What Is a K1 Visa?

A K1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. citizen's fiancé to enter the United States for up to 90 days. After marriage to a U.S. citizen, a K1 visa holder can apply for a green card to become a permanent legal resident of the United States.

Also known as a fiancé visa, this visa is designed for non-U.S. citizens who are engaged to be married to U.S. citizens. After receiving a K1 visa, you can enter the United States for up to 90 days. During this time, you must complete all legal requirements and ceremonial obligations for your marriage, or else you will need to apply for an extension.

Why Is a K1 Visa Important?

For many people, a K1 visa is the first step toward a legal permanent residence in the United States. After you are legally married to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for an Adjustment of Status (AOS), which allows you to get a green card. Once you have a green card, you can live and work in the U.S. legally and permanently.

Reasons to Consider Not Applying for a K1 Visa

  • Your intended fiancé hasn't yet legally ended a prior marriage. Anyone who applies for a K1 visa must have a fiancé who is free to marry. If your fiancé is still completing the divorce process or hasn't yet annulled a marriage, he or she is not yet free to marry.
  • You have certain diseases or disorders. If you have a communicable disease, certain physical or mental disorders, or a documented drug addiction, your visa application will not be approved.
  • You are ineligible to marry a U.S. citizen. If you or your fiancé is under 18 or if you are related by blood, you might not be allowed to marry. Crimes such as drug trafficking and prostitution might also make you ineligible for this type of visa.
  • You haven't met your fiancé in person. In most cases, K1 visa applicants must have met their fiancés in person within the last two years. If your religious customs forbid this or if meeting in person would be extremely difficult for the U.S. citizen in the relationship, this requirement might be waived.
  • You can't afford a K1 visa application. With travel costs, medical exam costs, and filing fees, applying for a K1 visa can be expensive. To lower the costs of marrying a foreign national, some couples opt for a marriage-based visa instead. This is less expensive upfront but can impact your finances later. If you get married and then petition for your spouse to move to the United States on a marriage-based visa, you will need to prove that your income is at least 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. In addition, if you apply for a marriage-based visa, you must sign Form I-864, which legally binds you to support your spouse or repay the U.S. government for public assistance until your spouse becomes a U.S. citizen, achieves 40 work quarters toward Social Security, or dies.

Reasons to Consider Applying for a K1 Visa

  • You are ready, willing, and able to marry a U.S. citizen. A K1 visa allows you to enter the United States once during a six-month period. You and your fiancé must make wedding plans quickly to meet the 90-day deadline this visa grants.
  • You and your children want to move to the U.S. For many K1 visa applicants, permanent residence in the United States is the ultimate goal. Because your minor children are eligible for a K2 visa, this process can help you relocate your family.

Deadline for Applying for a K1 Visa

There is no firm deadline for applying for a K1 visa, but you should plan to apply several months in advance. Once you file the petition, it is valid for four months. If circumstances prevent its approval during this time, you can apply for an extension. Hiring an attorney can help speed up the process to make sure your application is complete and that it makes a good case.

Common Mistakes

  • Not keeping your wedding plans flexible. Your visa application could take several months to process, so you should not make firm wedding plans for a few weeks away.
  • Delaying your marriage. This must take place within 90 days of entering the United States. If your marriage is delayed for any reason, you might need to file for an extension. However, if you overstay your K1 visa and leave the country without an Adjustment of Status, you might be prohibited from re-entering the United States for three to 10 years.
  • Traveling outside the U.S. on a K1 visa. You can only enter the United States once on a K1 visa, so don't make international travel plans until you have received a green card. After filing for an AOS, you might be able to apply for Advance Parole to leave and re-enter the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can the petitioner be a permanent U.S. resident? 

No, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen. Petitioners may have been born in the U.S., naturalized, or acquired citizenship through a family member.

  • Does a K1 visa allow children to enter the United States too? 

No, minor children need their own visa applications to enter the U.S. You should include all applicable children on Form I-129F and file a K2 visa application for each child at a later date.

  • Can same-sex couples apply for a K1 visa? 

Yes, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) enables same-sex couples to apply for K1 visas.

  • What if my petition is denied?

If this happens, you will receive a letter explaining why it was denied and how to appeal. You will generally have up to 33 days to appeal using Form I-290B.

  • Do I need an attorney to apply for a K1 visa? 

You don't have to hire a lawyer, but doing so can certainly help your application. If your background check turns up potential issues during the initial review, you might need legal advice to move forward. Along the same lines, you might need a lawyer to help you prepare documentation after a request for evidence.

Steps to Apply for a K1 Visa

  1. File Form I-129F at your U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.This fiancé visa petition form requires several supporting documents. Keep a copy of the entire application before submitting these parts.

    • Cover letter. This should list the petition's contents and a complete description of what you are petitioning. Don't forget to sign and date the letter.
    • Form I-129F. This is also known as the petition.
    • Declaration and proof of meeting. This should describe how and when you and your fiancé met during the past two years. Evidence can include boarding passes, train tickets, passport stamps, or dated photos of the two of you together. Copies of phone bills, letters, and emails don't usually meet this requirement.
    • Commitment to marry. Both the petitioner, or the U.S. citizen, and the beneficiary, or the foreign national, should sign this statement. It should confirm that you intend to marry within 90 days of receiving a K1 visa.
    • Two separate G-325a forms. Complete and sign one for each fiancé.
    • Two passport-sized photos. Submit one of each fiancé.
    • Proof of U.S. citizenship. Submit a copy of the U.S. citizen's birth certificate or a passport with at least five more years of validity.
    • Copies of divorce decrees. This is only applicable if either party has been married previously.
    • Proof of name changes. This is only applicable if either party has had other legal names.
    • Copies of police and court records. This is only applicable if either party has been convicted of certain crimes.
    • Names of any children. Even if the beneficiary doesn't intend to move children to the United States right away, the petition should list all minor children that might move to the U.S. in the future.
    • G-1145 form to your application. This e-notification form is optional and authorizes the USCIS to communicate about your application by email or text.
  2. Pay the I-129F fee. The current fee is $535.
  3. Receive a Notice of Action. Also known as an I-797 or an NOA2, this approval notice confirms that your petition has been received and will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  4. Schedule a physical examination. Packet 4 explains how the beneficiary should get and schedule the required exam. In addition to a complete medical examination, this should also include proof of all vaccines prior to an official interview. Request a copy of the DS-3025 form that the doctor completes, and keep this on file.

  5. Schedule an interview at the U.S. Consulate. The K1 visa applicant must schedule an interview at his or her local consulate. Bring the following items, also known as packet 3, to the interview:

    • Complete copy of I-129F application
    • Letter confirming your intention to marry your fiancé
    • I-134 Affidavit of Support form: You will need to submit this along with evidence of your income and savings, including a statement from your financial institution, a letter from your employer, a copy of your last tax return, or a list of your bonds. This should show that your income is at least 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and requires you to sponsor your fiancé for a limited time.
    • Copy of the NOA2
    • Proof of your relationship: This should cover the period from the time you filed the I-129F form until the present.
    • DS-156 and DS-156K Nonimmigrant Visa Application forms
    • DS-230 Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application forms
    • Medical exam and vaccination records. You generally need to be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, influenza type B, hepatitis B, varicella, and pneumococcal.
  6. Pay the K1 visa fee. The current fee is $265.
  7. Enter the United States and get married. The K1 visa applicant must marry his or her sponsor within 90 days of entering the country.
  8. File for AOS to apply for employment authorization and conditional permanent residence. Filing Form I-485 and Form I-864 indicates that the K1 visa holder has married his or her sponsor and allows the visa holder to stay in the United States for more than 90 days. It also allows the K1 visa holder to work legally in the United States and grants a conditional green card that lets the K1 visa holder live legally in the U.S. for up to two years. The fee for this is $1,140 plus an $85 fee for biometric services.
  9. Apply for a Social Security Number.
  10. Apply to have the conditional status removed. Filing Form I-751 removes the conditions on your U.S. residence after two years. This nonconditional green card lets the K1 visa holder reside in the U.S. legally and permanently. The fee for this is $595.

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