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:

  1. The U.S. citizen has met in person within the last two years, with some limited exceptions, and;
  2. who is free to marry.

The filing process contains three steps. First, the U.S. citizen petitioner must file a petition for his or her fiancé(e) 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 fiancé(e)'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. The foreign national must enter the U.S. during the visa validity period. The couple must get married within the 90 days following entry. 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 fiancé(e)'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 fiancé(e) 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.

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