The K-1 visa, otherwise known as the fiancé(e) visa, allows U.S. Citizens to legally bring their foreign-born fiancé(e) to the United States to get married and eventually establish permanent legal residency. To obtain this visa, the marriage must take place within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s arrival into the United States. Furthermore, the marriage must be of good faith, in order words, a bona fide marriage with the intent to spend the rest of their lives together. If the fiancé(e) marries within 90 days of their admission into the U.S. as a K-1 nonimmigrant, they can apply for lawful permanent resident status (a Green Card) after that through the adjustment of status process.
If the U.S. Citizen is already married, plans to marry outside the U.S., or the fiancé(e) is already legally residing in the United States, then the fiancé(e) is not eligible for a K-1 visa. This type of visa only applies if the fiancé(e) is still outside of the U.S. and there is intention to marry within 90 days of their admission into the United States.
To be eligible to bring a fiancé(e) into the United States on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, the following requirements must be met: The petitioner is a U.S. citizen, there is intent to marry within 90 days of their arrival, both are legally free to marry, and the U.S. Citizen and fiancé(e) have met each other in person at least once during the 2-year period before the petition was filed. A waiver of this last requirement of having met in person can be filed if the petitioner can demonstrate that meeting would have resulted in extreme hardship or if it would have violated “strict and long-established” customs of the fiancé(e)’s culture or social practice.
The first step in this process is to file the Form I-129F, or the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). If this is approved, then the fiancé(e) will apply for the K-1 visa and have an interview at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in their country. Should the visa be granted, it is valid for up to 6 months for a single entry. It generally takes around 6-9 months to obtain a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic all waiting times are significantly increased. Once at a Port of Entry in the United States with a K-1 visa, it is ultimately up to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer whether to let in the fiancé(e). Once in the U.S., the marriage must occur within 90 days. After that, the fiancé(e) can apply for an Adjustment of Status to become a permanent legal resident. If married for less than two years at the time the fiancé(e) gets their Green Card, they will receive a Conditional Green Card and will need to file another petition after 2 years to remove the conditions on their residence and get a 10-year Green Card.
The fiancé(e) is also eligible to work once in the U.S., given that they apply for employment authorization upon arrival. This is only valid for 90 days after their entry. Another option is to instead wait and apply for work authorization at the same time they apply for a Green Card. In this case, the authorization is valid for one year and can be extended in one-year increments.
If the fiancé(e) has children, they may also come to the U.S. on a K-2 nonimmigrant visa if they are under 21 and unmarried. Their names must be included on the Form I-129F (the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), and they must travel to the United States with the fiancé(e) or later, but not before. If the marriage occurs within 90 days of their admission, their children can also apply for a Green Card if the children are still unmarried.
Lastly, if the marriage never takes place then the fiancé(e) is barred from adjusting their status through any other means. In other words, if the fiancé(e) meets a new U.S. Citizen and then marries them, they are prevented from getting their green card in the United States and would have to exit the U.S. to consular process. If they were unlawfully present in the U.S., they would be subjected to a bar and need a waiver to re-enter.
At the Shulman Law Group, we understand that immigration laws can be complicated, but we have an experienced team that can help simplify this process.