If you are a U.S. citizen, and are engaged to someone from another country, you may wish to bring that person to the U.S. for the wedding – and for him or her to remain with you after that, as a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder).
The Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), on Form I-129F, is the first step in this process. It allows you to notify U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) that you are engaged to someone from another country, show your intentions to marry, and set in motion the process by which your fiancé will receive the appropriate visa – that is, the K-1 fiance visa.
Using Form I-129F, you may not only petition for your fiancé, but any the children of your fiancé from a previous relationship.
Here are the criteria that must all be met to qualify someone for a K-1 fiancé visa:
As you’ll see below, USCIS will require proof that you meet these criteria. However, if meeting in person would violate your religious principles or create extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen (for example if the U.S. citizen has severe health problems and cannot travel), you may ask for a waiver of this requirement.
Form I-129F is available for free download on the USCIS website, and you can fill it out on your computer. (But you’ll need to submit it to USCIS by mail.) Also be sure to download the instructions.
Under Part 1 Question 8 as well as Part 2 Question 9, both of which ask about “Marital status,” each of you will need to check the box saying either “single,” "widowed," or "divorced." If either of you is married to someone else, you’re not eligible for this visa. If you’re already married, then you should be applying for an immigrant visa, which is different than the one described in this article.
If the answer to Part 2. Question 15 is that the foreign-born fiancé happens to already be in the U.S., you may not need a fiancé visa. If the fiancé(e)’s last entry to the U.S. was legal, then the two of you might simply be able to get married and then apply to adjust status to permanent residence. This is true even if your fiancé(e)’s entry visa has already expired. Talk to an attorney to get the details and double check that this will work in your case. (But don’t misinterpret this to mean that your fiancée could make plans to arrive in the U.S., perhaps with a tourist visa or on the visa waiver program, with the unstated intention of marrying you and applying to adjust status – that could result in a finding of visa fraud, which would prohibit your fiancée from receiving a U.S. green card.)
For Question 34a in Part 2, in which you are expected to describe the circumstances under which you met, it’s best to write a statements on a separate piece of paper and simply say in this box, “Please see attached statement.” By providing a detailed statement, you will help convince USCIS that your relationship is the real thing, not just a fraud to get the immigrant a green card.
Part 2 Question 35 as well as Part 3 Questions 2 and 3 reflect the relatively recent International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). This law is designed to discourage the practice of basically selling people into marriage in the United States, and to protect immigrants from marriage to someone who has been convicted of domestic violence. The information provided here will be used for follow-up investigation. The immigration authorities may disclose information regarding the U.S. citizen’s criminal record to the beneficiary of the K-1 visa petition. If you used a marriage broker, or the U.S. citizen has a criminal record, you should consult an attorney before submitting this form.
Don’t worry about filling in Part 5 unless someone else fills out the form for you, such as a lawyer or paralegal.
To accompany Form I-129 F, you must provide the following additional forms and documentation:
In addition to the documents, you'll need to pay a filing fee. This is $340 as of 2016. Check the Web link for the form, above, for the latest fee.
Make a complete copy of the forms, documents, and checks before mailing it. Then send it to the USCIS office named in the instructions. Note that this will be a differerent office than the local one that you can visit in person. Fiance visa petitions can be submitted only by mail.
A few weeks after submitting your petition, the U.S. citizen will get a receipt notice from USCIS. That will contain a tracking number, which you can use on the USCIS website to follow USCIS's progress toward a decision on the petition.
Due to USCIS's careful scrutiny of marriage cases and the severe consequences of making a mistake on this petition, it would be wise for a U.S. citizen to consult an immigration attorney for help. Attorneys will often charge a flat fee for this type of service.