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About fiancée (K-1) visas

Fiance visa / K1 visa.

To initiate marriage-based consular processing a couple must be legally married, as further described below. In scenarios where the couple is engaged but not yet married, it often makes greater practical sense to pursue a fiance visa (also known as a K1 visa) instead of a marriage visa. Generally, the couple is required to have met in person within the two years prior to commencing the immigration process. Unlike marriage-based petitions, a fiance visa may be initiated only by a U.S. citizen; they are not available to U.S. permanent residents.

Understanding the fiance visa - k1 visa

Procedure for a fiance visa / K1 visa.

Immigration for fiance visa (K1 visa) follows roughly the same outline as marriage-based visas. The U.S. citizen petitioner starts the process by filing a Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). U.S. permanent residents are not eligible to file such petitions. Fiance visa petitions go through the same initial review by USCIS as the marriage petitions described above. Historically fiance visa petitions are adjudicated in significantly shorter time than marriage-based petitions. At the time of writing adjudication could be expected in two to four months.

Once the fiance visa petition is approved by USCIS the process varies slightly from marriage-based petitions. Instead of being sent first to the National Visa Center (NVC), the fiance visa case is forwarded directly to the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad. This direct line to the consulate may result in significant time savings given the stringent documentation requirements imposed by the NVC. The U.S. consulate will issue a letter to the foreign applicant, advising her of the documentation requirements required in her case. But unlike a marriage visa these documents need not be produced until the applicant appears for her in-person interview at the consulate. While a fiance visa is technically categorized as a non-immigrant (temporary) visa, the application is typically processed by the consular section responsible for immigrant (permanent) visas.

In fiance visa cases, the U.S. petitioner does not file the I-864 financial support contact until after the foreign spouse has entered the United States. Indeed, the consulate is expressly forbidden to require the Form I-864. Instead, the consulate may – and generally does – require submission of the non-binding Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. As with the Form I-864, this document is submitted by the U.S. citizen petitioner, promising to provide financial support for the foreign spouse. Unlike the Form I-864, however, courts have held that the Form I-134 is not an enforceable contract.

Following K1 visa approval at the U.S. consulate – unlike in marriage based cases – the fiance visa process is not complete. After entering the U.S. on the fiance visa, the couple has 90 days in which to be legally married. This 90-day limit is strictly enforced and jurisdictional. If the marriage is timely completed, the foreign spouse then files an I-485 Application to Adjust Status, seeking to acquire status as U.S. permanent resident. At this stage the U.S. petitioner concurrently files the I-864 financial support contract.

The adjustment of status application typically will be set for an interview at a USCIS Field Office, though approval is sometimes given without an interview. The time from filing to interview follows the same timeframe discussed in the next Section, below. Because the fiancé visa does not serve as work authorization, the foreign spouse is required to apply for work authorization concurrently with permanent residence. Work authorization should be issued in three months, and in any event the spouse will be authorized to work once the permanent residency application is approved.

Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) imposes further requirements on couples who met through a paid facilitator. Passed in order to address violence towards “mail-order brides,” IMBRA imposes strict disclosure requirements both on both international marriage brokers and on the U.S. petitioner who meets a fiancé through such a service. IMBRA exempts both culturally- or religiously-sanctioned matchmaking organizations, as well as dating services that are not geared principally at facilitating international courtship. Additionally, IMBRA imposes criminal background restrictions on the U.S. petitioner. In most family-based immigration contexts, while strict criminal background standards are imposed on the foreign national, the background of the U.S. petitioner is immaterial. In the fiancé context, however, certain crimes by the U.S. petitioner – including documented violence and stalking – must be disclosed and documented. A petitioner with such prior convictions may be required to seek a waiver before the petition may move forward. Finally, IMBRA imposes rules on the number of successive fiancé petitions that U.S. citizen may file without having to seek special permission to petition. In certain scenarios where the U.S. citizen has sponsored multiple foreign fiancés, a subsequently sponsored fiancé will be informed of this history by the State Department.

More resources for fiancée visas

Step 2 – The consulate

Once your I-129F petition is approved by USCIS your case is heading off to the Department of State (DOS) and to U.S. consulate in your fiancee’s home country. In this section I’ll give a high-level overview of what this looks like from a procedural standpoint. Most of the nitty-gritty details that you will need to handle are the same in…

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Step 1 – The I-129F petition

Congratulations! You’ve carefully assessed every eligibility requirements and grounds of inadmissibility and decided that you should proceed with a fiance visa. (You did do that, right? If not, please jump back to the previous section.). Now it’s time to do the heavy-lifting required to get your successful packet put together. For both this and subsequent steps, you can basically divide…

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Submitting your USCIS filing fee

The mandatory USCIS filing fees must accompany an application or petition at the time it is filed. If you do not include the filing fee than the case will simply be returned to you and not filed. Here are some pointers for doing filing fees right. Historically, USCIS accepted only personal checks, money orders or cashier checks. As of recently…

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About fiancée (K-1) visas

Fiance visa / K1 visa. To initiate marriage-based consular processing a couple must be legally married, as further described below. In scenarios where the couple is engaged but not yet married, it often makes greater practical sense to pursue a fiance visa (also known as a K1 visa) instead of a marriage visa. Generally, the couple is required to have…

read more

Can I apply for a K-3 visa to speed things up?

If only I had a dollar for every time a client was confused about K-3 visas. But the confusion is understandable. Basically, Congress created the K-3 visa category as a way to get married couple reunited without having to wait through the lengthy marriage visa process. K-3 visas are supposed to be available to couples after they are marred and…

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May I visit the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 (or ESTA) after filing an I-130 or I-129F?

It's just a fact - marriage and fiancé(e) visas take a long time. The process starts when the U.S. petitioner files an I-130 (marriage) or I-129F (fiancé(e)) petition. After the petition is filed, all you can do is wait for its approval. Recently, processing times have been between two and six months for the initial approval. For this reason, it's…

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Marriage visa (IR-1/CR-1) versus fiancé(e) visa (K-1)

It is common to have the choice of pursuing either a marriage-based visa or fiancé(e) (I-129F, K-1) visa. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. But first we'll start with an overview of what the two processes look like, since they're importantly different from each other. Marriage-based visa process Let's start with some terminology. Once you start doing…

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Op-ed: Fiancé visa disruption would impact Americans

In this piece in the Tacoma News Tribune I argue that Americans will be hurt if the fiancé visa program becomes more difficult. Following the violence in San Bernardino there has been talk of ratcheting down on fiancé(e) visas, but behind every fiancé(e) visa is a U.S. citizen longing to be united with a loved one.

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About fiancée (K-1) visas
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Sound Immigration

All Sound Immigration attorneys are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Associations. They practice immigration law exclusively, focusing on helping families start new lives in the United States.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. If my fiance comes to visit during the time it takes to process the initial application, form I-129f, do we need to supply an ammended form I-94 to demonstrate an up-to-date documentation of his visits to the U.S? If so- will this affect the processing time of our application?

    1. Nope – you don’t need to update the I-129F petition. Good thinking, though. And it doesn’t impact processing time. Search and our site for the other post we did about traveling to the US with a pending I-129F.

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