If you live in a foreign country and are engaged to a United States citizen, you’ll need to apply for a K-1 visa in order to join your partner in the U.S. and get married.
We’ll outline K-1 visa requirements for both the sponsor and the applicant, explain how to apply for a K-1 visa and answer frequently asked questions about the process.
We’ll also share how our experienced immigration attorneys at Spar & Bernstein can help you apply for and obtain a K-1 visa to secure residency in the United States.
What Is A K-1 Visa?
A K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa, is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. citizen to act as a sponsor for their foreign fiancé, in order to bring their partner to the U.S. to get married.
The K-1 visa is specifically designed for couples who intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancé’s arrival in the U.S.
A K-1 visa automatically expires after 90 days and it cannot be extended. To remain in the country, the foreign spouse must apply for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) after the marriage takes place.
K-1 Visa Requirements For A U.S. Sponsor
To sponsor a foreign fiancé, a U.S. sponsor must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be free to enter a legal marriage (meaning that any previous marriages have been legally ended)
- Meet the income requirements to financially support the fiancé’ in the U.S. (an income that meets or exceeds 100% of the most recent U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines)
K-1 Visa Requirements For An Applicant
To apply for a K-1 visa, you must:
- Live outside of the U.S.
- Be legally eligible to marry
- Have a clean criminal record
- Meet the U.S. government’s health requirements
As an additional requirement, you and your fiancé must have met in person at least once within the two years preceding the visa petition filing, with limited exceptions based on cultural or hardship considerations.
One of the requirements to apply for a K-1 visa is to have met your fiancé at least once within the two-year period before filing the visa petition
Documents Needed To Apply For A K-1 Visa
To apply for a K-1 visa, you will typically be required to submit:
- The confirmation page provided after filing Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Evidence of relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as photographs together, evidence of in-person meetings or communication records
- Proof of the sponsor’s U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, a U.S. passport or certificate of naturalization
- Your birth certificate
- Police certificates from your country of residence or any other country where you have lived for more than six months
- A medical examination report by an approved physician to prove that you meet the health requirements
- Evidence of financial support to show that the U.S. citizen can support you, such as employment verification documents, bank statements or tax returns
- A valid passport
- Two passport-style photographs of yourself, following specific requirements
- One passport-style photo of the sponsor
- Divorce or death documents if you were previously married
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be required to submit additional documentation. Our caring and compassionate immigration attorneys at Spar & Bernstein can help you determine which documents are needed for your application and help you apply for your K-1 visa.
How To Apply For A K-1 Visa
To provide you with a clear roadmap of the K-1 visa application process so you know what to expect, we compiled a step-by-step guide.
To apply for a K-1 visa:
1. Ask Your Sponsor To File A Petition
Ask your future partner who is a U.S. citizen to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the petitioner’s eligibility and intention to marry you, as their foreign fiancé.
- Once the petition is submitted, USCIS will send a receipt and in some cases, request additional documents. If the petition is approved, USCIS will notify you and forward the case to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- The NVC will conduct preliminary processing and collect fees and supporting documents from you as a petitioner.
- Once the NVC processing is complete, your case will be forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
- The Embassy or the Consulate will notify you to complete required forms, prepare necessary documents and undergo a medical examination. The Embassy or Consulate will also inform you of the date and location of your visa interview.
2. Complete Form DS-160
Once you receive the notice from the Embassy or Consulate, file Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application. This is the application for your K-1 visa.
3. Attend The Interview
Go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. The consular officer will review your application, verify the relationship with your U.S. partner and determine whether you are eligible for a K-1 visa.
If your application is approved, your passport will be returned to you, along with your visa.
4. Travel To The United States
Once you get your K-1 visa, you must travel to the U.S. no later than six months after the initial Form I-129F was approved.
5. Get Married
You must marry your U.S. partner within 90 days of your entry into the U.S.
6. Apply For An Adjustment Of Status
After you marry your U.S. citizen fiancé, you can apply for an adjustment of status. To do this, file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to become a Green Card holder.
Each step of the K-1 visa application process involves specific forms, fees and additional documentation — which is why partnering with an experienced immigration attorney is important.
At Spar & Bernstein, we’ll help you gather each document, file each form correctly, prepare you for the visa interview and help you each step of the way towards obtaining your Green Card.
K-1 Visa Processing Times
Depending on the field office or service center, it will take USCIS between five and 16 months to process your K-1 visa petition.
The estimated time is based on the processing times for 80% of the same cases over the past 180 days.
Obtaining A K-1 Visa With Spar & Bernstein
Founded in 1958 and specializing in immigration law, including marriage-based visas, family immigration and citizenship and naturalization, our attorneys at The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein have helped thousands of people reunite with their loved ones and remain legally in the U.S.
Always up to date with the ever-changing immigration laws and regulations, our experienced attorneys are here to provide expert guidance and support throughout your K-1 visa application process.
We will meticulously review your case, ensuring that all required documents are in order and that your application meets the K-1 visa requirements.
From filing your petition to preparing you for consular interviews, our knowledgeable lawyers will guide you through each step, allowing you to maintain peace of mind knowing that your K-1 visa application is in capable hands.
Once you obtain your K-1 visa and join your partner in the U.S., we will help you navigate the intricacies of the adjustment of status towards getting your Green Card.
FAQs About K-1 Visas
Need more information about K-1 visas? Explore some of the FAQs below along with answers from our experts.
1. Can a lawful permanent resident petition for a K-1 visa?
No, only U.S. citizens are eligible to petition for a K-1 visa. Green card holders must follow different visa processes for their fiancé. Contact our immigration team at Spar & Bernstein to get more information about your options.
2. Can you work In the U.S. on a K-1 visa?
To legally work after entering the U.S. on a K-1 visa, you must apply for a work permit (employment authorization). To do this, file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
3. What will happen if you are not married within 90 days after entering the U.S. on a K-1 visa?
If you do not marry within the 90-day period, you must depart the country. Failure to do so may result in immigration violations and could impact your future visa applications.
4. Can you bring children to the U.S. on a K-1 visa?
Yes, if you have unmarried children under the age of 21, they may be eligible to accompany you to the U.S. on a K-2 visa, which is linked to a K-1 visa.
5. Can you apply for a K-1 visa if you were previously married?
Yes, previous marriages do not disqualify you from applying for a K-1 visa. However, you must provide evidence of termination of any prior marriages, such as divorce decrees or death certificates.
6. Can you get married outside the U.S. on a K-1 visa?
The purpose of the K-1 visa is for the couple to marry within the U.S. If you marry outside of the U.S., you will need to apply for a different visa category or process.
Bradford H. Bernstein
This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.View Brad's Bio