- Q: What is a K-1 visa and who is considered a “fiancé(e)” under the U.S. immigration laws for K-1 visa purposes?
- Q: What documentation is required for a K-1 visa and how long will the process to get the visa take?
- Q: What is the process for applying for and receiving a K-1 visa and eventual permanent U.S. residency?
- Q: What is Conditional Permanent Residency and how can I get the conditions removed?
- Q: What are the limitation or restrictions on the fiancé(e) who is in the United States on a K-1 visa?
- Q: What is the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) and how will it affect my K-1 visa case?
- Q: Can I bring my family members to the United States with me when I travel to the United States on my K-1 visa?
A: The K-1 non-immigrant visa, also called the fiancé visa, is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a United States citizen. The K-1 visa allows the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of the U.S. citizen to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor. The fiancé(e) is required to marry the U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of his or her arrival in the United States. Once the foreign-citizen has married the U.S. citizen, he or she can then apply for adjustment of status in order to become a legal permanent resident. He or she will apply for adjustment of status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is a part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are certain requirements that the fiancé(e) must meet in order to be eligible for a K-1 visa. Children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 can receive K-2 visas to travel to the United States with the K-1 visa holder.
The term “fiancé(e)” is defined under the U.S. immigration law and is a foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen who is the recipient of an approved Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) and who has been issued a non-immigrant K-1 visa for travel into the United States in order to marry his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e). Both the foreign-citizen applicant and the U.S. citizen must have been legally free to marry at the time of the filing of the K-1 visa petition and must have remained legally free to marry the entire time after the filing of the visa petition. The marriage has to be legally possible according to the law of the state within the United States where the marriage will take place.
Normally, the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) and the U.S. citizen sponsor have to have met in person within the past two years before the filing of the K-1 visa petition. However, an exception to the requirement can be granted by USCIS if USCIS determines that there is an extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen sponsor to meet the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) in person. An example of such an extreme hardship could be that if it is against the culture of the U.S. citizen sponsor or the foreign-born fiancé(e) for the man and woman to meet in person before the marriage takes place.
Keep in mind that USCIS may question whether your engagement is bona fide. Therefore, you should be able to provide proof of your relationship and your actual engagement, along with proof that your marriage will take place within 90 days of the foreign-citizen K-1 applicant’s arrival into the United States. Also note that certain conditions and action may make a person ineligible to obtain a K-1 visa, such as criminal convictions, submitting fraudulent documents, or violations of U.S. immigration laws in the past by the applicant.
Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.
A: When you apply for a K-1 visa, you must submit the visa application, Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), along with supporting documentation. The documentation that is required when submitting a K-1 visa application include:
- Completed Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application . You have to complete Form DS-160 and print the DS-160 confirmation page to bring to the interview.
- A valid passport. You must have a valid passport to travel to the United States. The passport must have a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S., unless there is an applicable country-specific agreement that provides an exemption.
- Police certificates. You must have police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since you were age 16. Keep in mind that police certificates are also required for accompanying children age 16 or older.
- Divorce or death certificate(s ). You must provide a divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse(s), for both the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) and the U.S. citizen sponsor.
- Medical examination . You must have a medical examination completed by an authorized physician. Vaccinations are not required but are recommended.
- Two (2) 2x2 photographs .
- Evidence of financial support . You may be requested to complete Form I-134, Affidavit of Support.
- Evidence of relationship . You have to adequately prove your relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e).
- Payment of fees. You must pay all application fees related to the K-1 visa process.
Keep in mind that the consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country may ask for additional information. This could include photographs or other evidence proving that you have a genuine relationship with your U.S. citizen sponsor and that the relationship is not fraudulent. You should check with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country for any specific requirements of documentation that they may have for you. If you have any documents in a foreign language that is not the language of the country where your application takes place, you will need to have them translated.
The National Visa Center (NVC) will mail you a letter informing you when it sends your fiancé(e)’s case to the U.S. embassy or consulate for processing. After you have received this letter, you should inform your fiancé(e) to apply for a K-1 visa and to prepare for the interview. If there are any eligible unmarried children, you should file a K-2 visa application for them at this time, as well. You should bring originals or clear, legible copies of your documents with you to your interview.
Once the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad has received your case from the National Visa Center (NVC), the length of time it will take to get your K-1 visa will vary, as every case has different circumstances. Some cases may be delayed if all instructions were not followed correctly or incomplete information was given. Also, some applications require additional administrative processing, which adds additional time to the process after your interview at the consulate or embassy is complete. Generally, it takes about a month from the approval of your I-129F application until the package arrives at the U.S. embassy or consulate from NVC. There is no longer an option to have the foreign consulate notified any faster.
Keep in mind that you can visit the USCIS website to check the status of your I-129F petition.
Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.
A: The process for applying for and receiving a K-1 visa and then eventually becoming a permanent U.S. resident can be lengthy. The visa application process is usually similar in all countries, although each U.S. embassy or consulate will vary a little in their requirements. These steps are generally as follows:
- The U.S. citizen will file a I-129F petition for the foreign fiancé(e) with the USCIS. This I-129F will be filed at a USCIS Service Center in the United States, depending on where you live.
- Approval times will vary with each Service Center. Processing times can range from one to six months.
- After the I-129F has been approved, then the petition will be sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC). There, it will be processed and forwarded to the correct U.S. embassy and consulate abroad.
- The process of sending the approved I-129F from the Service Center (through the NVC) to arrival at the U.S. embassy usually takes about a month. The fiancé(e) has 4 months from when the I-129F was approved at the Service Center to obtain the K-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign country. This time requirement may be extended by a consular officer, if needed and approved.
- The K-1 visa that you will then receive is only good for one entry into the United States within 6 months of its issue date. A K-2 visa holder (which are the children of the K-1 visa holder) can enter the United States up to one year after the K-1 visa holder enters, but the K-2 visa holder is not allowed to enter the U.S. prior to the entry of the K-1 visa holder.
- Once in the United States, the K-1 visa holder will have 90 days to get married the petitioning U.S. citizen.
- Immediately after the marriage, the K-1 visa holder must apply for an Adjustment of Status, using Form I-485, in order to become a permanent resident. Keep in mind that you can also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in order to be able to work and Advance Parole if you wish to travel outside the United States and return before receiving your green card, or I-485 approval.
- If your I-485 is approved before the two year period after you were married, then you will be issued a Conditional Permanent Resident status, or a green card, which will be valid for only two years. If you were given a Conditional Permanent Residency, then, after two years from the date you were granted this conditional status, you will need to apply to have the conditional status removed. If you are approved to have the conditions removed, then you will get a full Permanent Resident status, or gree card, valid for 10 years. If you receive full permanent residency status without conditions, then you will not have to go through this additional step of application.
- If you are interviewed and then approved more than two years after you were married, then you will receive a full Permanent Resident status with no conditions, which is valid for ten years. The approval time for an I-485 will depend on where you live and the nearest USCIS office's processing timeline.
- Later on, you will be able to apply to become an U.S. citizen, known as naturalization.
Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the immigration process.
A: Conditional Permanent Residency is granted to those applying for Adjustment of Status based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. This Conditional Permanent Residency is for a period of two years. This two year period allows the U.S. government to help deter visa fraud and marriages that are not bona fide. During this two year conditional period, you will still have all the rights of a permanent U.S. resident. However, your status as a U.S. permanent resident will expire at the end of the two year period. Therefore, you will need to file an application to remove your conditional status. The application that you will need to file is the I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. If you forget to do so, you will be in unlawful status and you risk being barred from the United States for a period of 3 or 10 years or more.
You should apply to have your Conditional Permanent Residency status lifted ninety days prior to the end of your conditional period. If your passport was stamped with the I-551 at your adjustment of status interview, then the stamp in your passport will have the adjustment of status approval date on it. Your two year conditional period will begin on that stamped date. If you were not given an I-551 stamp at your adjustment of status interview, then your green card will be mailed to you within four weeks, if not delayed for various reasons. The date your conditional permanent residency will be printed on the front of your green card, in that case.
Some of the evidence that you will need to submit with your application to remove your Conditional Permanent Residency status includes:
- A copy of your I-551 green card
- Bank statements showing the names of both you and your spouse
- Insurance policies showing the spouse as the beneficiary
- Loan payment papers showing both names
- Utility bills addressed to either you or your spouse
- Tax returns filed jointly
- Copies of plane or train tickets or boarding passes showing that you and your spouse traveled together
- Birth certificates of any children
- Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who have known both you and your spouse since your conditional residency status was granted and who have personal knowledge of your relationship and marriage
- Any other common, ordinary correspondence addressed to either or both you and your spouse showing the same address
If you have a child on K-2 visa status that received permanent U.S. resident status at the same time that you did or within 90 days after you, then you should include them on your I-751 petition to remove the conditional status. If you have a child on K-2 visa status that that received permanent U.S. resident status more than 90 days after you did, then the K-2 visa holder will file his or her own I-751.
Keep in mind that USCIS may grant you an extension of your conditional resident status for up to 12 months while your I-751 petition is being reviewed and processed. Also, most jointly filed I-751 petitions will not require an additional interview. However, if you do receive an interview notice, you should not be alarmed since some cases are randomly chosen for an interview for quality control purposes and it does not mean that there is an issue in your case.
Once you receive the approval of your I-751, then you will become a permanent U.S. resident. This permanent residency status will be valid for ten years. If you wish to become a U.S. citizen, or naturalize, then you will need to apply to do so before this ten year period is up if you do not wish to renew your status.
A: Although the fiancé(e) on a K-1 visa will enjoy many benefits of a U.S. permanent resident, there are still certain limitations and restrictions that he or she will need to abide by while in the United States on K-1 visa status.
The K-1 visa holder only has a total of six months to enter the United States after the date the K-1 visa is issued. If the marriage and the filing for adjustment of status do not occur within the given 90 days of the K-1 visa holder’s entry into the United States, then the K-1 visa holder will be in unlawful status. If the couple still intends to marry after the 90 days period that is required, the U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130 concurrently with the K-1 visa holder’s adjustment of status application.
The K-1 visa holder is not allowed to adjust status unless he or she actually marries the person who originally filed the petition on his or her behalf. If that marriage is not completed and the K-1 visa holder meets someone else that he or she wishes to marry instead, he or she will need to leave the United States and return to their home country in order to start the K-1 visa process over again. If the K-1 visa holder decides he or she just does not wish to go through with the marriage to the petitioner, then he or she will not be allowed to adjust status to any other non-immigrant category and will not be allowed to become a permanent resident and must leave the United States.
If your fiancé(e) wishes to work once coming to the United States, he or she will need to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The fiancé(e) can apply for an EAD before the marriage if desired. However, the wait time involved in obtaining an Employment Authorization Document will usually make it unfeasible to do so, since the validity of the EAD will likely expire before it can be processed in most cases. Therefore, the K-1 fiancé(e) will, practically, need to wait until he or she files for Adjustment of Status, after the marriage, in order to obtain authorization to work in the United States.
At that point, the fiancé(e) will co-file for an Employment Authorization Document with his or her spouse. The EAD will then arrive within 90 days from the filing date, on average. Keep in mind that, in order to be employed in the United States, a person must have a Social Security Number. This number can be obtained by a K-1 visa holder after his or her arrival in the United States.
Keep in mind that, in order to obtain a Social Security Number, you have a time frame of 10 days after your arrival in the United States and no later than 10 days prior to your K-1 visa expiration date in order to go to the Social Security Office in your area to file for your number. If you do not file for a Social Security Number within this time frame, you will be required to wait until after your marriage and then file for Adjustment of Status.
In order to open a bank account, you will need a Social Security Number. If you were not able to obtain one in the time frame listed above, then you can instead apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using Form W-7, in person or by mail.
Also keep in mind that, if you have applied for two or more K-1 visas, no matter the dates on the applications, or if you have received a K-1 visa approval within two years prior to filing your current K-1 visa petition, then you must file an additional waiver. This waiver can be filed when you submit your Form I-129F by providing an additional written statement, which details your reasons for requesting a waiver.
A: The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) is a federal statute in the United States that requires that background checks be performed for all marriage visa sponsors. It also limits serial visa applications. The law also requires background checks for all United States citizens who use marriage brokerage services that are focused primarily on providing dating services for U.S. citizens or residents to be matched with foreign nationals for a fee. This law was initially enacted in order to prevent foreign women from abuse or worse by men who use the K-1 visa in order to bring them into the United States.
Under IMBRA, a U.S. petitioner is limited to sponsoring a K-1 visa fiancé(e) only twice. These two sponsorships can be no less than 2 years apart, from the filing of the last approved petition and the current petition. There is a discretionary waiver available, however, but the U.S. petitioner must have no record of violent criminal offenses in order to receive this.
Under IMBRA, it is also required that a U.S citizen who is petitioning for a K-1 visa fiancé(e) to disclose any convictions for violent crimes. He or she must disclose these convictions on the Form I-129F petition that they file. This includes any conviction for domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, elder abuse, or assault and battery.
There are several provisions in the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) that control what can and cannot take place between the U.S. citizen and the foreign national in regards to a relationship or marriage when using an International Marriage Broker. One of these provisions prohibit International Marriage Brokers from providing personal contact information, photographs, or other information about any person under the age of 18 to any individual or entity. Another provision creates a duty to disclose criminal and marital history and to obtain written consent on the part of any International Marriage Broker. Under this provision, any International Marriage Broker who is providing services for a fee must first do certain tasks before they can provide a foreign national client’s personal contact information to a client in the United States. These tasks include:
- Searching sex offender public registries for information regarding the United States client;
- Providing records retrieved from the sex offender public registry search and the background information collected in her primary language to the foreign national client any;
- Collecting criminal and marital background information from the United States client through either documentation or an attestation;
- Providing a government-prepared information pamphlet about the legal rights and resources available in the United States to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes to the foreign national client; and
- Obtaining the foreign national client’s signed, written consent in order to release his or her information to the United States client.
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) also provides penalties for certain behavior. For example, there is a penalty for any person who misuses knowingly any information obtained by an International Marriage Brokerage. The brokerage would be subject to a fine or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both. There are also civil penalties for International Marriage Brokers in the amount of $5,000-$25,000 USD and criminal penalties of not more than five years in prison for each violation or attempt to violate any provision under the IMBRA. There may also be additional violations and penalties under state or federal law.
A: Yes. You may bring your unmarried children under the age of 21 with you when you come to the United States. They will need to apply for and obtain a K-2 visa. In order for the child to be eligible for a K-2 visa, and the U.S. citizen spouse and the K-1 foreign citizen visa holder marry before the child turns 18, then the U.S. citizen may apply for an I-13 immigration petition and the child can apply for Adjustment of Status.
If the U.S. citizen spouse and the K-1 foreign citizen visa holder do not marry until after the child turns 18 and the U.S. citizen did not petition for an I-13 immigration petition for the child, then the child will not be able to file for Adjustment of Status. This child will then be required to return to his or her home country and wait for the K-1 visa holder parent to obtain permanent resident status in the United States. Then, the parent can apply for an immigration petition in order to bring the child over to the United States.
If a child of the K-1 visa holder is already in the United States and turns 18 and the “step-parent/child” relationship is never established, then the child will not be able to adjust his or her status. Instead, the child will be required to return to his or her home country. Once the K-1 visa holder parent gains legal permanent status in the United States, then that parent can petition for the child to come over to the United States to be with him or her.
In order to obtain a K-2 visa, your child or children will need to go through the same immigration application process as yourself. You can obtain a K-2 visa for your children, your adopted children, and any child born out of wedlock if your home country legally recognizes them as your children. The child will need to prove that he or she is not inadmissible into the United States for any reason and that they will be financially supported in addition to the K-1 visa holder fiancé(e). You will need to provide many of the same documents for the child to get a K-2 visa that you did for yourself to get a K-1 visa. Some of these items include:
- Birth certificate
- Adoption certificate, if applicable
- Medical reports
- Visa fees
Keep in mind that your children will need to remain unmarried and under the age of 21 up until the day that they enter the United States on their K-2 visas. Therefore, you may need to schedule your trip plans around this fact. You will also need to check with your home country’s laws on removing your child to another country if the child’s other parent in remaining behind.