K-1 Fiancé(e) Visas
What is it?
If you are a U.S. citizen, and you wish to marry a foreigner and bring him/her to the U.S. to become your spouse, then a K-1 visa allows you to bring your fiance here to get married. The K-1 Visa is sometimes referred to as a “fiance visa”.
Once your fiance arrives in the U.S. on the K-1 visa, you have 90 days to get married. Once you get married, your fiance (now spouse!) must apply to the USCIS for his/her Green Card before the 90 days expires [hence, you have 90 days both to get married, and for your spouse to apply for his/her Green Card]. If you do not get married, then your fiance must leave the U.S. upon expiration of the 90 days.
There are a number of requirements in order to apply for a K-1 visa for your fiance:
1.You must be a U.S. citizen;
2.You must have met your fiance within the past 2 years;
3.You and your fiance must be legally free to marry (i.e. single or divorced);
4.You and your fiance must have a serious intention to marry within 90 days of your fiance’s arrival in the U.S.
5.You must meet minimum financial requirements
The K-1 application procedure is essentially a two-step process —
-first, you file paperwork with the USCIS in the U.S., and, once approved, then
-your case is sent to the U.S. consulate in your fiance’s native country. He/she is asked to fill out paperwork and take a medical exam. He/she then goes for an interview in the U.S. consulate, after which his/her visa is granted.
The entire process takes from 4 to 6 months. That is a general estimate—the exact time would depend on the service center and foreign consulate involved in your case.
K-1 Fiance vs. CR-1 Marriage Visa:
Another alternative is to marry your fiance in his/her native country, and then apply for a CR-1 visa for him/her to come to the U.S. as your spouse. So the question is: is it better to bring my fiance to the U.S. to marry here on a K-1 visa? Or is it preferable to marry in him/her native country, and then bring him/her to the U.S. on a CR-1 visa?
All in all, K-1 visas are quicker to obtain. The CR-1 visa is a bit more time-consuming to obtain than a K-1 visa. There are two reasons for this:
(a) You cannot apply for the CR-1 visa until you are already married—and the logistics of arranging for this can take several months.
(b) The CR-1 process involves submitting paperwork to the National Visa Center, and this can involve delays. Hence, applying for a CR-1 visa would probably involve longer periods when you and your fiance/wife would be separated—you in the U.S., your new wife in her native country—waiting to make wedding arrangements, or waiting for the USCIS and US State Department to process and approve her visa.
Hence, if you are planning the procedure from the beginning, it is quicker, and therefore preferable in most respects to pursue a K-1 visa for your fiance.
Do I need an attorney to obtain a K-1 visa for my fiance?
It is not required that you have an attorney when you file the petition for a K-1 visa for your fiance, but it is highly advisable to hire an attorney. There are a number of reasons for this:
(a) the USCIS and US State Department suspect that a large number of K-1 cases are fraudulent, and for that reason deny many petitions. You do not want to have your case caught up in this dragnet, and face a denial. If you hire an attorney, you will be better able to demonstrate that your case is bona fide and genuine, and that the USCIS and State Department should grant your visa.
(b) to navigate your way through the K-1 process, you have to fill out many forms. As a non-attorney, you will likely be unsure which forms to fill out, and exactly how to fill them out. You may read and reread the instruction, and think you understand . . . and yet some doubt may remain because you’ve never done this before.
If you make any mistakes or omissions, then your case will be delayed, possibly for months, and you may even meet with a denial from the USCIS, which would require you to start all over again. During any delay, you will most likely be separated from your fiance, creating a sense of intense anxiety and even despair.
If you hire an attorney, you are benefiting from his/her experience—attorneys handle cases like this day-in and day-out, and know exactly what to do to help you get the visa for your fiance.