Most people think that the only way for them to bring their significant other to the United States is to marry them. While marriage-based green card applications are the most common route, there is a way for an engaged but unmarried U.S. citizen to bring their fiancé to the U.S. This is through a K-1 Fiancé Visa.

Sponsoring a Fiancé Through a K-1 Fiancé Visa

U.S. citizens can sponsor their foreign fiancés to the United States through a Non-Immigrant Visa for a Fiancé, also known as K-1. This immigration relief is only available to couples who are not legally married — only engaged to be married shortly after.

The K-1 Fiancé Visa allows a foreign-citizen fiancé to travel to the United States and get married to their U.S. citizen partner within a certain time frame. But before all of that, they must successfully undergo a three-step process.

K-1 Fiancé Visa Process

Filing the I-129F Petition

The first step to the K-1 visa process is filing the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé. This is filed by a U.S. citizen in the USCIS office in America. It can take several months up to a year for the USCIS to approve the I-129F, so it’s best to get an application in early on.

Transferring the Case to a U.S. Embassy

After approval by the USCIS, it will transfer the case over to the U.S. embassy where the foreign-citizen fiancé lives. This is where the process gets a little tricky, with all the things the foreign fiancé needs to accomplish. Essentially, there are three parts to this step:

  • Completing the medical exam
  • Filling in the DS-160 form
  • Gathering and submitting documents
  • Attending an interview

Step two is the toughest of all three steps in this process. The U.S. embassy abroad has all the power to either approve the case or not. And in the case of the latter, the decision cannot be appealed. So it’s important that all the embassy’s requirements are met and the foreign-national fiancé has a strong case that documents their relationship with the U.S. citizen.

Filing the I-485 Adjustment of Status Application Post-Marriage

When the case is approved by the U.S. embassy, the foreign-citizen fiancé will finally be able to travel to the United States in K-1 status. But this doesn’t mean the process is complete. K-1 visa holders need to get married to their U.S. citizen fiancés within 90 days of entry.

After the marriage, they will need to file an I-485 Adjustment of Status Application to get a U.S. green card. This process can take another year to be approved, requiring more documents and even an interview with the couple at USCIS.

Tips When Filing the K-1 Fiancé Visa

The K-1 Fiancé Visa process can seem straightforward at first glance, but it’s actually a very rigorous case that is difficult to get approved for. To increase the chances of approval, the applicant and their fiancé can do the following:

Meet In-Person Within Two Years Prior to the Application

Ideally, the couple needs to have good documentation of their ongoing relationship to provide proof of a legitimate engagement to the U.S. embassy. At the very least, they should meet in person within two years prior to initiating the visa application.

While there are exceptions to this, it’s very difficult to get approved for a K-1 visa without the couple having met in the past two years.

Sign Letters of Intent to Marry

Another good way to show the legitimacy of the relationship is to sign letters of intent to marry. This document can be sent with the I-129F petition to show immigration that marriage is indeed the next step for the couple after the visa is approved.

Request an Extra Copy of the Medical Results

Lastly, it would be helpful for the foreign-citizen fiancé to request an extra copy of their medical records as soon as they complete the medical exam. This document can come in handy when filing the I-485 Adjust of Status Application down the line.

Getting a copy of it after the fact can be much more difficult and time-consuming, so it’s smart to get that document on hand early on.