The Quick Guide to Applying for a Fiancé Visa
The fiancé visa allows your immigrant fiancé to enter the United States in anticipation of your wedding. If your request for a fiancé visa is approved, you must marry your fiancé within 90 days of their entering the United States.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for making sure that immigrants do not manipulate and take advantage of the immigration process. As such, the fiancé visa has some strict requirements and requires a lot of evidence. In particular, you must prove that:
- You intend to marry your U.S. citizen fiancé in 90 days
- You and your fiancé met in person in the last two years
- You and your fiancé are both legally able to marry
We will provide you with information about each of these requirements below and give you some typical examples of how you can prove each. Keep in mind that obtaining a fiancé visa is not a quick process. The best thing you can do is remain patient and diligent to ensure the process moves as fast as possible.
How Do I Prove That I Meet The Requirements For a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
The K-1 Fiancé visa application requests proof that you meet each of the requirements. USCIS will check your eligibility with a fine tooth comb because many immigrants take advantage of the process and come to the United States illegally.
You and your fiancé will want to make sure that you are adequately prepared to prove the legitimacy of your relationship and your plan to marry.
Do You and Your Fiancé Intend to Marry In 90 Days?
One stipulation of the fiancé visa is that you and your fiancé must get married within 90 days after you enter the United States. There is a variety of things you can use to show USCIS that you and your fiancé are serious about getting married.
Unfortunately, they won’t just take your word for it. They will, however, be more inclined to believe you if you have had serious discussions about marriage in the past or if you have already spent money on your pending marriage. Examples may include:
- Letters between you discussing marriage plans
- Phone records showing calls between the two of you
- Receipts or copies of wedding announcements
- A letter from the official performing your wedding ceremony
- A contract with the caterer of your wedding
- A contract with the photographer of your wedding
- Contracts for wedding rentals
Have You and Your Fiancé Met In Person within the Last 2 Years?
No true couple can go more than a year without seeing each other, let alone two years. This is why USCIS requires that you and your fiancé have met each other in person in the last two years.
Just like the “plan to marry” requirement, you must prove this to USCIS. There are many different things you can use as evidence for USCIS. For example, you may include:
- Photographs of the two of you together
- Plane tickets from when one of you traveled to see the other
- A passport that shows stamps when you have traveled
- Receipts from dates or nights out on the town
If you have never met your fiancé in person and there is a good reason why, don’t panic. You may qualify for a waiver. USCIS can waive this requirement if you have a religious or medical excuse that prevents you from meeting your fiancé. Of course you will need to prove that you meet these exceptions. Proof may include:
- A letter from your parents describing why your religious belief prevents such a visit
- A letter from your church’s minister describing your religious beliefs
- A letter from your doctor describing your medical condition and why you can’t meet your fiancé in person
- Medical records that describe your condition in detail.
Now, it is not guaranteed that you will be approved for a waiver. Your best bet will be to send in all relevant information so that USCIS can make an informed decision.
Are You Legally Able To Marry?
It’s one thing to intend to get married, but it’s another to be able to. That is why you must prove to USCIS that you and your fiancé are legally able to marry each other. There are a number of reasons why a person cannot legally get married. Two of the most common reasons are because you are too young or already married. Both of these situations have the tendency of giving USCIS the impression that you and your fiancé are not serious about getting married.
If you are underage, you are not legally able to marry. The typical age of consent in the United States is 18 years old. But, since each state makes their own rules, the age to legally marry will depend on the state you choose to get married in. For example, you may get married at age 16 in Alabama with parental consent, but you have to be 19 to get married in Nebraska. You should check the state laws where you want to get married to make sure you are old enough.
If you are already married or your divorce isn’t finalized, you are not legally able to marry. USCIS frowns on applicants that are already married because it shows a lack of seriousness. It may also be a sign of marriage fraud which is illegal and can get you in a lot of trouble. If you or your fiancé are currently married, you will want to make sure all divorce proceedings have been finalized before you begin the application process.
If you don’t, USCIS may deny you fiancé visa petition.
I Meet The Requirements, How Do I Apply?
First Stop: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Now that you have determined that you meet the eligibility requirements and you have all your evidence together, the next step is to apply. In order to apply, the U.S. citizen fiancé must fill out Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé and file it with the proper USCIS service center.
When USCIS receives your petition, they will send you a receipt in the mail called Form I-797C Notice of Action. This notice will give you information on how to check the status of your petition.
Second Stop: National Visa Center
After USCIS approves your petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC will make sure all your fees are paid and that all your information is entered into their system. They are also responsible for sending your application to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
When the NVC transfers your application, they will send you a letter in the mail. The letter will outline the next steps you must take which include filling out an online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160, and scheduling an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Third Stop: US Embassy or Consulate
The last stop for your fiancé visa petition is the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. At the U.S. Embassy, you will be required to attend an interview to finalize your application. The U.S. Embassy will send you information about your interview and things you need to complete before the interview. During the interview, the consulate agent will ask you a series of questions to confirm you are eligible for a fiancé visa. You will also undergo background checks and fingerprinting to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens. The entire process seems intimidating, but as long you are prepared, you have nothing to worry about.
My Fiancé and I Have Applied, What is taking So Long?
The time it will take for your application to process may vary. On average, it takes about 6 months. It really just depends on whether your USCIS service center is behind or not. The USCIS website lists the current processing times (as of 6/30/2015) as follows:
- California Service Center: 5 months
- Nebraska Service Center: 5 months
- Texas Service Center: more than 6 months
- Vermont Service Center: 5 months
We know that the wait can seem daunting, but the key is to remain patient. Once you are allowed to enter the United States and you begin finalizing your wedding plans, you will realize that it was all worth the wait.
My Petition Was Rejected, What Should I Do?
Your petition could have been rejected for a number of reasons. While this may be devastating, your next step is critical because you have a limited time to file an appeal. Just keep in mind that many couples are in your same situation and it is not the end of the world.
How Do I File An Appeal?
You have 30 days after receiving your rejection letter to file an appeal. The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) handles all K-1 fiancé visa appeals. If you want to appeal your decision, you should:
- Fill out Form I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion
- Send the form, a copy of your rejection letter, and the $630 fee to USCIS
- Wait for AAO to make a decision
The AAO will review your petition and give you a final answer in about 6 months. Because the reasons for a denial of a petition may be varied we can’t address every situation in this article. However, before going through any appeal process, if you haven’t already consulted with an immigration attorney, do so now.
An experienced immigration attorney may see your petition and its denial from a different perspective. An attorney can advise you whether it is worth it to appeal, or whether you are better off filing a new application with better evidence.
Can My Fiancé and I Submit Another Application?
You may resubmit your fiancé visa application. By resubmitting the I-129F application, you and your fiancé will be able to correct some of the mistakes made in the first application.
If you have been denied for a visa, we highly advise you to seek out an attorney’s help before reapplying.