Is a Fiancé(e) Visa Required?
The fiancé(e) visa, known as a K-1 visa, is filed by a citizen of the United States who wishes to bring a foreign national into the U.S. to marry. After the marriage takes place, your fiancé(e) may immediately apply for legal permanent residency (i.e., a green card). If your fiancé(e) is already living in the U.S. in a valid immigration status or if you intend to marry outside of the U.S., you do not need to apply for a fiancé(e) visa.
Also, you should note that a fiancé(e) visa is only required if your fiancé(e) intends to remain in the U.S. and apply for permanent residency after your marriage. If your fiancé(e) only intends to enter the U.S. to get married and then depart (i.e., not pursue permanent residence in the U.S.), he or she may only need to obtain a tourist visa or enter the U.S. on the visa waiver program.
If your fiancé(e) does enter the U.S. on a tourist visa or through the visa waiver program and changes his or her mind about pursuing permanent residency after marriage, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could allege misuse of the tourist visa and deny the application for permanent residency. So, be sure to discuss your plans with a qualified immigration attorney before filing any applications with immigration.
Fiancé(e) Visa Requirements
The basic requirements for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa are seemingly simple. To petition for a fiancé(e) visa, you must prove each of the following:
- You are a citizen of the United States;
- You intend to marry within 90 days from when your fiancé(e) enters the U.S.;
- You have physically met your fiancé(e) within the past two years (there are some exceptions to this requirement); and
- You and your fiancé(e) are both legally entitled to marry.
As a U.S. citizen, to petition for a K-1 visa, you must file form I-129(F), Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). You will also need an affidavit of support, form I-134. Once approved, your fiancé(e) will visit the U.S. consulate abroad to obtain the visa. If your fiancé(e) has a child under the age of 21, that child may be eligible for a K-2 derivative visa.
Navigating the USCIS and the Department of State (DOS) can be a complicated process, and there are many potential pitfalls. You should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced immigration attorney prior to filing any forms with the USCIS or DOS. This is especially true if your foreign national fiancé(e) has a history of immigration issues.
Petitioner Must Be a U.S. Citizen
The first (and easiest to prove) requirement for a K-1 visa is that the petitioner be a citizen of the United States. That is, the petitioner may not be a legal permanent resident, a nonimmigrant visa holder, the beneficiary of deferred action, or any other immigrant group and be eligible for a K-1 visa.
As the K-1 petitioner, to prove that you are U.S. citizen, you must provide a copy of your U.S. passport, birth certificate (if you acquired citizenship through birth in the U.S.), or naturalization certificate.
Marriage Must Take Place within 90 Days
To be approved for a K-1 visa, you must show that you plan to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s entering the U.S. To prove that you intend to marry during this time period, you should provide documentation related to your wedding plans. Church and hall rentals, catering contracts, cake orders, dress purchases, etc., can establish these plans. Your wedding does not have to be an extravagant affair. Affidavits that you plan to marry at the courthouse, applications for marriage licenses, etc., are sufficient as well.
Practically, though, you should be aware of the varying processing times for K-1 visa approval. Because these times may vary widely, you should negotiate flexibility into any wedding service contracts you sign.
Also, you should note that the K-1 visa may not be extended. Your fiancé(e) will only be allowed to enter the U.S. for 90 days. After that period expires, your fiancé(e) will have to apply for permanent residency following your marriage or depart the U.S. So, it is imperative that your wedding actually take place during the 90-day admission period.
Must Have Physically Met within Last 2 Years
The K-1 visa requires that the U.S. citizen petitioner and the foreign national fiancé(e) have met physically during the two years prior to filing the petition. To prove this, you should submit airline itinerary, photos of the two of you together, pertinent affidavits from family and friends, etc.
There are two exceptions to this requirement. Some cultures customarily prohibit husbands and wives from meeting prior to their wedding. If this is the custom in the country where your fiancé(e) resides, providing evidence of country customs to the USCIS will waive this requirement.
Similarly, if have been unable physically to meet your fiancé(e) because of medical reasons, the requirement may be waived. In either case, if you have not physically met your fiancé(e), you may need to provide additional evidence of the bona fide nature of your relationship. Such evidence might include correspondence, affidavits, etc.
Must Be Legally Able to Marry
As the U.S. citizen petitioner, you must prove that both you and your foreign national fiancé(e) are legally able to marry each other. This requirement might be easily proven if you are both unrelated adults who have never been married.
If either you or your fiancé(e) was previously married, you must prove that the previous marriage has legally ended. This is fairly easy to do through death records, divorce decrees, or documentation of annulments.
Also, if either you or your fiancé(e) is under the age of consent, your petition for a K-1 visa will not be approved. The laws of the state in which you are going to marry dictate who may marry. This is equally true for marriage to a blood relative. You should check with the specific laws of your state to ensure you have met all of the legal requirements of that state.
The requirements listed here are general in nature and intended for informational purposes only. You should consult with a knowledgeable K-1 marriage visa lawyer regarding your personal situation.