General information, such as that provided below, does not constitute individual legal advice nor is it meant to take the place of the assessment of an expert; however, we do hope to answer some of the questions we hear most often. You should always consult with a qualified immigration attorney about the individual facts of your case before making any decisions about your particular situation.
What is a fiancé(e) visa?
A K-1 fiancé(e) visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the foreign national partner of a U.S. citizen the ability to travel to the U.S. for the express purpose of marrying their partner within 90 days of arrival and applying for permanent resident status (a green card) thereafter.
How do we apply for a fiancé(e) visa?
First, the U.S. citizen partner must file a Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility. Once this petition is approved, it will be sent to a USCIS service center, which will then direct the petition to the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over the foreign national partner. The embassy or consulate will send a detailed “Instruction Package” and information for setting up an interview to determine the foreign national partner’s eligibility for the visa. If approved, the foreign national will receive a visa and must enter the U.S. within 6 months and marry within 90 days of that entry. The final step is to file a Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status in order to become a conditional permanent resident.
What do we have to prove in the I-129F Fiancé(e) Petition?
The I-129F petition must establish four things:
- That the sponsoring partner is a U.S. citizen
- That both individuals are legally free to marry and that the marriage is legally possible in the state where the couple intends to wed. Note the USCIS guidance on marriages involving a transgender spouse specifically says that if you live in a state that will not recognize your marriage you will receive a Notice of Intent to Deny at which point you will have the opportunity to submit an affidavit explaining your intention to marry a state which will respect your marriage. If you’re not sure how your state handles these marriages, please contact us. For lesbian and gay couples that if the U.S. citizen partner does not live in a marriage equality state, they should submit an affidavit (with as much external evidence as possible) about their intentions to marry in a state that has full marriage equality.
- That the couple has personally seen one another within the last two years, and
- That the couple’s relationship is real (bona fide) and that they intend to marry for reasons beyond just obtaining a green card
Are there any exceptions to the requirement that the couple must have met in person within the last two years?
Yes, but exceptions are only available where travel would have caused extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen or where cultural requirements prohibit the partners from having met face-to-face before marrying. In practice, this waiver is very difficult to obtain.
Is there a filing fee for the I-129F petition?
Yes. The filing fee is $340.00. Note fees change frequently, so please be sure to double-check the USCIS forms page.
What documents are required for the I-129F petition?
In addition to the completed I-129F form itself, the following must be submitted:
- A completed Form G-325A for both partners
- Two passport-style photographs of each partner
- Documentation establishing that the couple has met in person within the past two years and establishing the good faith nature of their relationship
What kind of documents can be submitted to prove the good faith nature (bona fides) of the relationship?
Couples should be prepared to submit affidavits from each partner, discussing how and when they met and evidencing your intent to marry in a marriage equality state within 90 days of the foreign partner’s entry; photographs of the couple together; letters or emails that the couple has sent one another over the course of their relationship; letters of support from family or friends who can attest to the bona fide nature of their relationship; travel itineraries or tickets showing that they have visited one another; any powers of attorney, wills, insurance policies in which one partner lists the other as a beneficiary; evidence of any shared financial accounts or obligations, etc. The idea is to submit whatever documents the couple has that would lead someone to conclude that they are in a real relationship.
What kind of documents will the U.S. embassy or consulate ask for in the Instruction Package?
This varies by consulate, but the most commonly requested documents are included below:
- A certified copy of the foreign national’s long-form birth certificate (with a certified translation into English, if in any language other than English)
Proof that the foreign national is not likely to become a public charge in the U.S. through an I-134 Affidavit of Support, which will require:
- A photocopy of the U.S. citizen partner’s federal income tax returns for the past three years, including all W-2s, attachments, or schedules
- IRS-issued tax transcripts for the U.S. citizen partner’s federal tax filings for the past three years
- Proof of employment for the U.S. citizen partner, including several recent pay stubs and a letter from the employer verifying job title, continued employment, and rate of pay
- A completed Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application – Note: the foreign national should complete this application online, and print out a copy of the confirmation page to bring to the visa interview
- A copy of the foreign national’s criminal or prison records (if any)
- A copy of the foreign national’s military records (if any)
- Four passport-style photographs
- Police Certificates for each place that the foreign national has resided for more than six months since reaching 16 years of age (the embassy website will generally have more information about this)
- Medical examination results (instructions and a list of physicians will be provided) and proof of immunization against several diseases
- Updated documentation establishing that the couple’s relationship continues to be in good faith
Additionally, the foreign national partner must hold a passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the date that the K-1 visa will be issued.
Is there a filing fee that must be paid for the fiancé(e) visa application?
Yes. The foreign national partner must pay a filing fee of $240.00 before a visa interview can be scheduled.
What happens at the visa interview?
The purpose of the interview is to determine whether the foreign national partner is eligible for a visa to enter the United States. The most common reasons that someone could be found ineligible for a visa include being convicted of certain types of crimes and prior acts of immigration fraud or misrepresentation. The consular officer may also ask questions about the information submitted in the I-129F petition, including about the bona fides of the couple’s relationship.
How long does it take to receive a visa after the interview?
This varies by consulate. Sometimes, the foreign national partner will be able to receive the visa at the interview itself, while others may have to wait a few weeks. Sometimes, the consulate may request additional information from the applicant that could further delay the issuance of a visa.
How long will it take before the foreign partner will be able to travel to the U.S. on a fiancé(e) visa?
Processing times vary based on a number of factors and are especially dependent on the individual embassy or consulate that will be handling the petition. Generally, however, it can take between 8-11 months from the time that an I-129F petition is filed before the foreign national partner is issued a visa to enter the U.S. This includes 5-6 months for the processing of the I-129F itself and another 1-2 months for the embassy or consulate to establish contact with the foreign national partner. From that point on, much is dependent on the foreign national’s ability to gather the materials requested by the embassy or consulate that will need to be submitted before an interview is scheduled.
What do we need to do after the foreign partner arrives in the U.S.?
The couple will have to marry in a marriage equality state within 90 days of the foreign national partner’s entry. The foreign spouse can then apply for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident (green card holder). You can find more information about the procedure to adjust status here. Note that K visa entrants can only apply to adjust status based on the marriage for which they were given permission to enter the country.