Some say distance makes the heart grow fond – but don’t tell that to the lovebirds who want nothing more than to marry and start their lives together but are separated by oceans or international borders and who must deal with complex immigration laws to even be allowed to be together. It is an unenviable position to be in, but it is reality for many American men and women who are engaged to be married to a foreigner; US immigration law deals with this precise scenario by way of the K-1 fiance visa. This article explains what a fiance visa is and what benefits having one entails, as well details who is eligible to apply for one and how to do so.
What the US Fiance Visa Provides
The K-1 fiance visa allows the non-US-citizen fiance of a person with US citizenship to travel to the United States for the purpose of getting married to the US citizen. This type of US visa, under US immigration law, is appropriate only where the couple intends to marry within 90 days of the K-1 visa holder arriving in the United States. It is not provided so that couples can spend more time together and then decide whether to get married – it is for those with more or less concrete plans to marry within three months of the fiance’s arrival to the USA. Once the marriage takes place, the non-citizen can submit a green card application (i.e., the process to get lawful permanent residency) by sending to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-485.
The unmarried children who are under 21 years old of a K-1 visa recipient can also get a visa to go to the United States (called a K-2 visa). Additionally, they can get a green card by virtue of the K-1 visa holder (i.e., their parent) getting a green card after the marriage.
Note that people who try to avoid getting a K visa and instead go to the States on a US tourist visa (because the process is simpler for getting a B1/B2 visa) intending all the while to get married shortly after arrival risk being found inadmissible under US immigration law for having made a material misrepresentation to an immigration official (the consular officer who granted their tourist visa, to whom the visa seeker represented that they wanted to go to the US for short-term business or tourism, as opposed to for the purpose of getting married to a US citizen). Being deemed inadmissible means one cannot get a US green card unless they receive a waiver of inadmissibility from USCIS.
Who Can Apply for a K-1 Visa
To petition USCIS for one’s fiance to get a K-1 visa, a person must:
- Be a US citizen (note that a green card holder cannot take advantage of the K-1 visa process)
- Demonstrate their intent to marry their fiance within 90 days of the fiance arriving
- Show that they and their fiance are “legally free to marry” and that any marriages either of them previously had are no longer legally valid
- Generally have met the fiance in person at least one time during the last two years (some exceptions exist)
How to Seek a Fiance Visa
A US citizen seeks a K-1 visa for their fiance by submitting Form I-129F to USCIS. Once USCIS approves the fiance visa petition, the onus shifts to the fiance, who is abroad. The fiance must submit a visa application to the nearest US embassy or consulate in their country. This is done using Form DS-156, and by submitting certain other information that is required for a person to immigrate to the United States (note that K-1 visa is technically a nonimmigrant visa, but it is treated in most respects like an immigrant visa). A K visa seeker will have a short visa interview at the embassy or consulate and will have to meet other requirements, such as undergoing a medical exam, before they can get their fiance visa and travel to the USA. .
About the author: Brad Menzer contributes to the blog of the immigration law firm Heartland Immigration. Check out www.heartlandimmigration.com for more information on the full range of US immigration law matters.