What Is a “Fiancé(e)”?
A fiancé(e) is a person who is engaged or contracted to be married. The marriage must be legally possible according to laws of the state in the United States where the marriage will take place.
In general, the two people must have met in person within the past two years. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants some exceptions to this requirement. For example, it may be contrary in some traditions for a man and woman to meet before marriage.
Sometimes the USCIS considers a person a "fiancé(e)" even though a marriage contract has been concluded. In such cases, the American citizen petitioner and his/her spouse have not met, and they have not consummated the marriage.
How Does a Fiancé(e) Visa Work?
Suppose you are an American citizen and you want your foreign fiancé(e) to travel to the United States to marry you and live in the U.S. You must file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) in the United States.
Filing the Petition
You must file the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that serves the area where you live. See the Department of Homeland Security's USCIS Field Offices for information on where you can file the petition. Note: You cannot file this petition at an embassy, consulate or U.S. immigration office abroad.
After the USCIS approves the petition, it sends the petition to National Visa Center for processing, prior to being sent the embassy or consulate where your fiancé(e) will apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e).
Extending the Petition
The I-129F petition is valid for four months from the date of approval from USCIS. Consular officers can extend the validity of the petition (revalidate the petition) if it expires before the processing of the visa application is completed.
A Fiancé(e) Is Also an Immigrant
Because a fiancé(e) visa permits the holder to immigrate to the U.S. and marry an American citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé(e) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.
Applying for a Visa
The consular section at the embassy or consulate where you, the fiancé(e) of an American citizen, will apply for a visa tells you of any additional specific requirements, such as where you need to go for the required medical examination. The following is required:
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States.
- Birth certificate
- Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse for both the applicant and the petitioner
- Police certificate from all places lived since age 16
- Medical examination (vaccinations are optional, see below)
- Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support may be requested.)
- Two Nonimmigrant Visa Applications, Form DS-156 (A Form DS-156, prepared in duplicate.)
- One Nonimmigrant Fiancé(e) Visa Application, Form DS-156K
- Two nonimmigrant visa photos (each two inches 50 X 50 mm square, showing full face, against a light background)
- Evidence of a fiancé relationship
- Payment of fees, as explained below.
The consular officer may ask for additional information according to the circumstances of the case. Documents in foreign languages should be translated.
Take clear, legible photocopies of civil documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, to the interview. Original documents can then be returned to you.
Fees - How Much Does It Cost?
Fees are charged for the following services:
- Filing an Alien Fiancé(e) Petition, Form I-129F
- Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee
- Medical examination (costs vary from post to post)
- Fingerprinting fees, if required
- Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents required for the visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.), and expenses for travel to the embassy or consulate for an interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
- Filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
For current fees for Department of State, government services select Fees.
All applicants for immigrant visas are required to have the following vaccinations if appropriate for age, medical condition or medical history:
- Tetanus and diptheria toxoids
- Influenza type B
- Hepatitis B
As a fiancé(e), you are not required to fulfill this requirement at the time of your medical examination for a fiancé(e) visa. However, you may want to do so. These vaccinations are required when you adjust status following your marriage.
What Must Happen After Getting the Fiancé(e) Visa?
After getting the fiancé(e) visa, your fiancé(e) enters the U.S. through a U.S immigration port-of-entry. The U.S. immigration official gives your fiancé(e) instructions on what to do when he/she enters the United States. You must get married within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States.
After marriage, your spouse must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live in the United States. You must fill out the Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, with the USCIS for your spouse's application to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). See Permanent Resident http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/faqsgen.htm#greencard to go to the Department of Homeland Security's, USCIS internet site.
Can a K-1 Visa Holder Leave the United States?
The K-1 visa allows a fiancé(e) to enter the United States one time only. If you leave the United States after entering on a K-1 visa, you may not re-enter on the same visa. If you want to leave and re-enter the United States, you should apply with Form I-131 Application for Travel Document to the USCIS office that serves the area where you live for advance parole to return to the United States. See Emergency Travel for information on how to get a travel document that allows you to return to the United States.
Can a K-1 Visa Holder Work in the United States?
As a K-1 visa holder you may file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live for a work permit (employment authorization document). For more information see How Do I Get a Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document )?
Children Have Derivative Status
The child of a fiancé(e) may receive a derivative K-2 visa from his/her parent’s fiancé(e) petition. You, the American citizen petitioner, must make sure that you name the child in the I-129F petition. After the marriage of the child’s parent and the American citizen, the child will need a separate form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. The child may travel with (accompany) the K-1 parent/fiancé(e) or travel later (follow-to-join) within one year from the date of issuance of the K-1 visa to his/her parent. A separate petition is not required if the children accompany or follow the alien fiancé(e) within one year from the date of issuance of the K-1 visa. If it is long than one year from the date of visa issuance, a separate immigrant visa petition is required.
Remember that in immigration law a child must be unmarried. The stepparent/stepchild relationship must be created before the child reaches the age of 18.
How Long Does It Take?
The length of time varies from case to case according to its circumstances. The time it takes each USCIS office and each consular office to process the case varies. Some cases are delayed because the applicant does not follow instructions carefully or supplies incomplete information. (It is important to give correct addresses and telephone numbers.) In addition the embassy or consulate may need to get security clearances for the applicant. Security clearances take time.
What If the Applicant Is Ineligible for a Visa?
Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities are:
- Trafficking in Drugs
- Having HIV/AIDS
- Overstaying a previous visa
- Practicing polygamy
- Advocating the overthrow of the government
- Submitting fraudulent documents
The consular officer will tell you, the applicant, if you are ineligible for a visa, whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver procedure is. For a complete list of ineligibilities see Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas.
How Do I Find the Regulations on the K-1 Visa?
To read relevant information regarding Department of State regulations on the K-1 fiancé(e) visas select Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM).
How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card
Before your fiance arrives in the United States, you can help her or him apply for a social security number card. To learn more about this process, visit the website for the Social Security Administration.