enter the United States? 

• What is your fiancé’s name? 

• What are your fiancé’s favorite activities in their free time? 

• Does your fiancé have siblings or close relatives? 

• How did you and your fiancé meet and where? 

• How do you and your fiancé communicate during periods of long-distance in your relationship? 

• Do you know where you will celebrate your wedding? 

• Do you plan on going on a honeymoon? 


Critical Scenarios in the Interview 


As with anything, critical scenarios should be considered during the interview. Being prepared is essential, as any red flags during the interview could lead the consular officer to believe the marriage has alternative motives. 


Although identifying with one of the scenarios below does not prevent obtaining a visa, it may complicate or prolong the process as the consular officer may have reasons to suspect: 


• Significant age difference between the two fiancés. 

• The future spouses do not speak the same languages and would be unable to communicate. 

• The couple demonstrates an inability to provide information about the other fiancé’s family, friends, or other evidence of a genuine relationship. 

• The relationship has been kept secret from family and friends. 

• The fiancés provide different information for the same questions. 

• The U.S. citizen has previously applied for a K-1 visa or Green Card through marriage. 

• The foreign-born fiancé(e) has been previously married or applied for a K-1 visa with another U.S. citizen. 


Requirements for the K-1 Visa Interview 


The foreign-born fiancé(e) must ensure to bring all required documents and items to the interview. Having access to the requested documents will help avoid delays or denials. Here is a list of necessary documents: 


• Completed Form DS-160 and printed DS-160 confirmation page. 

• Each K-1 visa applicant needs a completed application. 

• A passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay in the U.S. (Specific agreements and waivers regarding this validity period may apply; consult an Immigration Lawyer for more information.) 

• Birth certificate. 

• Certificate(s) of divorce or death for any previous spouse, applicable to both the U.S. citizen and foreign-born fiancé(e). 

• Police certificates from the current country of residence of the foreign citizen and all other countries where they have lived since turning 16. 

• Medical history and required medical examination. 

• Financial support evidence demonstrating the fiancé(e) will be economically self-sufficient. 

• Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. 

• Two 2×2 photographs. 

• More information about specific requirements can be found on the U.S. Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html 

• Any evidence of a legitimate relationship with the U.S. citizen fiancé(e). 

• Children meeting the requirements and applying for the K-2 visa must attend and bring these same documents and forms to the visa interview. 


After the interview, a consular officer from the Department of State will determine if the foreign-born fiancé(e) meets the requirements for the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. If granted, the foreign-born fiancé(e) must apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry within 6 months from the visa issuance date. Along with the K-1 visa issuance, the foreign fiancé(e) will receive a sealed package containing all civil documents provided, as well as documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This package must be opened only by a DHS immigration officer when the fiancé(e) enters the United States. 


It’s essential to remember that, like any other visa, a K-1 nonimmigrant visa does not guarantee admission to the United States. A Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry will make the final decision on the admission of the foreign-born fiancé(e). 



If the Marriage Does Not Occur Within 90 Days 


As a K-1 visa beneficiary, it is mandatory for the couple to marry within 90 days of the arrival of the foreign-born fiancé(e) in the U.S. If the marriage does not occur within 90 days, the K-1 nonimmigrant visa will automatically expire, and there is no extension for this period. 


After this expiration, the foreign-born fiancé(e) and any children applying for a K-2 visa must leave the United States. Additionally, failing to depart the United States as required will affect any future rights to U.S. immigration benefits. 


If a U.S. citizen marries their foreign-born fiancé(e) within 90 days of their arrival, they can file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). Generally, a foreign-born fiancé(e) cannot apply for the Green Card for any reason other than marriage to a U.S. citizen. 


K-1 Visa and Work Authorization 


After being admitted to the U.S. on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, the foreign-born fiancé(e) can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to be authorized to work in the U.S. To file this form (I-765), the fiancé(e) must show a copy of their K-1 visa along with proof of their official admission to the United States. 


Unfortunately, this work authorization is only valid during the first 90 days after entry into the United States. Since USCIS typically requires at least three months to issue an individual work permit, it is challenging for a fiancé(e) with a K-1 visa to be approved and start working before this 90-day period ends. 


Due to this time imbalance, it is generally better to apply for Permanent Residence to adjust status. For this, the foreign-born fiancé(e) can prepare by completing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 


How to Adjust Status and Obtain the Green Card? 


After the marriage within the 90 days following entry into the U.S., the foreign-born spouse can apply for the Green Card. To initiate this process, the U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which can be filed before or at the same time the foreign-born spouse files Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS. 


USCIS will review the Form I-485 and all documents submitted by the foreign-born spouse to determine eligibility. USCIS may request additional evidence if additional documentation or information is needed. Typically, USCIS will require both spouses to attend an interview. 


If the marriage has been less than two years since the approval of Form I-485, USCIS will grant the foreign-born spouse Conditional Permanent Resident status and issue a Green Card valid for two years. To remove the Conditional Permanent Resident status and become a Permanent Resident, the spouse must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within 90 days before the Green Card expires. 


Children of the Fiancé(e) 


If the foreign-born fiancé(e) has a child under 21 years of age and is unmarried, they may be eligible to enter the U.S. with a K-2 nonimmigrant visa, based on the approval of Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). To obtain this approval, the U.S. citizen must list each of the foreign-born fiancé(e)’s children on Form I-129F. 


The U.S. citizen only needs to file one petition under Form I-129F for the future spouse and all children, as long as the children accompany the foreign-born fiancé(e) or travel to the United States within one year from the issuance date of the K-1 visa. Each child needs a separate DS-160 form when applying for a K-2 visa. Additionally, each applicant must pay a visa application fee. 


It is important to emphasize that if the fiancé(e)’s children do not travel within one year of the issuance of the K-1 visa, they will not be able to receive K-2 visas. In that case, they would have to file separate immigrant visa petitions. 


After marriage, each of the fiancé(e)’s children must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, separately. K-2 nonimmigrant children must apply for the Green Card at the same time as or after the foreign-born spouse. 



Frequently Asked Questions 


How long should I expect to wait to receive my K-1 visa after applying? 


The processing of Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), can take between 6 and 9 months, depending on the time it takes USCIS to process it. Once the National Visa Center receives your case, it is sent to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The duration of these steps may vary from case to case. Some cases experience delays due to applicants not carefully following instructions, incomplete information, or the need for additional administrative processing.  


Must my U.S. citizen fiancé(e) file separate petitions for my children? 


Yes, refer to the “Children of the Fiancé(e)” section above. 


Is it necessary for my children to travel with me? 


No, check the “Children of the Fiancé(e)” section above. 


What happens if the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where I initially submitted my DS-160 is different from the one where I have my interview? 


The DS-160 confirmation sheet contains a barcode allowing the Embassy or Consulate to access your form. Ensure you bring this DS-160 confirmation sheet to the interview to ensure consular officers can access your documents. Scheduling the interview using the barcode from your DS-160 allows the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to accept your DS-160, even if the original submission indicated a different U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 


Is there a family or group application if I am traveling with a group of people? 


Yes. When selecting “Email Confirmation” on the DS-160 confirmation page, a “Thank You” page appears. From there, you can choose to create a family or group application. Selecting the group option allows the specific information from that application to be imported and displayed in the new application automatically. However, when using this option, the applicant still needs to create separate applications for each individual in the family or group. 


Why hire an Immigration Attorney? 


While it is possible to apply for a K-1 visa without the assistance of an Immigration Attorney, it is recommended to consult and collaborate with a legal professional to ensure a smooth process. An immigration attorney can provide crucial legal advice to clarify any legal doubts related to this type of visa. Additionally, the Immigration Attorney offers valuable insight and contributes to ensuring the acquisition of U.S. citizenship. 


The K-1 visa process can be lengthy and challenging; having an attorney’s expertise can prevent difficulties and delays that may arise due to a lack of knowledge and skills in identifying issues during the fiancé(e) visa application. 


At Oasis Legal Group, we have the resources to assist with a K-1 Visa application in the best possible way. Our attorneys specialize not only in Immigration Law but also in Family Law, allowing a unique approach to the K-1 Visa application. Furthermore, our attorneys and paralegals stay constantly updated on legal changes in Immigration Law. 



Resources mentioned in this blog: 


• Please note that all forms submitted to USCIS must be printed and filled out in the English language. 

• I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). 

• DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. 

• I-134, Affidavit of Support. 

• I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. 

• I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

• I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. 

• I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. 

• Department of State website – Information on passport photos.