Who Is Eligible for a K-1 Fiancé Visa?

Criteria for getting a K-1 visa to the U.S. in order to marry a U.S. citizen and adjust status.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

A foreign-born person who intends to marry a U.S. citizen might be eligible to come to the U.S. for the wedding, using a K-1 or "fiancé" visa. (The law that covers this is Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) § 214 or 8 U.S.C. § 1184, with regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k).)

The K-1 is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, which gives its holder six months in which to enter the U.S. (single-use). After entry, it allows a stay in the U.S. of only 90 days. After you get married in the United States, you can apply for a green card (become a permanent resident) without leaving the U.S., through a process called "adjustment of status."

Fiancés are fortunate in that there are no annual limits on K-1 visas, and therefore no long waiting periods such as occur in some other visa categories. Still, there are several eligibility requirements to comply with, which will require active steps and documentation, as described here.

Do You Really Need a Fiancé Visa?

If you are the would-be immigrant and you are already living in the United States, or if your U.S. citizen fiancé lives outside of the U.S. with you, getting a K-1 visa is possibly unnecessary. Instead, you might be better off getting married and then applying for a green card. (Consult an immigration attorney for the details and a personal analysis.)

Eligibility Criteria for a K-1 Fiancé Visa

The main eligibility criteria for getting a K-1 visa are that:

  • the non-immigrating half of the couple is a U.S. citizen (not a permanent resident or green card holder)
  • both members of the couple are legally able to marry according to the laws of the state where the wedding will be held (in most states, this means they are single and of legal age; a same-sex marriage is okay in all U.S. states)
  • the immigrant has a genuine intention of marrying the U.S. citizen petitioner after arriving in the U.S., and
  • the two have met in person within the last two years.

The K-1 visa is not appropriate for couples who are merely thinking about getting married. You will need to show proof that you truly plan to get married, such as letters to each other discussing your plans, and wedding announcements sent to friends.

One of the most convincing types of evidence of your intentions is documents showing that you've actually set a date for the wedding and made some arrangements like renting a space and hiring a photographer. But leave room for flexibility—you can't necessarily count on getting a visa in time for your planned date, and it would be terrible to have to cancel and lose your deposits.

Can You Still Qualify for a K-1 Visa If You Haven't Met in Person?

For some binational couples, the requirement that they have already met is difficult or violates their religious principles. If you practice a religion in which marriages are customarily arranged by families and premarital meetings are prohibited, you can ask that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) waive the personal meeting requirement. You'll have to show that both parties will be following all the customs of marriage and weddings that are part of the religion.

It is also possible to obtain a waiver of the personal meeting requirement if such a meeting would cause extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen half of the couple. Only the most extreme situations, usually involving medical problems, are likely to be regarded as sufficient reason for the waiver to be granted. Economic problems alone are not usually acceptable. So if it's at all possible for the two of you to meet in person, you should do so.

K Visa Eligibility for Your Children

When you receive a K-1 visa, any of your unmarried children under the age of 21 can be issued K-2 visas, as well. This will enable them to accompany you to the United States. They, too, will be able to apply for green cards once you get married, even if they've since turned 21 (after U.S. entry).

For more on the process you'll need to complete, see Steps to Getting a K-1 Fiancé Visa.

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