K1 Visa Lawyer
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 38,735 people petitioned the U.S. government for a K1 Visa or Alien Fiancé(e) visa in 2020. Out of the petitions received, the USCIS only approved 28,525 applications. Are you a U.S. citizen who would like to marry a non-U.S. citizen? Do you want to live in the United States with your foreign fiancé(e)? If you answered “yes” to these questions, there are a few things you need to know about the U.S. immigration process to avoid the risk of denied access or deportation. For example, what is the difference between a nonimmigrant visa and a Green Card? What forms do you need to fill out? To bring your fiancé(e) into the U.S., can you apply for any of the over 100 nonimmigrant visas available? Have you chosen the right immigration attorney to support you through the process? What steps do you and your fiancé(e) need to complete before you are married?
Visa vs Green CardA Green Card and a U.S. nonimmigrant visa (NIV) are both government-issued documents that legally allow a person to live in the United States. However, there are significant differences between the rights and privileges associated with each status type. If you have a foreign fiancé(e), you need to know the differences. You will also need to determine which document type is suitable for your circumstances.
Green CardA Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) is a government-issued document that allows the holder to live and work permanently in the United States. A Green Card is sometimes referred to as an Immigrant visa.
Nonimmigrant VisaA nonimmigrant visa (NIV) is a government-issued document that allows the holder to live in the United States legally for a designated period. There are over 100 nonimmigrant visas available. A nonimmigrant visa is often the first step to becoming a Green Card holder.
Are You Eligible?According to the USCIS, before you can apply to bring your fiancé(e) into the United States, you must meet specific requirements.
- You must be a U.S. citizen.
- Once your fiancé(e) is legally allowed to enter the U.S., you must marry them within 90 days.
- Both you and your fiancé(e) must be legally free to marry (i.e., all previous marriages must have ended through divorce or death).
- You and your fiancé(e) must have met in person at least once within the past two years. If circumstances have prevented this face-to-face meeting, your immigration lawyer can help address this issue with the USCIS.
What Is a K1 Visa?Before you can bring your foreign fiancé(e) into the United States to get married, there are several steps you must complete in advance. First, you must apply for the correct nonimmigrant visa. Applicants who wish to enter the United States to marry a U.S. citizen must apply for the K1 nonimmigrant visa. This visa is also called a fiancé(e) visa or a marriage visa. The USCIS grants this visa to people who are engaged to U.S. citizens. This visa is valid for 90-days once the petitioner enters the United States. Before the 90-day period ends, the K1 visa holder must be married and apply for the Spouse visa (IR1 or CR1) or a Green Card.
K1 Fiancé(e) Visa Application Process: Steps 1-4Before your fiancé(e) can legally enter the United States, there are several tasks that must be completed with the assistance of your immigration lawyer. This complex process requires the experience of lawyers who specialize in immigration law. 1. Your immigration lawyer will help you fill out USCIS Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). This visa petition asks the USCIS to legally recognize the relationship between you and your foreign fiancé(e). 2. Once the USCIS has reviewed and approved your visa petition, they will forward it to the DOS National Visa Center (NVC). 3. The NVC will forward your approved Form I-129F to the U.S. embassy or consulate where your fiancé(e) lives. 4. Once the U.S. embassy or consulate in that country receives the approved Form I-129F, your fiancé(e) must complete a visa interview in their home country. You will be notified when this interview has been scheduled. Your fiancé(e) must bring all appropriate documentation to the interview before they can move forward in the application process.
K1 Fiancé(e) Visa Application Process: Steps 5-75. Your fiancé(e) may apply for the K1 visa through the U.S. embassy or consulate in the home country. 6. The U.S. embassy or consulate will determine if your fiancé(e) qualifies for a K1 visa. If the application is approved, it is valid for up to 6 months for a single entry into the United States. If your fiancé(e) application is not approved, your immigration lawyers can help you determine what needs to happen next. 7. Once your fiancé(e) travels to the United States, they are not guaranteed entrance into the country. Your fiancé(e) must submit to an inspection at the U.S. Port of Entry – CBP. A CBP officer will make the final decision to admit or not admit your fiancé(e) into the United States.
K1 Fiancé(e) Visa Application Process: Steps 8-108. Once your fiancé(e) enters the U.S., you must marry that person within 90-days, or the visa application is no longer valid. 9. After you are married, your new spouse is not automatically a U.S. citizen. You will need to seek an adjustment of status through the USCIS. Your immigration lawyers can help you apply for an adjustment in status by filling out Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status. 10. In most cases, both you and your new spouse will need to complete an interview with USCIS before the K1 visa holder's status can be updated.
What Happens at a K1 Visa Interview?Before a fiancé(e) visa is granted to a petitioner, the applicant must attend an in-person interview. This interview is intended to help the U.S. embassy determine the petitioner's eligibility for entering the United States on a K1 visa. The interviewer will specifically focus their questions on how well the petitioner and the U.S. citizen know each other. Your immigration lawyers can help you prepare for the appointment and collect any essential documents that the petitioner must bring with them. What type of documents will the applicant need to bring to the interview? In addition to documents that verify ID, the petitioner will also need to provide an affidavit of support.
What Is an Affidavit of Support?The affidavit of support, otherwise known as USCIS Form I-134, is designed to help a U.S. citizen demonstrate that they can financially support their foreign fiancé(e) once they are married. Form I-134, along with all corroborating documents, must be submitted during the in-person K1 visa interview.
Children of K1 Visa HoldersDoes your foreign fiancé(e) have children under the age of 18-years-old? Before those children can enter the U.S., the children must be included on Form I-129F. If the children are not included on the form, they cannot enter the United States with the K1 holder. If the K1 visa holder’s children are over the age of 18-years-old, they must submit their own application for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa before they can enter the United States.
Conditional StatusIf the K1 visa holder applies for their change in status within the first two years of marriage, the USCIS will grant the petitioner a conditional permanent resident status including, a Green Card that is valid for two years. A temporary Green Card cannot be renewed. The applicant will need to remove the conditions from the status before they can apply for a permanent Green Card. To remove the conditional status attached to the permanent resident status, the temporary Green Card holder must submit USCIS Form I-751, Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence Based on Marriage. Suppose Form I-175 is not submitted within 90-days of the temporary Green Card’s expiration date. In that case, the holder will lose their permanent residence status and be eligible to be removed from the United States.
Petition to WorkUnder normal circumstances, a nonimmigrant visa holder cannot work in the United States unless they enter the United States using a temporary work visa. Once a K1 marriage visa holder enters the U.S., they may submit USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This authorization is valid for only 90-days. Suppose the K1 visa holder wants to wait until after they are married to apply for work authorization. In that case, their immigration lawyer can help them fill out Form I-765 while they submit USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status. Once Form I-765 is approved in connection with Form I-485, the holder is authorized to work in the United States for one year. They will need to reapply for work authorization each year even though they have a permanent Green Card.
Failure to MarryAs stated earlier, a K1 Visa holder and the U.S. citizen who intends to marry must complete a legally recognized marriage ceremony within 90 days of the K1 visa holder entering the United States. If a marriage does not occur, the K1 visa holder’s status is immediately revoked, and they are not allowed to stay in the United States. The K1 visa cannot be extended. If the U.S. citizen would still like to marry the K1 visa holder after 90 days, an experienced immigration attorney can help the petitioners accomplish that goal.
Why Apply for a Green Card?Once a K1 visa holder is married and has updated their status (Spouse visa) through the USCIS, they can still be removed from the United States under certain circumstances without permanent residence status. Also, without a Green Card, there are many aspects of U.S. life that the spouse visa holder can not enjoy. Here are some of the main differences between a nonimmigrant visa holder and a Green Card holder.
- Nonimmigrant visa holders cannot vote, run for political office, or receive federal funding.
- They cannot apply for U.S. citizenship (a Green Card must come first).
- A nonimmigrant visa holder is restricted in the type of work they can accept.
- Restricted travel outside the United States to visit loved ones in other countries.
- They are not allowed to sponsor other family members that want to immigrate to the U.S.