The K1 visa is an non-immigrant visa used when a United States Citizen (USC) wants to bring a foreign fiancé(e) to the United States with the specific intent to get married in the United States within 90 days of entry.
The first step of getting a K1 visa is having the USC submit a petition for the visa. This is done by filing form I-129F.
The USC may be eligible to submit this petition if:
- They are a US Citizen (the fiancé(e) of an LPR is not able to obtain a K1 visa),
- They intend to marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e) entering the United States,
- They, and the foreign fiancé(e), are legally free to marry, and
- They have met the foreign fiancé(e) within the two years prior to filing form I-129F unless
- The requirement to have met the foreign fiancé(e) in person would violate long-standing customs of that foreign national's culture and society, or
- It is proven that the requirement to have met the foreign fiancé(e) in person would result in extreme hardship on the USC.
Note: Unmarried children of the foreign fiancé(e) who are under the age of 21 and listed on form I-129F are eligible to accompany the foreign fiancé(e).
- Main Article - IMBRA
If the USC and the foreign fiancé(e) met through the services of an international marriage broker, USCIS most be notified of this fact in order to comply with the International Marriage Broker Regulations Act (IMBRA). Careful attention should be paid to form I-129F as to what the USCIS considers is and is not an international marriage broker.
The process for obtaining a K1 visa can be broken down into two parts; the petition filed by the USC and the visa application performed by the foreign fiancé(e).
See K1_Flowchart_Visuals for a high level overview.
- Applicant compiles I-129F package for submission to USCIS.
- Applicant mails I-129F package to the USCIS Service Center which has jurisdiction over:
- the USC's current place of residence; or
- the USC's last place of residence within the United States if filing from abroad Note: an I-129F petition cannot be adjudicated at a USCIS office abroad.
- Application is received and accpeted by USCIS. They will check it for completeness and return the application if necessary.
- Applicant receives an I-797 for the accepted application.
- Applicant may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) for the submitted application at anytime during the application process. The RFE will include instructions on the specific area of information required by USCIS. The requested information should be set to USCIS as soon as possible to resume processing of your application.
- If petition is successful, applicant will receive a further I-797 informing that the petition has been approved.
- The USCIS Service Center that approved the application sends the case to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- The NVC sends the case to the US Embassy specified in the I-129F.
K1 Visa Application
- US Embassy sends a letter to the foreign fiancé(e) stating that they have received the case and are ready to process it, together with a link to the online application form DS-160.
- Foreign fiancé(e) completes the online DS-160 (together with uploaded photo) and submits the application.
- Foreign fiancé(e) arranges for medical to be completed. The medical must be done by a USCIS approved Civil Surgeon. The US Embassy will usually inform you of the Civil Surgeon who is authorized to perform the medical, or list several to choose from. Note: Some US Embassies require that the medical be done on the day of the visa interview. Specific instructions will be included in the information sent to the foreign fiancé(e) from that US Embassy. For applications processed by London, the results of the medical must be received before the Embassy will schedule the interview.
- The foreign fiancé(e) compiles all the documents that specific US Embassy requires for the process (2013 document checklist can be found here)
- The foreign fiancé(e) submits the online Notification of Applicant Readiness Form available here
- The foreign fiancé(e) attends the medical, results will be forwarded to the US Embassy.
- The foreign fiancé(e) books an interview at the US embassy online here and pays for the visa and delivery
- Foreign fiancé(e) attends interview, and if successful, is approved for the K1 visa. Note: The specifics of the interview can vary from embassy to embassy. Searching the forum for reports on the embassy that applies to you can help you get an idea of what to expect.
- Foreign fiancé(e) leaves their passport with the US Embassy for processing, and will receive it via courier when the visa has been entered into the passport.
Required Documents for Application
As with the process of obtaining a K1 visa, the documents required for the process can be broken down into two categories; documents required for the I-129F petition and documents required for the K1 visa application
The following information, while not an exhaustive list, is a good starting point for what an petition for a K1 visa requires:
- Proof that the applicant is a US Citizen. This can be proved to USCIS in the following ways:
- A copy, front and back, of the applicant's birth certificate
- If the applicant was naturalized, a copy, front and back, of the original Certificate of Naturalization
- If the applicant was born outside the United States and is a US Citizen through their parents:
- The applicant's original Certificate of Citizenship, or
- The applicant's Form FS-240 (Report of Birth Abroad of a United States Citizen)
- A copy of the applicant's valid, unexpired US Passport issued with a validitity period of at least 5 years. Copies of all pages of the passport must be submitted
- Note: Information is available within the instructions for form I-129F on what to do if the applicant was born within the United States but none of the above documents are available. The lack of any of these documents does not necessarily prohibit the applicant from submitting the petition.
- Proof that the applicant and the foreign fiancé(e) have met within the 2 years prior to filing this petition (see above) and are legally able to marry. This can be proved to the USCIS in the following ways:
- Evidence of having met, such as photos of the individuals together, ticket stubs showing either party has travelled to meet the other, etc. If both parties have not met within the 2 years prior to the filing of this petition, provide a detailed explanation and evidence of the extreme hardship that would be encountered, or the cultural or social practices that have prohibited such meeting; and
- Statements from both the USC and the foreign fiancé(e) and copies of any documents that the applicant may wish to include to establish mutual intent to marry; and
- Proof of consent or permission to marry if such is required given the age of either party; and
- Copies of documents showing any previous marriages by either party were legally terminated
- Note: Sending evidence to prove an ongoing relationship is not required for the petition. That information may be needed later in the process when the foreign fiancé(e) is interviewed at a US Embassy.
- Completed form G-325a for both the applicant and the foreign fiancé(e). Except for the name and signature, information that is already present on form I-129F does not need to be repeated on form G-325a.
- A photo of the applicant and a photo of the foreign fiancé(e), taken to the specification outlined by the Department of State taken within the last 30 days. Using a pencil or a felt pen, the name, and Alien Registration Number (if known) should be printed on the back of each photo
- Copies of any documents which establish a legal name change by either the USC or foreign fiancé(e) if either party is using a name other than the ones that appear on the submitted documents
Note: Any document containing foreign language submitted to the USCIS must be accompanied by a full English translation which the translator has certified as complete and accurate, and by the translator's certification that they are competent to translate the foreign languge into English.
Note: Unless an original of a document is required with an application or petition, an ordinary legible photocopy may be submitted. Original documents which are submitted when required will be returned to the applicant. Originals submitted when they are not required will remain part of the USCIS record of the petition, and will not be returned to the applicant.
The USCIS have put together a handy optional checklist to aid with the preparation of the I-129F. It can be found here: M-1151
K1 Visa Application
The documents required for the K1 visa application can vary between embassies. Information on what documents are required can be found by looking at the website of the US Embassy that will be handling the case, or by asking on the forum.
That being said, some documents are a standard for the K1 visa application process. One such document is form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) which establishes that the foreign fiancé(e) has the required financial support to not become a public charge while residing in the United States. Financial support for a K1 visa application will usually come from the sponsoring USC who filed the petition for the K1 visa, but if the USC fiancé(e) doesn't have the resources, the I-134 can be completed by anyone who meets the eligibility requirements. The poverty guidelines for the year 2013 can be found at here. Be sure to look in the 125% column.
Application for K1 Visa:
DS-160 - Complete and submit the online form DS-160 together with uploaded photo.
Form DS-160 has replaced forms DS-230 Part I & II, Form DS-156, Form DS-157 and DS-156-K.
After submission make sure you print the confirmation sheet as this will be required on the day of the interview, together with your I-134 from the USC and supporting documents for it (see I-134 instructions). Also take further evidence of relationship; updated statements of intent, further boarding passes and photos etc.
Make copies of EVERYTHING!
NOTE: Fees can change without notice. ALWAYS check at http://www.uscis.gov for the current fees for the forms you are submitting.
As of December 23, 2016, the cost of filing an I129-F petition for a K1 visa is $535.
K visa applicants are required to pay the MRV application fee of $265 to the Consular Section's Visa Information and Appointment Services contractor prior to the visa interview. Details can be found here
Following approval at the US Embassy, the visa will be issued to the foreign fiancé(e). They then have 6 months in which to enter the United States from the date of the medical. Once admitted, they have 90 days in which to marry the named applicant of the K1 petition. Once married, the USCIS recommends the foreign fiancé(e) applies promptly to adjust their status to Lawful Permanent Resident with Conditions.
Social Security Number
- Main Article - Social Security Number
K1 visa holders are permitted to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). It is recommended this is done no sooner than 10 days after entry into the United States. This allows for data of the foreign fiancé(e)'s entry and status from the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to be transferred to the Social Security Administration's (SSA) computer system for verification in an SSA office. Applying for an SSN too early may result in the SSA Officer being unable to verify the K1 visa holders status in the United States. However, don't leave it too late to apply either. It should ideally be done within 76 days, as the SSA will not accept an I-94 that is due to expire within 14 days.
While an SSN is not required by law to work, it is required for taxation purposes and working without paying and filing taxes is a federal offence.
K1 visa holders are technically "work authorized" for the 90-day period of the foreign fiancé(e)'s I-94, but they still need proof of this to fufill the requirements of form I-9. This proof, for a K1 visa holder, comes in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
A K1 visa holder can apply for an EAD under category (a)(6) on form I-765, but the resulting EAD only covers the validity period of the holder's I-94 (i.e. 90 days), it costs $410 and can take up to 90 days for the application to be adjudicated and the card received. For this reason, very few K1 visa holders opt for this temporary EAD upon arrival.
Because not all K1 visa holders manage to obtain work authorization until they apply to adjust their status and receive their 1 year EAD or Green Card, it is probably a good idea to assume that the foreign fiancé(e) will be unable to work for at least a few months (maybe as many as 6) after entering the United States. The best advice is to plan and prepare for this period of unemployment.
A tip before leaving the country: As a matter of general advice: when the father of a child immigrates to the US, it is good practice to maintain very good records and back-up documentation of child support payments for the children not living with you.