The fiancé visa, or K-1 visa, is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa issued to the fiancé of a U.S. citizen in order to enter the U.S. and get married. If the couple wishes, the foreign-born person can, after the marriage, apply to get lawful permanent residence (a green card) using the process known as "adjustment of status." (Or, the non-citizen can simply leave after 90 days.) The adjustment of status process does not require leaving the United States for the required green card interview.
We'll give a step-by-step overview of these procedures below, all the way through to the green card application. Also, to double check that you qualify in the first place, see Who Is Eligible for a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
Before you get started on the visa paperwork, you should know that the fiancé and the U.S. citizen are required to have met within the two years before filing the K-1 visa petition that starts off the process. If you have never met each other, or have been apart for all of the last two years, you will need to take care of this first. In most cases, it's simplest to have the U.S. citizen travel to the foreign-born person's home country for a visit.
Certain exceptions to the meeting requirement may be made for cases of religious tradition or extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen, but you'll need to prove to USCIS that you truly merit this exception.
The U.S. citizen, who will from now on be referred to as the "petitioner," must file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is done by mail, using USCIS Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.
The petitioner must also submit:
If there are any issues that might prevent your marrying, for example, if one of you has been married before, the U.S. petitioner will also need to submit evidence to overcome that, such as divorce or death certificates for the previous spouse.
The petitioner must pay nonrefundable fees to USCIS (check the USCIS website for the latest).
Once the petition is submitted, USCIS will review it for completeness and send, within a few weeks, a Form I-797 Notice of Action acknowledging receipt.
If and when the petition is approved, USCIS will send the petitioner another Notice of Action advising of the approval. USCIS will then forward the petition to the National Visa Center for handling, after which the file will be transferred to the U.S. embassy or consulate having jurisdiction over the fiancé's place of residence.
The U.S. embassy or consulate will inform the fiancé about its requirements for forms, a medical examination, and documents. Some of these might be country-specific.
The fiancé will have to appear before a consular officer for a scheduled interview. Besides a valid passport, the fiancé must typically submit the following at the time of the interview:
After considering the application and evidence, the consular officer will hopefully approve the person for a K-1 fiancé visa to the United States.
If the case is denied, there is, for all practical purposes, no right of appeal. But if you can correct the underlying problem, you may reapply.
The immigrating fiancé will need to present the K-1 visa at a U.S. border, airport, or other point of entry. Admission at this point is not guaranteed. If the officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) finds evidence that the person is not, in fact, eligible for the visa, or is otherwise inadmissible, the officer can deny entry.
It is best, if the immigrant plans to apply for a green card, to conduct the wedding as soon as possible after the immigrant's entry to the United States. That way, you will have time to receive the official marriage certificate before the 90 days on the fiancé visa are up. You will need this official marriage certificate in order to submit the green card application.
This is optional. If you don't want to remain in the U.S. and obtain a green card, you can simply leave within the 90-day expiration date of your fiancé visa, otherwise, you'll want to adjust status to a permanent resident.