How To Apply For Fiance Visa—How Long Does The K1 Visa Process Take?
Bringing a foreign-born fiance is not an easy task, as you need to undergo the whole K1 visa process to marry in the US. But even if it requires time, money, and a lot of waiting, it’s totally worth it. To help you stop wondering how to apply for fiance visa and understand every step of the process, we created an ultimate guide on getting a K1 visa. Explore all the peculiarities of the legal side of international marriage to have a smooth experience.
Ultimate guide: K1 visa process step by step
This K1 visa process step-by-step guide covers all stages of visa processing. We’ll take you through all the stages and explain what marriage visa processing time is for each of them.
Step 1. Filing I-129F petition to USCIS
The process of bringing your foreign fiance to the US starts with filing I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you should fill in the I-129F petition package and mail it along with a $535 check to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility. If you want to receive a text message and/or email when USCIS accepts your form, you need to fill in a G-1145 Form and clip it to the front part of the petition. The filing fee is $535. If you need help filing I-129F Form, use official Instructions for Petition for Alien Fiancé(e).
Step 2. Receiving NOA1
After sending I-129F Form, you will receive a notice of action (NOA1). It usually takes two to three weeks. NOA1 indicates that USCIS has successfully received your petition. This step doesn’t require any action from you.
Step 3. Receiving NOA2
NOA2 is a decision of USCIS, and it indicates if your petition is approved, denied, or requires additional evidence. It usually takes around 8-10 months, the time depends on various factors, and you can check your case processing times online. If your I-129F Form is approved, you do nothing, and USCIS will send it to the DOS National Visa Center (NVC).
Step 4. NVC Processing
After your petition is approved, NVC will pre-process your case and create your case in the system. In around two weeks, you should receive a Welcome Letter with information that will allow you to use Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to manage your case status, receive messages, and pay fees. There are two processing fees that you are required to pay:
- Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee—$265.00
- Affidavit of Support Fee (Form I-864)—$120.00. It’s signed by the petitioner who agrees to become a ‘sponsor’, accepting financial responsibility for the fiancee who is coming to live in the US. To become a sponsor, you must meet 125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines.
NVC processes your case and runs a security check, while you need to file Form I-864 and gather and submit evidence of your financial capability and other supporting documents.
Step 5. Embassy stage
After your case is checked, the NVC forwards your approved I-129F Form to the U.S. Embassy or consulate. When the US Embassy in the country of your fiance origin receives your petition, it will send the fiancee a letter with instructions and scheduled medical exam and interview dates. As a rule, it takes 4-6 weeks.
Step 6. Gather Embassy Documents
You will be instructed what the required forms and documents the fiancé must bring to the visa interview. They include:
- the original or certified copy version of all civil documents submitted to NVC
Also, you’ll need to submit a completed Online Visa Application (DS-260 Form), scan all gathered civil documents, and submit them to CEAC.
Step 7. Prepare for the interview
To be ready for the interview, you must do the following things BEFORE the interview date:
- Do a medical exam—schedule, pay the fee, and pass the medical exam.
- Prepare all documents required for the interview.
- Finish any additional instructions given by the Embassy.
Step 8. Interview in the US Embassy
Your fiance must attend an interview appointment with a full package of the required documents on the scheduled date and time. The DOS consular officer will ask a fiance and accompanying family members (e.g. children joining on a K-2 visa) a series of questions to determine if the relationship is genuine and if the applicant qualifies for the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. It usually takes 15-20 minutes.
Step 9. Getting K1 visa
If everything is fine, the DOS consular officer grants the K-1 visa. Sometimes the fiance may be able to receive the actual visa the same day, but as a rule, it takes around a week.
Step 10. Travel to the U.S. and Get married
After receiving, a K1 visa is valid for up to 6 months for a single entry. Also, a fiance will get a package of documents to surrender at the Point of Entry in the US. Note that a fiancee visa does not guarantee admission to the country, and a CBP officer at the POE makes the ultimate decision. After successful admission to the US, you have 90 days to get married.
K1 visa process after marriage
If you marry within a 90-day time frame, your new spouse may apply for a Green Card. That’s why your K1 visa process after marriage starts with your spouse filing Form I-485 to the USCIS. Also, you will need to gather all the required documents (you can find the full list if follow the link in the previous sentence) and attend an interview as a couple. After that, your petition can be approved or denied.
What can affect the K1 visa process time?
The question “How long does the K1 visa process take?” is usually the most burning for most couples. Currently, it takes from 5 to 10 months, but many factors can affect your visa processing. Here are the main ones:
- Fiance country of origin—the Embassy workload, conflicts in the area, and other unexpected delays.
- USCIS Workload—each case is checked by qualified professionals and, depending on the workload, it may be pending for some time.
- RFE—If you are requested additional evidence, it may add extra time to the processing of your case.
- Petition quality—filing the petition and any other forms you need will help move through your case faster and shorten your waiting time.
Also, some unusual circumstances that can’t be predicted, like natural disasters, war, or terrorist attacks, may influence the visa processing time.
What to do in a unique situation during the K1 visa process?
There is always a solution to unique situations during the K1 application process. Let’s explore the most common ones and what to do in each of them.
Failure to marry in time
K-1 and K-2 visas automatically expire after 90 days, and your fiance and children must leave the country. Otherwise, it will violate U.S. immigration law and may result in deportation.
My fiance has children
For visa purposes, any children of your fiance who are under 21 and unmarried may be eligible to receive a K2 visa and come to the US. If you want to bring your children with you, you must:
- Include them on your I-129F Form
- Travel to the US before them
- They must remain unmarried
If you get married within 90 days and your fiance applies for a Green Card, children may also apply by filing Form I-485 with USCIS.
Life hacks on applying for fiance visa
Getting a K1 visa doesn’t depend on luck. Instead, it depends on ensuring that you file all the forms and submit documents properly. Here are some tips that can help:
- Double-check all paperwork. A great I-129F packet is how you can show that you are serious about approval.
- Take a lot of time-stamped photos. Having compelling proof of the relationship is one of the essential parts of the process, and photos are a great example of that.
- Keep receipts. Movie tickets, receipts, entry stamps can also be evidence of your relationship.
Also, after you obtain a K1 visa and get married in the US, don’t forget about the ‘90-day rule’. Generally, it means don’t apply for the Green Card or adjustment of status too soon, as it might be seen as suspicious behavior.
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Getting a K1 visa can help you avoid any trouble marrying in the US, but the process is not easy. You need to be organized, and we hope that our ultimate guide came in handy to ease the process.