Getting a Fiancé(e) Visa: Ten Legal Issues

The K-1 "fiance" visa allows you to bring your foreign fiancé into the U.S. for the purposes of getting married, then securing a green card. Here are ten things to look out for.

by Lawrence Gruner, California Attorney

If you intend on marrying a foreign person, a fiance visa can get your potential spouse into the United States and pave the way for your marriage, as well as his or her permanent residency, and eventually citizenship. Here are a few things you need to know about how the fiance visa works.

1. You need to have met your fiancée in person in the last two years. USCIS does not want mail order brides. You will need to prove that you have met your fiancée face to face sometime in the past two years. You may be able to get a waiver to this face to face requirement based on medical or religious reasons.

2. You must not have filed more than two fiancée visas in the past nor had an approved fiancée petition in the last two years. Once again, a waiver is available but there is no guarantee that it will be granted.

3. You must make over 125% of the poverty guidelines or have a joint financial sponsor. The poverty guidelines change every year. Currently, if you are a single person with no children (and with no dependents on your taxes) then $20,000 of gross yearly income is sufficient. Each dependent you have raises your income requirement for the fiancée visa by approximately $4,500.00

4. You cannot have been convicted of a crime. You, the US citizen, must not have been convicted of a variety of crimes such as domestic violence and homicide. Similarly, your fiancé(e) should not have a criminal record.

5. You and your fiancée must both be free to get married at the time you file your petition. This means that you are both unmarried (not separated or in the process of divorce) at the time the petition is filed with USCIS.

6. You must get married to your fiancée within ninety days of your fiancée entering the United States. In addition, your fiancée will only be able to marry you (she cannot substitute someone else) once she comes over on her fiancée visa. If she enters the United States on a fiancée visa and does not marry you within 90 days then she will need to return to her home country.

7. Your fiancée must not have: a dangerous physical or mental disorder; a communicable disease; or committed serious criminal acts (including drug trafficking and prostitution). Also, you fiancée must not be: a drug addict; likely to become a public charge (welfare recipient); or ineligible for citizenship.

8. Your fiancée must not have violated U.S. immigration laws. He or she cannot have used fraud or other illegal means to enter the United States.

9. You must show USCIS that you intend to marry your fiancée. This is not an easy way to "cheat" the immigration system.

10. You must be a United States Citizen. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) cannot submit fiancée petitions.

If you do meet these restrictions then a fiancée visa is likely to be approved. If your fiancée has minor children these children can come to the United States on K-2 visas. These visas are automatically granted upon the fiancée visa being granted.

If you do not meet these restrictions then the fiance visa process will not work for you. However, you may be able to go to your fiancee’s home country, marry her, and bring her into the United States on a marriage visa. The requirements for a marriage visa differ from a fiance visa. You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to review your situation. To learn about other available options, you may also want to read our article, Get Married Abroad or Bring Your Foreign Fiance To The U.S.?

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