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?
If 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 Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) in the United States.
Petition: Filing and Next Steps at NVC and the US Embassy
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 sending it to the embassy or consulate where your fiancé(e) will apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e).
What Should I Know about International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)?
Detailed information about the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) of 2005 petition requirements are shown in the new Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) instructions.
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.
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, will tell you about any additional specific requirements that you need to fulfill to complete your visa application, such as where you need to go for the required medical examination. During the interview process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer. 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 (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
- 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.
Should K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicants use the I-864 or the I-134?
Since fiancé(e)s are nonimmigrant visa applicants, they should use the I-134. They will need to submit an I-864 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when they adjust status to conditional immigrant in the United States after they are married.
Do the same income requirements apply to all immigrant visa applicants even if they use the I-134?
No. The 125 percent minimum income requirement, the most recent year’s tax return and other requirements only apply when an I-864 is needed. Applicants using the I-134 will need to show that their sponsor’s income is 100 percent of federal poverty guidelines as required under Section 212(a)(4) of the INA.
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.
United States immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of an immigrant visa. Panel physicians who conduct medical examinations of immigrant visa applicants are required to verify that immigrant visa applicants have met the vaccination requirements. See IV Vaccination Requirements for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.
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 at 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 longer 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.) Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.
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 to Apply for a Social Security Number Card
After your fiancé(e) has been admitted into the United States, he/she can apply for a social security number card by visiting one of the Social Security offices in your local area. To learn about how-to-apply, visit the website for the Social Security Administration.
How Do I Find the Regulations on the K-1 Visa?
For Department of State regulations on the K-1 visa view the visa section within the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) on the Department of State’s website.