For many engaged couples, planning the wedding is the biggest source of stress. But some couples are not citizens of the same country, and living together as spouses may become a significantly more pressing matter. The United States has increased restrictions on all immigration processes in recent years, but marriage-based visas are particularly difficult to obtain.
This difficulty stems from the U.S. government’s intent to detect and prevent marriage fraud. Because some foreign nationals have gotten married simply to become U.S. permanent residents or citizens, USCIS heavily scrutinizes all marriage-based applications.
As such, familiarizing yourself with the process and common pitfalls can help you reunite with your fiancé and other family members in a secure, permanent manner. The following is everything you need to know about obtaining a fiancé visa and reuniting in the United States.
Everything You Need to Know About the K-1 Visa
The K-1 (fiancé) visa allows a U.S. citizen to bring their fiancé to the U.S. to get married. This is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, so the couple will need to complete additional steps to ensure the foreign fiancé’s long-term stay in the U.S.
First, the U.S. citizen will use Form I-129F to petition on behalf of their fiancé, and they will need to demonstrate all of the following:
- They intend to marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé’s arrival
- They have a bona fide relationship and intend to establish a life together
- They are not marrying for the sake of obtaining an immigration benefit
- Both partners are legally able to marry (i.e. neither is currently married to another person)
- The couple has met in-person within the last 2 years (with certain exceptions)
Form I-129F is essentially a request for USCIS to recognize a valid relationship. USCIS will review the application and either approve it, deny it, or request additional evidence.
Upon approval, USCIS will send the application through the DOS National Visa Center to the U.S. Embassy or consulate where the foreign fiancé lives. The Embassy or consulate will schedule an interview with the foreign fiancé and provide additional instructions.
At the interview, the consular officer will decide whether or not to issue a K-1 visa. If the officer believes the relationship is valid, they will approve the application, and the foreign fiancé’s visa will last for 6 months and allow a single entry.
When the foreign fiancé seeks admission at a U.S. port of entry, they must pass the inspection. USCIS stresses that a nonimmigrant visa is not a guarantee of entry. Customs and Border Patrol has the power to deny entry, even if the foreign fiancé successfully passed through the other stages of the process.
After Successfully Entering the U.S.
Once the foreign fiancé enters the U.S. with a K-1 visa, the couple must marry within 90 days. If they fail to do so, the foreign fiancé will become undocumented and subject to deportation. If the couple marries within this period, the K-1 visa holder can then apply for permanent residency (a green card).
The type of green card the K-1 visa holder receives will depend on how long the couple was married before applying. If the couple was married for less than 2 years, USCIS will generally grant a conditional green card. A conditional green card expires in 2 years, and the green card holder will need to apply to remove conditions at the end of this period. If the couple was married for longer than 2 years, however, USCIS will not need to grant this conditional version of permanent residency.
What About the Fiancé’s Children?
If the foreign fiancé has children who are under 21 and unmarried, the children can be included on Form I-129F and can likely receive K-2 nonimmigrant visas. They can come to the U.S. with their parent or after their parent, but not before. If the K-1 visa holder marries the U.S. citizen and applies for a green card, the visa holder’s children can apply for green cards as well. The parent and children should apply for green cards together.
Contact Us Today for One-On-One Guidance
At Nathan Christensen P.C., we have spent years guiding clients through procedures like the K-1 visa application process. If your partner lives in another country, we believe in your right to reunite with them as soon as possible. Applying for this visa (and eventually a green card) is not without its challenges, however, and you deserve skilled guidance as you navigate this complex legal terrain.