Immigrant Classifications - Family-Based
Fiancées of U.S. Citizens
Fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens may apply for admission to the United States as K-1 nonimmigrants. Despite being a nonimmigrant classification under INA §§ 101(a)(15)(K) and 214(d)(1), K-1 nonimmigrants enter the U.S. with the express purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen and applying for permanent residency. It is therefore sometimes referred to as a “quasi-immigrant visa.” K-1 visa issuance typically is handled by the immigrant, rather than nonimmigrant, visa section at U.S. consular posts.
A “fiancé(e),” for K-1 visa purposes, is someone whom the U.S. citizen has met in person within the last two years, with some limited exceptions, and who is free to marry. The filing process contains three steps. First, the U.S. citizen petitioner must file a petition for his fiancée on Form I-129F. Upon approval of the petition, USCIS will forward the application to the National Visa Center to begin the process of the visa application. The second step is the filing of the visa application with the consular post in the fiancée’s home country, which culminates with the stamping of the K-1 visa in the applicant’s passport. The K-1 visa is valid only for a single entry to the United States. During the visa validity period, the foreign national must enter the U.S.
Within the 90 days following entry, the couple must get married. Because of the difficulty of timing these steps of the application process, many couples choose to perform a small, legal ceremony within the 90 day window following entry to the U.S., in order to become officially married for the purpose of the visa application, to be followed later with a larger ceremony with additional guests. The third and final step is that, following the marriage, and ideally prior to expiration of the fiancée’s I-94 card, the foreign national must file an I-485 application for permanent residency in the U.S. Foreign nationals who obtain lawful permanent residence through the fiancée visa program will almost always be conditional permanent residents. Conditional permanent residents have all of the same rights and responsibilities as other permanent residents; however, they are considered “conditional” if they obtained permanent residence based on a marriage that is less than two years old at the time the permanent residency is granted. They are issued a permanent resident card with a two-year, rather than the standard ten-year, validity period, and within the 90 day window prior to expiration of their two-year permanent resident card, they must file a petition on Form I-751 jointly with their spouse to remove the conditions of that residency. Once the conditions are removed, the foreign national is granted a permanent resident card with a ten year validity period.
Pursuant to §216 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an officer of the Citizenship and Immigration Service has granted you Conditional Permanent Residence status. As a result, you and your spouse must file a joint-petition, Form I-751, with the Citizenship and Immigration Service to have the conditional basis of your status removed. This petition must be filed within a 90-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of the date you were granted Conditional Permanent Residence, which in your case is between May 29, 2016 and August 27, 2016. If the petition to remove the conditional basis is not filed within this period, your Conditional Permanent Residence status will be terminated automatically and you will be subject to deportation from the United States. You must give the Citizenship and Immigration Service certain documents with this form to show that your marriage was not entered into for the purposes of circumventing the immigration laws of the United States. These documents should include at least two of the following:
- A lease or mortgage contract showing joint occupancy and/or ownership of your communal residence.
- Financial records showing joint ownership, assets, and/or joint responsibility for liabilities.
- Birth Certificates of any children born to this marriage.
- Affidavits from at least two people who have known both of you since the Conditional Permanent Residence was granted. Such persons may be required to testify before an Immigration Officer as to the information contained on their affidavit.
- Other documentation establishing that a bona fide marital relationship exists.
After reviewing the information contained on the petition and accompanying supporting documents, the Citizenship and Immigration Service may require both petitioners to appear at the local Immigration Office for an interview before an immigration officer. If your petition is supported by affidavits, the affiants may also be interviewed.
With regard to traveling outside the United States while the joint petition is pending, the Alien Registration Receipt Card, Form I-551 issued to a Conditional Permanent Resident is not valid beyond the second anniversary of the date on which you obtained residence and may not be used for return to the United States after the second anniversary date. If you must travel outside the United States after that card has expired and before the petition has been approved, you should first contact this office so that we may take the appropriate action to request advanced authorization to travel from the Citizenship Immigration Service. If the joint petition is approved, you will receive instructions on how to obtain a new Alien Registration Card.