If you are a United States citizen who wants to bring your foreign fiancé to the U.S. for the purpose of marriage, you will need to apply for a K1 nonimmigrant visa. Also known as a fiancé visa, a K1 visa allows a foreign-citizen fiancé to travel to the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen.
Once in the U.S., the foreign-citizen can apply for an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. While the process may seem simple, there are actually many challenges involved in obtaining a K1 visa. In addition, both the foreign-citizen and U.S. sponsor must meet specific eligibility requirements.
Fiancé refers to a male or female engaged partner. Before applying for a fiancé visa, the couple is required to have seen each other in person within the previous two years. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule, such as if the U.S. sponsor suffered an extreme hardship that prevented him or her from personally meeting the foreign-citizen fiancé.
The foreign fiancé who is applying for the K1 visa must also agree to marry within 90 days of entering the U.S. or risk deportation. Both the United States citizen and visa applicant must be able to legally marry at the time in which the petition is filed and must remain free to marry until their union. The marriage must also adhere to all marriage laws in the U.S. state in which the marriage will take place.
For a foreign citizen to be eligible for a K1 visa, the U.S. citizen that he or she plans to marry must have been born in the United States or its territories, acquired citizenship through a family member, or became a citizen through application and testing (naturalization). Other eligibility requirements that couples must meet to obtain a K1 visa include the following:
- Both the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must be eligible for marriage under U.S. law, which means that same-sex couples can obtain a K1 visa even if the foreign citizen’s home country does not recognize same-sex marriages.
- Both the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must provide any divorce or death certificates if previously married.
- The U.S. sponsor must be a U.S. citizen. United States green card holders cannot apply for K1 visas.
- The relationship between the U.S. sponsor and foreign fiancé must be authentic which is partially proven through correspondents, photos and written statements from people who know the couple.
- The U.S. sponsor must meet income requirements which means earning at least 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines at the time of the application, and at least 125 percent of these guidelines when the foreign partner applies for a green card.
The 90 Day Window
K1 nonimmigrant status automatically expires 90 days after entry into the U.S. This 90-day window cannot be extended and if the couple does not marry within 90 days, the foreign fiancé and his or her children must leave the U.S. Failure to depart is considered a violation of U.S. immigration law and may result in deportation.
If the U.S. partner and foreign fiancé marry after the 90-day period, the U.S. sponsor may file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The marriage green card process is then initiated, allowing spouses of U.S. citizens and U.S. green card holders to become permanent residents.
Marriage After a K1 Visa
There is often confusion surrounding how citizenship works after obtaining a K1 visa. Marriage to a U.S. citizen makes a person eligible for a green card. After possessing a green card for a certain number of years, a person may become eligible for U.S. citizenship. This means that even if a U.S. citizen sponsors their foreign fiancé, the foreign partner can not become a U.S. citizen right away.
Following marriage, married couples can go through the proper steps to obtain U.S. citizenship.
- The U.S. sponsor prepares a petition on Form I-130 and the foreign spouse prepares an adjustment of status application (Form I-485). This package as a whole is then mailed to USCIS.
- Both spouses will be required to attend an interview. If all goes well, the foreign spouse will be approved for lawful conditional resident status. The foreign spouse remains a conditional resident for two years.
- Approximately 90 days before the two-year period is up, the couple should submit a joint petition (Form I-751) that requests that conditions on the residence be lifted. It can take several months for USCIS to approve this request.
- A foreign spouse who remains with his or her U.S. citizen spouse for at least three years from the date of the approval for conditional residence can then apply for U.S. citizenship via Form N-400. Most people must wait a period of five years after receiving a green card to apply for U.S. citizenship.
If the couple stops living together or the marriage breaks up, the foreign partner must count five years from the date of approval for residence to apply to naturalize. If the foreign partner gets divorced before he or she is able to get the conditions on the permanent residence lifted, deportation could occur.
No one is forced to remain married to anyone in the U.S. In addition, a green card will not typically be revoked if a couple with a fiancé visa decide to get a divorce. However, if the green card is still pending and the couple is required to attend an interview, there is a chance that the green card could be denied.
Contact an Immigration Lawyer
The process of obtaining a K1 visa, as well as the transition from visa to U.S. citizenship, can be long and complex. Any errors made during the process can result in weeks or even months of delays. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle the process can help minimize the risk of delays and provide peace of mind.
To learn more about the K1 visa process or for legal assistance with your case, contact us below!
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