You’re in love. You want to spend the rest of your lives together. You know you can overcome any challenge that lies in your path and that first challenge is getting your loved one into the country. To finally unite with the one you love requires persistence and paperwork. However, the end result will be worth it.
These steps keep the process moving as quickly, and with as few bumps, as possible.
1. Check that You and Your Fiancé Satisfy the Qualifications
Before you begin, make sure you and your fiancé (or fiancée) are eligible for the K-1 visa approval, including:
- You are a U.S. citizen.
- You plan on marrying within 90 days of her or his arrival.
- All previous marriages have been terminated before you file your application.
- You have physically met each other at least one time within the last two years or are entitled to a long-established custom or hardship exception.
2. File the Petition
File form I-129F to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to recognize the relationship between you and your fiancé. Send evidence to prove each of the criteria listed above with the petition and the appropriate filing fee.
You should receive notice that USCIS has opened your file in about two to three weeks from the date the service center received it.
3. Your I-129F Petition is Approved
The petition triggers the USCIS background checks that cover national security, criminal records and other matters that may affect eligibility.
Don’t expect an immediate answer. Approval generally takes four to six months, depending on the service center considering your petition. Mistakes on the petition or lack of documentation could delay that time even further.
Upon approval, the USCIS notifies you, your fiancé and the U.S. Embassy or consulate in charge of visas for your fiancé’s country of residence.
Note that approval of the petition does not automatically guarantee approval of the K-1 nonimmigrant visa. Your fiancé must submit to the second processing stage within the four months that your petition approval is valid, although a consulate may extend this date upon request.
4. Your Fiancé Applies for a K-1 Visa
Your fiancé applies for a K-1 visa directly at the U.S. Embassy or consulate where she or he lives, along with evidence of eligibility. The Department of State conducts a background, criminal and national security check and reviews information contained in the medical exam. The consulate then schedules an interview date to which your fiancé must appear in person.
Your fiancé has up to six months to travel to the United States on an approved single entry K-1 visa.
5. Your Fiancé Finally Arrives
Your fiancé finally arrives and you can plan for your big day. However, don’t wait too long. You only have 90 days from the date of your fiancé’s entry into the United States to get married, and a K-1 cannot be extended. If you do not marry within the 90 days, your fiancé will have to leave the country and you will have to start the process all over again, with no guarantees of the same results.
6. Start the Green Card Process
Your fiancé is reaching the final stage to building a life in the United States. You should have all the forms and evidence ready to apply for a green card as soon as you are married.
Note that your fiancé is eligible to work immediately upon entry for up to 90 days. The work permission can be extended as part of the adjustment of status application.
Talk to an Immigration Attorney
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*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.