What is a K-1 visa?
The K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows a foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married. The main purpose of the K-1 visa is to allow the foreign fiancé(e) to travel to the U.S. to marry the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry. After marriage, the foreign spouse can apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
Here are the key features and steps involved in the K-1 visa process:
- Petition (Form I-129F):
- The U.S. citizen petitioner initiates the process by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the intent to marry and provides evidence of a bona fide relationship.
- Once the petition is approved, USCIS forwards it to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
- Application at U.S. Embassy or Consulate:
- After the I-129F petition is approved, the beneficiary (foreign fiancé(e)) will need to apply for a K-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
- The beneficiary will undergo a medical examination and attend a visa interview. The U.S. citizen petitioner may also be required to attend the interview.
- K-1 Visa Issuance:
- If the visa is approved, the beneficiary will receive a K-1 visa in their passport, allowing them to travel to the U.S.
- Entry into the U.S. and Marriage:
- The beneficiary must enter the U.S. within the validity period of the K-1 visa, usually within 6 months.
- After entering the U.S., the couple must marry within 90 days.
- Adjustment of Status (Form I-485):
- After marriage, the foreign spouse can apply to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- Upon approval, the foreign spouse will be granted a conditional green card, valid for two years.
- Removal of Conditions (Form I-751):
- If the marriage is less than two years old when the foreign spouse receives their conditional green card, they will need to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within the 90-day period before the conditional green card expires. This is to prove the legitimacy of the marriage.
The K-1 visa process is designed to allow U.S. citizens and their foreign fiancé(e)s to come together and get married in the United States. It’s important to follow the instructions provided by USCIS, the U.S. embassy or consulate, and other relevant authorities throughout the process.
How long does it take to obtain a K-1 visa?
The processing time for obtaining a K-1 visa can vary based on several factors, including the volume of applications, the specific U.S. embassy or consulate processing the visa, and any unforeseen circumstances.
On average, the process to obtain a K-1 visa might take several months:
- Filing the I-129F Petition: The U.S. citizen petitioner files Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This step can take several months, with processing times varying between USCIS service centers.
- USCIS Processing: After USCIS approves the I-129F petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) and then to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the beneficiary’s home country. USCIS processing can take anywhere from a few months to over half a year, depending on various factors.
- Embassy or Consulate Processing: Once the I-129F petition reaches the U.S. embassy or consulate, the beneficiary will need to complete additional steps, including a medical examination and a visa interview. The beneficiary will also need to gather required documents and attend the interview. The scheduling of the interview and the availability of appointments can impact the overall processing time.
- Visa Issuance and Entry: If the visa is approved, the beneficiary will receive the K-1 visa in their passport. They can then travel to the United States. Generally, the K-1 visa is valid for 6 months from the date of issuance, providing a window for entry.
- Marrying and Adjustment of Status: After entering the U.S., the couple must marry within 90 days. Following marriage, the foreign spouse can apply to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The processing time for the adjustment of status application can also vary and depends on the USCIS workload and other factors.
Keep in mind that the processing times mentioned here are rough estimates and can change over time. It’s essential to regularly check the U.S. embassy or consulate’s website where the beneficiary will have their visa interview for the most current processing time estimates and instructions. Additionally, unforeseen circumstances or issues with documentation can extend the processing time.
What to do after Form I-129F is approved?
After your Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there are several important steps you should take to continue the process of obtaining a K-1 visa for your fiancé(e). Here’s what you should do after the I-129F is approved:
- Receive Approval Notice (Form I-797):
- USCIS will send you an approval notice, Form I-797, indicating that your I-129F petition has been approved. This notice is important and serves as confirmation of the approval.
- Forwarding to the National Visa Center (NVC):
- After USCIS approves the I-129F petition, it is typically forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The NVC will assign a case number and provide instructions for the next steps.
- Receive NVC Notice:
- You will receive a notice from the NVC indicating that your approved petition has been forwarded to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where your fiancé(e) resides.
- Complete Form DS-160:
- Your fiancé(e) should complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, on the U.S. embassy or consulate’s website. This form provides biographical information and is required for the visa interview.
- Pay Visa Application Fee:
- Pay the required visa application fee, as instructed by the U.S. embassy or consulate. The fee amount and payment methods can vary by location.
- Gather Required Documents:
- Your fiancé(e) should gather the required documents for the visa interview. These might include the DS-160 confirmation page, passport, passport-sized photos, birth certificate, police certificates, medical examination results, and any other documents specified by the embassy or consulate.
- Schedule Visa Interview:
- Your fiancé(e) should schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. The interview is a crucial step in the process and involves questions about the relationship and intentions for marriage.
- Attend Visa Interview:
- Your fiancé(e) should attend the scheduled visa interview. They should bring all required documents, including the DS-160 confirmation page and passport-sized photos. Be prepared to answer questions about your relationship and plans for marriage.
- Receive Visa Decision:
- After the interview, your fiancé(e) will be notified of the visa decision. If approved, they will receive a K-1 visa in their passport.
- Travel to the U.S.:
- Once your fiancé(e) receives the K-1 visa, they can travel to the United States. The visa is usually valid for a period of six months.
- Marry and Begin Adjustment of Status Process:
- After entering the U.S., you and your fiancé(e) should marry within 90 days. After marriage, your fiancé(e) can apply to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) using Form I-485.
It’s important to follow the instructions provided by the NVC, the U.S. embassy or consulate, and USCIS throughout the process. Keep in mind that procedures and requirements can change, so always refer to the most current information and instructions from official sources.