A K1 visa is a U.S. immigrant visa issued to the boyfriend or girlfriend of a U.S. citizen, so that he or she can marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days of arriving in the United States. It is the first visa that a foreign citizen who marries a U.S. citizen must have to change her status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
How to apply for a K-1 fiancé visa
If you and your fiancé are eligible for a K-1 fiancé visa, you can follow the application process with this step-by-step K-1 visa guide. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify, check the eligibility requirements below or read our article on K-1 visa eligibility.
Step 1: Confirm your eligibility
To receive a K-1 fiancé visa, all of the following conditions must be true:
- Either you or your fiancé are US citizens.
- You and your fiancé plan to get married within 90 days of arriving in the United States on the K-1 visa.
- You and your fiancé can legally marry in the United States, and all of your past marriages have been legally ended by divorce, death, or annulment.
- Same-sex partners are eligible for K-1 visas.
- You and your fiancé have met in person at least once in the two years prior to submitting your application.
- If meeting in person would violate your religious or cultural practices or cause extreme hardship, you may request a waiver from this meeting in-person requirement.
- You can prove that your relationship is legitimate.
- You can prove this with evidence from the beginning of your relationship to your engagement.
- Your U.S. citizen fiancé’s household income is at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines.
- If their income is less than this amount, they must file a Form I-864 or Supplemental Form I-864A with their application.
Step 2: Fill out Form I-129F
The U.S. citizen fiancé must prepare and file the Form I-129F K-1 (Petition for Alien Fiance) visa petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The purpose of this form is to demonstrate that your relationship is legitimate. Form I-129F must be completed by a US citizen. A lawful permanent resident, also known as a green card holder, cannot apply for a K-1 visa for their fiancé.
What documents does USCIS need to process the K-1 fiancé visa?
When you submit your Form I-129F petition to USCIS, you will need to include the following supporting documents in your forms:
Proof that your fiancé is a US citizen, such as:
- A copy of your U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, or birth certificate
- A copy of your foreign passport.
Evidence that your relationship is legitimate or “bona fide,” including:
- Photos of you and your boyfriend together
- Flight logs and/or hotel reservations from trips taken together or to visit each other
- Letters, emails or messages you have exchanged over the years
- Written statements from family, friends or colleagues who know you are engaged
Evidence that previous marriages have ended, if one of you was previously married, such as:
- Divorce decrees, death certificates, annulments, etc.
Proof that the two of you have met in person at least once in the last two years. This test includes:
- Flight itineraries, hotel receipts, photos, letters/texts/emails, etc.
- Affidavits (written and signed by each partner) describing your relationship.
- You must declare that you intend to marry within 90 days of arriving in the United States. It is best to provide the original signed statements and keep copies for your records.
- A copy of any Form I-94 arrival-departure document received during your visit to the United States.
- A passport-size photo of each partner.
- Form I-129F filing fee of $535.
- You may pay this fee by check, money order, or credit card. USCIS does not accept cash.
Once you mail the Form I-129F and the required supporting documents to the appropriate address, USCIS will send you an acknowledgment of receipt within approximately 30 days. This means that USCIS will begin processing your case within 30 days.
Form I-129F Processing Time
Processing your I-129F petition can take USCIS 4 to 15 months, depending on the location of the USCIS service center. The time it takes to process your foreign boyfriend’s request depends on the service center you send the forms to.
While you wait, be on the lookout for any Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. The agency will send them to you if they need more information.
Once USCIS approves your petition on Form I-129F, it will send a notice of approval to the mailing addresses you provided on the form.
Step 3: DS-160 file form
Once USCIS approves your petition on Form I-129F, USCIS will transfer your case to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). You will receive a notice from the NVC through the U.S. Embassy in your home country approximately 30 days after USCIS approves your Form I-129F.
This notice will provide the date and location of your requested visa interview. It will also include a list of additional supporting documents and instructions on how to provide these documents to your local US embassy. Make sure the contact information you provide on Form I-129F is correct or you may not receive this notice.
Once you receive notice from the NVC, you must complete the Department of State’s online form DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. This is the actual K-1 visa application. After completing this form, you must print the confirmation page. This is very important because you will need to send the confirmation page to the embassy and take it to the visa interview.
The U.S. embassy reviewing your case will request documents from both you and your U.S. citizen fiancé. Each embassy has a specific procedure for providing these documents, so be sure to follow the instructions provided by your embassy in its notification.
Documents of the US citizen fiancé:
- An Affidavit of Support (Form I-134).
- The Affidavit of Support is a binding legal document in which the U.S. citizen promises to use his or her resources to prevent his or her foreign fiancé from relying on government benefits in the future.
- Recent tax returns.
- You are only asked to provide your most recent statement, but it is a good idea to provide statements for the last three years.
- Proof of your relationship with your foreign boyfriend.
- For this, you can provide a copy of the approved I-129F package originally filed with USCIS.
Documents of the foreign boyfriend:
- Two passport-sized photos.
- Your birth certificate.
- A copy of your valid, unexpired passport.
- Police clearances from all countries where you have lived for more than six months since you turned 16.
- A sealed form for medical examination.
- Obtain this form during an immigration medical exam from an approved doctor.
- DS-160 Form Processing Time
- Once Form DS-160 is submitted to NVC at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), NVC will take 2-3 months to create and process Form DS-160.
Step 4: Attend the visa interview and pay the visa fee
Your visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate listed in the notice you received from the National Visa Center. It will likely take place at the embassy or consulate in the foreign fiancé’s home country and will take place 4-6 weeks after receiving the notice.
Only the foreign fiancé must appear at the visa interview. The interview is usually quite simple.
There is a $265 fee for a K-1 fiancé visa. You will usually pay this fee during your visa interview. But each embassy or consulate has its own requirements. Make sure you follow the instructions in the notice you will receive from the embassy or consulate that is handling your case.
The consular officer conducting the visa interview will usually make a decision on the same day as the interview. If they need additional information or evidence, they will ask you to present it to the US consulate or embassy after the interview.
Step 5: Come to the United States and get married!
Once your K-1 visa application is approved, you will receive a sealed visa package. Do not open this package! The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent inspecting you at the border will ask you. And they may not let you enter the United States if the package is already opened.
You must enter the United States within four months of the date of approval of your K-1 visa. Then, within 90 days of entering the United States, you must get married to your U.S. citizen fiancé. If you don’t, you will lose your K-1 status. If you decide not to get married, you must return to your home country as soon as possible.
You cannot change your status from a K-1 visa to a status other than a marriage green card. Additionally, you cannot use your K-1 visa to marry anyone other than the U.S. citizen with whom you filed Form I-129F.
Apply for a green marriage card
After marriage, your foreign spouse can apply for a marriage green card by completing Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and the required supporting forms and documents.
It should be noted that the process of applying for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa and then applying for a green card for marriage (adjustment of status) is faster than applying for a green card for marriage abroad through the consular process.
To learn more, check out our article on how to get a marriage green card with a K-1 fiancé visa.
Frequently asked questions about the K-1 fiancé visa
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding your K-1 visa:
Do you have to be engaged to apply for a K-1 engaged visa?
No. But it will be much more difficult to prove that your relationship is legitimate if you are not engaged before you apply.
What are the income requirements for a K-1 fiancé visa?
The U.S. citizen fiancé must earn at least 100% of the federal poverty level. There are no specific income requirements for foreign fiancés.
Can I work on my K-1 fiancé visa?
YES. Once you enter the United States as a K-1 visa holder, you can immediately apply for work authorization by completing Form I-765:
Application for Employment Authorization (EAD). USCIS will take 1-2 months to process this application and the work permit will only be valid for the first 90 days after entering the United States.
The best way to get a long-term work permit is to apply for a marriage green card. To do this, you can file Form I-485 along with Form I-765.
Can I bring my children to the United States with me on a K-1 visa?
YES. You can bring your children with you to the United States as long as they are under 21 and unmarried. If you include these children on Form I-129F and they are eligible, they will receive K-2 visas when you receive your K-1 visa. Your children must continue to be unmarried and under the age of 21 to be admitted to the United States with you as K-2 nonimmigrants.
Your children will be able to enter the United States with or after you, but they will not be able to enter before you. They can apply for the green card with you once you use the K-1 visa to marry your US citizen fiancé.
What should I do if USCIS denies my K-1 visa application?
If USCIS denies your K-1 visa request, you may be able to appeal. It is a good idea to work with an experienced immigration attorney to file this appeal.