Obtaining a K1 Fiancé(e) Visa for Immigration to the United States

Family-Based Immigration

If you are a U.S. citizen and you marry your fiancé(e) and apply for a U.S.immigration visa to the US, it’s going to take a while to process the visa. In fact, the average processing time is about a year. There is no guarantee that even a year will be enough time, given today’s rapidly shifting political winds — some couples report waiting up to two years, although this is unusual.

As a US citizen, are you ready to spend a year outside the US waiting for your fiancé(e)’s immigration visa to come through? Alternatively, are you ready to separate from your spouse for a year or more by returning to the US while your fiancé(e) waits overseas for his/her visa to be processed?

The K1 Fiancé(e) Visa Option

Fortunately, there is a better alternative, at least if you are a US citizen. Instead of marrying your foreign fiancé(e) and filing Form I-130 to obtain an immigration visa for your new spouse from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), don’t marry right away — instead, apply for a K1 fiancé(e) visa, marry in the US within 90 days of your arrival, and help your new spouse apply for a green card while in the US. The K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa.

Taking the K1 fiancé(e) visa option instead of the marriage green card option will probably save you several months’ time waiting outside the United States for your K1 visa because it will probably allow your fiancé(e) to enter the US sooner.

Only US Citizens Can Sponsor K-1 Visas

Unfortunately, this benefit is only available to the fiancé(e) of a US citizen, not a fiancé(e) of a US permanent resident. Since the K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, the beneficiary fiancé(e) must either marry the US citizen sponsor within 90 days or leave the US.

The K1 Fiancé(e) Visa Process

The K1 fiancé(e) visa process works like this:

  • The US citizen fiancé(e) must file USCIS Form I-129F with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox. It would be a good idea to include evidence of the legitimacy of your relationship, such as photographs of you two together, especially with your families, to prove your relationship is legitimate and not entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. K1 visas are often rejected for this reason.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Services will send you a Notice of Action. All a Notice of Action tells you at this point is that the USCIS has accepted your petition and that it appears to be complete (you submitted Form I-129F, required supporting documents, and the filing fee, for example).
  • Your first Notice of Action doesn’t tell you whether your nonimmigrant visa application will be approved. If you fail to submit a complete application (if you forget to enclose the filing fee, for example), your application will be rejected and you will have to start all over again.
  • You will receive a “yes” or “no” on your K 1 application within 3 to 4 months, via the second Notice of Action. If the USCIS approves your K 1 petition, it will forward it to the National Visa Center, which processes K1 visas as well as other types of visas. In this case, “processing” means checking your foreign fiancé(e)’s background. This takes another four weeks or so.
  • If your K1 fiancé(e) passes the screening process, the K 1 petition will be forwarded to the US embassy or consulate nearest his or her residence in his or her home country. He or she will be provided with a BNK number, which will be necessary to schedule a K1 visa interview and to facilitate correspondence with US immigration authorities.
  • The US embassy or consulate will send your foreign fiancé(e) a list of documents that he or he will need to bring to the K 1 visa interview. Once these documents are assembled, your fiance can apply for an interview date. Some people apply for the interview date first and then collect the necessary documents.
  • Your fiancé(e) must attend the interview. If you are overseas (in the United States, for example), your presence will not be required. If the interview is successful, your fiancé(e) must turn in his or her passport to the consular officer, and the visa should be stamped onto it in about five days. Many consular officers, however, require additional documentation for K1 visas, which often delay the process.
  • Once you receive the K 1 visa stamp on your passport, you will have 6 months to enter the US. You must marry your fiancé(e) and file a green card petition within 90 days of entering the US; otherwise, your fiancé(e) must leave the United States.

A Word of Warning About “Immigration Consultants” and “Notarios”

Immigration law is far more complicated than it looks — its subtleties and nuances are often buried deep in obscure legal text and difficult to decipher. Add to this the fact that consular officers enjoy a broad degree of discretion, and what you end up with is an area of law that is no place for amateurs. If you need help with immigration, seek out a licensed attorney who specializes in immigration law, not an “immigration consultant” or a “notario.”

Our Winning Philosophy

At Herman Legal Group, we run our firm on certain core principles — ethics, integrity, and individualized representation. More than any other quality, we pride ourselves on one intangible quality that few other law firms can match — we actually care about our clients and their futures.

You are not just a case number to us, and you are not just a way for us to make money. You are a human being who has placed their trust in us and, to some extent, placing your future in our hands. We never forget that we work for you, not the other way around.

If You Have an Immigration Issue, Now is the Time to Act

Immigration problems tend to fester and get worse the more you ignore them. Although this is not necessarily true of a K1 visa, it is true that the sooner you act, the sooner you two can start your new life in the United States in secure immigration status. Herman Legal Group is a fully qualified immigration law firm, in business for over 25 years, that is able to represent clients anywhere in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which states does Herman Legal Group serve?

Since immigration law is federal law, not state law, it is the same throughout the United States. Consequently, it doesn’t matter which state you live in — we serve clients in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and even overseas. In fact, processing for fiancé(e) visas is always done from overseas, since a fiancé(e) visa is required to enter the US in the first place.

Can Herman Legal Group help me adjust my status to the green card once I have arrived in the United States on a fiancé(e) visa?

Yes, we can. In fact, we can greatly increase the odds that your petition will be successful. We can even accompany you to your immigration interview.

How long does it take to obtain a fiancé(e) visa from overseas?

Normally, consular processing takes about six months, which saves a lot of time compared to the average one-year wait if you marry your fiancé(e) and seek to enter the US on an immigration visa.

Processing times have been increasing, however, and there is no telling whether this time advantage will continue.

How long does it take to obtain a green card once I arrive in the US on a fiancé(e) visa?

All told it should take 8 to 10 months after the date that you get married (not the date that you entered the United States) before you receive your green card in the mail. You will need to submit the proper documentation before your 90-day period of stay expires, submit to a medical exam, and attend an immigration interview with your spouse.

Since you will not have been married for two years before your green card is issued, you will receive a conditional green card, and you will need a second interview two years later to receive an “unconditional” green card that will require no further interviews.

Can I work in the United States on a fiancé(e) visa or while my green card application is being processed?

Theoretically, you can apply for a work permit using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The problem is that once you enter the US, your fiancé(e) visa is valid for only 90 days, and that’s about how long it takes to process Form I-765.

Your best bet is to:

  • marry your fiancé(e) immediately;
  • Submit Form I-765 together with your Form I-485 Adjustment of Status petition; and
  • Wait 60 to 90 days for your work permit to be approved.

There will be a separate fee to file Form I-765 starting on October 2, 2020.

If I break up with my fiancé(e) while present in the US on a fiancé(e) visa, will I be permitted to marry someone else and adjust status to a permanent resident without leaving the US?

No. You will only be permitted to marry your sponsor. If you break up with your sponsor and get engaged to someone else, your new fiancé(e) will have to start the process all over again. This will require you to:

  • leave the US before your 90-day period of stay expires;
  • submit a new petition at a US embassy or consulate overseas; and
  • wait for approval before you can re-enter the US.

Approval of your application is not guaranteed, especially since you failed to marry your first fiancé(e). If you fail to depart the US on time (within your 90-day period of stay), rejection of your second fiancé(e) visa application is quite likely.

Can I leave the US and come back on a fiancé(e) visa?

If you leave the US on a fiancé(e) visa without getting married first, you could place your right to return to the US in great jeopardy. You could try applying for advance parole by filing USCIS Form I-131, but approval is not at all certain if you haven’t married yet. It is also possible to obtain approval to reenter the US at a US embassy or consulate overseas, but again, this is not at all certain.

Keep in mind that at the time of this writing almost all national borders are closed because of the Covid-19 crisis,

Can I leave the US and come back after I marry but while my green card application is still pending?

Your chances of approval of Form I-131 (application for advance parole) will improve dramatically once you get married and apply for adjustment of status to the permanent resident using USCIS Form I-485. In fact, if you need to leave the US while on a K1 visa (a family member is terminally ill, for example), your best bet is to:

  • get married;
  • submit USCIS Form I-485; and
  • Submit USCIS Form I-131.

If Form I-131 is approved, your chances of successfully re-entering the US without having to start the fiancé(e) visa process all over again are quite good.

Keep in mind that at the time of this writing almost all national borders are closed because of the Covid-19 crisis,

Can I make a quick trip to Canada or Mexico while I am still on a fiancé(e) visa?

Under normal circumstances, you can do this before you marry, without even applying for advance parole, under a concept called “automatic revalidation.” Your trip must be limited to 30 days. Bring a copy of your Form I-94 and your passport, and leave copies of both of these with a friend in the US.

Keep in mind that at the time of this writing, almost all national borders are closed for almost all purposes due to the Covid-19 crisis, including the Canadian and Mexican borders.

How Can an Immigration Attorney Help Me Obtain a K1 Visa?

A skilled immigration attorney is familiar with all of the common mistakes visa applicants make that delay their applications or sometimes even lead to rejection. Your attorney should also be familiar with putting together an adjustment of status application in the most persuasive possible manner: A skilled immigration attorney can:

  • Make sure that all of the required documentation is complete, properly translated, free of errors, properly authenticated (certified copies when necessary, for example), and assembled in an organized fashion.
  • Suggest the inclusion of additional documents that, while not absolutely required, can bolster the credibility of your application.
  • Keep abreast of change in immigration law. The requirement to file Form I-944, for example, is relatively new, and failure to file this document can lead to the rejection of your green card application.
  • Prepare accurate and complete responses to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that you might receive from the USCIS.
  • Help you prepare for your USCIS interview so that you will know what to expect and be ready to respond.
  • Avoid problems before they arise so you don’t have to fix them later.
  • Speak your language. Our attorneys and staff speak over a dozen languages.

Our Contact Details

A representative from Herman Legal Group is available any time 24/7. Telephone us from anywhere in the world at (+1) 216-696-6170 or (+1)(614) 300-1131, or complete our online contact form for a consultation. We have consultations, and we definitely look forward to hearing from you or by stopping in at one of our offices.

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