A K-1 visa is commonly known as a fiance visa. It's the status that an American citizen uses to lawfully bring their fiance to the United States. The intent of the visa is that the fiance come to the United States shortly before marriage.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for K-1 status, you must be the fiance of an American citizen. The citizen must intend to marry their fiance within ninety days of their entry to the United States. Both parties must be legally eligible to marry. That is, neither one can be currently married, and all divorces or annulments must be complete.

Generally, you must provide proof that you met your fiance face to face in the last two years. There are a few exceptions to this rule: First, if you show you or your fiance's religious customs prevent an in-person meeting, you can get a waiver. Second, if meeting in person would be an extreme hardship for you, you can demonstrate how it would be a hardship and receive a waiver.

How do I apply?

It's the American citizen that begins the process by filing petition I-129F. There's an application fee of approximately $535. The form asks for information about both you and your fiance. 

This information includes your address history, physical characteristics and contact information. An immigration lawyer New York can help you make sure you've completed the form properly. Errors can result in a refusal.

What if they have kids?

In cases where you plan to marry someone with minor children, you can apply for them too. Your future spouse receives a K-1 designation while their children receive a K-2 designation. If you're already married, you're eligible to bring your spouse to the United States with a K-3 designation. In that case, their children may come with a K-4 designation.

What if my fiance already lives here?

If your fiance is already a legal resident of the United States, they don't K-1 status. This is the case even if they're not an American citizen. Our immigration lawyer New York team can help you evaluate your case to see if there's anything else that you should do.

After they arrive

Your fiance can file paperwork for permission to work as soon as they get to the United States. This is called an Application for Employment Authorization. The application goes to your local USCIS Service Center.

The original work authorization is valid as long as the K-1 status is valid, which is 90 days. As soon as you marry, they can apply to extend their work permission. To do that, they need forms I-765 and I-485.

After the marriage

Once you marry, you can work with an immigration attorney in order to amend your new spouse's status to permanent resident. It's important to get this done before the K-1 period expires. If it expires, you may still start over with a new petition in many cases, but this adds time to an already lengthy process.

What if we don't marry?

In cases where you don't end up getting married, your fiance needs to depart after the 90-day period ends. If they don't leave voluntarily, they could get deported. This might affect their chances to lawfully immigrate to the United States in the future.

How can an attorney help?

An immigration attorney can evaluate your entire situation and give you a recommendation for a course of action that best meets your needs and goals. They can make sure that your paperwork is complete and accurate. In addition, they can give you a realistic idea of what to expect from the process, so that you can have confidence in the choices you're making as you plan your future.