K-1 Visa

Calendar Icon Updated January 15, 2019
Visas

Who is it for: Enacted in 1970, the K-1 visa applies to fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens and was special class of visa created to help avoid long periods of separation from an intended spouse. Normally, processing for an immigrant visa takes a long time, and the issuance of this visa allows a couple to be together while that processing period is taking place.

Unmarried children under 21 years of age can immigrate with the parent beneficiary under K-2 status. Children have up to one year to immigrate after their parent is issued a K-1 visa.

Immigrant or Non-immigrant visa: Nonimmigrant visa, but leads to the issuance of an immigrant visa.

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Duration: As a condition of the K-1 visa, a foreign national is required to marry his or her U.S. petitioner/spouse within 90 days after entering the United States. If the marriage does not take place within that time frame, the foreigner must leave the United States. Because this type of visa is a pathway to a foreign national becoming a lawful permanent resident, there is no other duration restriction.

Details: It is estimated that the total length of time to obtain a K-1 visa from filing an initial petition to the actual issuance of the visa can be as much as eight months. The processing time will depend on the country involved and the availability of appointments at the U.S. embassy or consulate. To avoid delays, it is critical that applicants are as thorough as possible in filling out their paperwork to avoid unnecessary delays.

Because a K-1 visa offers immediate immigration and allows the beneficiary to be eligible to work in the United States, it is considered to be a category with a high risk of fraud. In recognition of this, Congress passed the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986. The Amendments created a two-year conditional time period on a foreign spouse’s residency in the United States. If a marriage is dissolved during that two year time frame, the foreigner’s permanent residency status can be removed. 

Under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a person who has been convicted of a felony sex crime is not allowed to petition to bring a foreigner to the United States on a K-1 visa.

To apply: Due to the high potential for fraud with this type of visa, one of the requirements for a K-1 visa is that it must be proved that the couple have seen each other in person within two years before the K-1 petition is filed. 

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As long as this evidence is in hand, the United States citizen starts the application process by petition process for their foreign fiancé(e) by filing a Form I-129 with USCIS. After background checks are completed and if the application is approved, it is sent to the National Visa Center at the U.S. State Department. 

The National Visa Center forwards it to the embassy or consulate of the home country of the foreign fiancé(e). U.S. officials will then contact the applicant to schedule a medical exam and a visa interview. Prior to the interview, the fiancé(e) is expected to apply for a K-1 visa. The actual interview itself will focus on the relationship between the two parties to ensure it is bona fide, so it is best that the applicants bring evidence supporting the relationship, such as photographs together, correspondence, joint billing and bank account information and so forth. The applicants must also show proof that that meet minimum income requirements which is at least 100 percent of U.S. poverty guidelines. At the conclusion of the interview, the consular official may issue the K-1 visa. 

For more information: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services maintains a comprehensive web page regarding K visa information.

Eligibility Team

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