Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, foreign nationals who are engaged to a US citizen may travel to the United States with a K-1 visa. The foreign national must get married within 90 days of entering the United States, at which point he or she can file an application for Adjustment of Status to become a lawful permanent resident.

The application process for a K-1 visa begins when a US citizen petitions US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to recognize the relationship between them and their fiancé. Once USCIS receives the petition, the standard processing time for a K-1 visa is 4 – 8 months. 

How to Become a Lawful Permanent Resident Through Marriage

Approval for a K-1 visa hinges on the expectation that your fiancé will either apply for an Adjustment of Status or leave the United States after the wedding. Unless you and your fiancé plan to live in another country after the wedding, you should go into the visa application process with a full understanding of not just how to get a K-1 visa, but how to successfully change your fiancé’s legal status in the US after getting married.

Failure to adjust their status in a timely manner could leave your fiancé in the country unlawfully without a valid visa, which may result in deportation and a ban on returning to the United States. It is for this reason that we highly suggest you work with an experienced immigration attorney when filing for adjustment of status. You want to setup a successful future with your spouse and working with an immigration attorney is the best way to assure that your spouses residency in the United States is legitimate.

1. Filing the Petition for Fiancé Status

Before your fiancé can interview for a K-1 visa, the USCIS needs to recognize their status as the fiancé of a US citizen. To do this, you (the American fiancé) will need to file Form I-129F – Petition for Alien Fiancé. Along with the petition, you’ll need to include the following:

  • Evidence that any prior marriages have been terminated (divorce decree, death certificate)
  • Proof of US citizenship (birth certificate, naturalization certificate)
  • Proof that the US citizen has met the foreign national and has a relationship with them (visa stamps, airline tickets, hotel receipts, and dated photographs)

Once the USCIS approves the petition, the agency will issue a formal decision by mail and forward the approved petition to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC). After performing a background check, the NVC will then forward the approved petition to the US Embassy or Consulate where your fiancé will interview for their K-1 visa.

2. Submit the K-1 Visa Application

When the local US Embassy or Consulate receives the approved Form I-129F from the NVC, a representative will mail one or more packets to your fiancé with the K-1 application (Forms DS-156 and DS-156K) and additional forms and instructions. Your fiancé will need to prepare the following documents before their visa interview:

  • A police certificate from their current residence and any place of residence where they have lived for more than 6 months since turning 16
  • A valid passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Evidence that any prior marriages have been terminated (divorce decree, death certificate)
  • Forms DS-156 and DS-156K 

In addition to gathering these documents, your fiancé will need to complete a medical examination with an approved physician (the Embassy or Consulate should furnish a list of approved physicians). Your fiancé should bring their vaccination records to the medical examination, as any missing vaccinations will need to be administered before he or she is admitted to the United States. 

3. Complete the Visa Interview

When your fiancé meets with a consular officer for their K-1 visa interview, the consular officer’s primary job is to answer 3 questions:

  1. Is the marriage legitimate? (i.e. is the beneficiary marrying for love or just for immigration benefits?)
  2. Will your fiancé honor the terms of their visa by getting married within 90 days?
  3. Is your fiancé admissible into the United States?

In the process of answering these key questions, the consular officer will probably ask about your relationship, how you met, when you decided to get married, when the wedding is scheduled, etc. Your fiancé will be required to sign a statement affirming their intent to marry and their legal capacity to do so. Assuming the interview goes well, your fiancé will complete their biometrics and receive their visa that day.

4. Get Married

Once your fiancé enters the United States, you have 90 days to get married. Failure to get married within the allotted time frame is considered a violation of visa terms and could result in deportation. In severe cases, it may even result in a ban on returning to the United States.

5. Apply for Adjustment of Status

After the wedding, your fiancé can apply for an Adjustment of Status by filing Form I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You’ll need to include evidence to support your application (e.g. the marriage certificate), and both spouses will likely be called in for an interview.  

Once the USCIS approves your application, the agency will issue a green card with conditional permanent residence status. After living in the United States for at least two years, the green card holder will need file Form I-751 – Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Finally, after living in the United States for at least five years with a valid green card, your spouse will be eligible to apply for naturalization. 

 

Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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