Immigration is a complex and often frustrating process that can temporarily overshadow your reasons for moving to the United States and the excitement you initially felt. This is especially relevant if you have recently undertaken one of the biggest commitments an adult can make – agreeing to get married.

Engagements, whether you opted for a public proposal or a more intimate experience, are incredibly exciting as you and your loved one take the first step towards spending the rest of your lives together. However, if your finance is not an American citizen, you now have to deal with the complexities of the immigration system to ensure you can start your married life as soon as possible.

Hiring a seasoned immigration lawyer is the best way to guarantee that you and your fiancé can begin married life without a hitch and enjoy everything that life has to offer in America.


What is a K-1 Visa?

A K-1 visa is specifically for couples who have the intention to marry and want to spend their lives together in the United States. One member of the engaged couple must be an American citizen to qualify for the K-1 visa and be able to initiate the application process.

As with all visas, the K-1 visa, which is also known as the fiancé visa, comes with several specific requirements. Both parties must be free to marry and will need to supply the relevant divorce or death certificates if they have previously been married. If the visa beneficiary has children from a previous relationship that they wish to bring to the United States, they must be under the age of 21 to qualify for a K-2 visa.

Furthermore, the American citizen must be able to supply proof that they can financially support their fiancé, typically by providing the USCIS with bank statements, payslips, and records of tax payments.

The primary requirement for a K-1 visa is proof that the couple has met at least once in the two years prior to filing for the visa. This evidence can be supplied in several different formats, including photos, hotel receipts, flight stubs, and military orders detailing pre-approved leave.

Finally, the couple must get legally married within 90 days of the visa beneficiary arriving in the United States. If they do not marry within this frame of time, then they will have to return to their home country. There’s no need to panic about arranging a wedding within 90 days because the foreign fiancé will be given six months from the date of their visa being approved to enter the United States.


How to Apply for a K-1 Visa

The application process for a K-1 visa involves numerous steps. It is always best practice to consult with an immigration attorney prior to submitting any applications to ensure that you are applying for the correct visa and can supply the necessary documents when asked to. For example, a lawyer may advise you to apply for a CR-1 or a K-3 visa depending on your desired timeline and budget constraints.

On average, a K-1 visa takes 8-12 months to be approved, including the various steps such as submitting paperwork and scheduling a medical examination and USCIS interview, and costs at least $1,000. While the length of the application process may be frustrating, it is intended to prove that you and your fiancé are engaged in a committed, long-term relationship rather than a short-term fling.

The first step to applying for a K-1 visa involves submitting Form I-29F. This costs $595 and includes the submission of supporting documentation.

There are several crucial pieces of evidence that need to be submitted, such as proof of the relationship and evidence that the couple has met in person, a copy of the visa beneficiary’s passport, a sworn statement from each partner declaring the nature of their relationship, all prior Form I-94 records, and passport-style photos of both people.

Without these documents, it is highly unlikely that the visa request will be approved. To save yourself time and considerable stress, it is best practice to prepare everything prior to filing Form I-29F.

After Form I-29F has been submitted, the visa beneficiary needs to complete the DS-160 form and supply two passport-style photos, their birth certificate, a valid passport, police clearance, and a medical exam form. In addition to this, the US citizen will need to supply an affidavit of support, their tax returns, and a copy of the approved package initially filed for Form 1-29F.

An interview in the US Embassy of the foreign fiancé’s home country will then be scheduled. The interview will include questions pertaining to the relationship and is used to reveal any fraudulent engagements. It is highly likely that you already know the answers to everything they will ask you about your fiancé.

Once each of these requirements has been met, the visa beneficiary will be given six months to enter the United States and 90 days to get married once they have arrived. If for whatever reason they do not marry their fiancé, they must return to their home country. An approved K-1 visa cannot be used to marry anyone other than the original American sponsor.


The Benefits of Hiring an Immigration Lawyer

As detailed above, the application process for a K-1 visa is lengthy and expensive. When combined with having to be separated from your loved one, the process can feel even longer and more frustrating. This is why it is essential that you hire an immigration lawyer.

A trained immigration lawyer can assist you with everything, from answering your initial questions to helping you draft your declaration of intent. Their supervision will ensure that your file everything correctly and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the USCIS.

Furthermore, your attorney can keep track of both your application and any changes in American immigration law. The law can change unexpectedly, so it’s always worth having access to up-to-date, trustworthy information.

With years of prior experience, your lawyer will also be able to identify any potential issues ahead of time and ensure that they are resolved before they can develop into larger problems. Having someone with your best interests at heart is also essential for your peace of mind as you await the arrival of your fiancé.

Final Thoughts

While the thought of applying for a K-1 visa may initially appear intimidating, it will be worthwhile when you finally get to start married life with your loved one. Contact an immigration lawyer today to ensure that you can enjoy your marriage as soon as possible.