If you are a U.S. citizen who plans to marry a foreign national, you may be able to apply for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa.
This is a visa that will allow your fiancé to enter the United States for your wedding.
However, there can be a significant time difference between applying for a K-1 visa and actually receiving one.
Further, there’s no set time limit for when the government has to finish processing your application.
At most, we can estimate a general time frame based on the processing times for the past several months.
Similarly, the processing time of your specific application will vary based on the circumstances of your case, the country that your fiancé is applying from, and a number of other factors.
In this article, we’ll cover exactly what the K-1 fiancé visa is and how long it generally takes to get one.
However, please keep in mind that it’s impossible to give an exact answer to this question.
If you’re curious about how long your specific application will take, you should discuss the situation with an immigration attorney.
What is a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
A K-1 fiancé visa is a temporary visa that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reserves for the future spouses of U.S. citizens.
Importantly, the K-1 visa only allows your fiancé to enter the country in order to attend your wedding.
It does not give them permission to live in the country indefinitely.
After your fiancé receives their visa and enters the United States, you must marry within 90 days.
Then, your spouse (who entered on the K-1 visa) must file an I-485 petition to adjust their status to a permanent resident.
This will allow them to become a lawful resident of the United States.
If you fail to marry within 90 days, your partner will no longer be in the United States legally, and may be deported through the normal methods.
However, even if you marry after this 90-day period is over, you may still be able to file an I-130 petition on your spouse’s behalf.
Put another way, you can still petition for your spouse’s green card, the process will just take a few more steps, and may require additional assistance from an immigration attorney.
Requirements for a K-1 Visa
In order to apply for a K-1 visa for your fiancé, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen (the fiancés of U.S. permanent residents are not eligible for K-1 visas).
- Intend to marry your fiancé with 90 days of their entrance into the United States.
- Not be married to someone else (the same applies to your fiancé).
- Have met your fiancé in person at least once within the last two years. The only exception is in cases of extreme hardship, or if the meeting would violate specific cultural or religious customs.
- Have paid all the associated government fees.
If you fulfill all of these requirements, you can apply for a K-1 fiancé visa using Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.
How Long Does it Take to Get a K-1 Fiancé Visa?
After you apply for a K-1 visa for your fiancé, there is a two-step approval process.
First, USCIS will review your application. Then, your fiancé will go through consular processing at the U.S. processing center in their country.
After consular processing is over, your spouse can enter the U.S.
If you aren’t sure where your visa is in the process, you can check your case status on the USCIS website.
USCIS K-1 Fiancé Visa Processing Times for 2020
After you send in your initial petition, you will receive a notice of action (NOA) telling you that USCIS has started the approval process.
After you receive this notice, you’ll have to wait for a few months before consular processing begins.
Always double-check your application to make sure it includes all the required documentation before this stage.
If your application lacks any of the required documentation, or if the documents you send in contain errors, USCIS may request further information through a Request for Evidence (RFE).
These can delay the USCIS approval process for several additional months, so you’ll want to avoid them if at all possible.
Even a perfectly prepared application can take 10 months or longer to process.
You can find an estimate of the usual processing time for your area on the USCIS website.
To use this website, you simply need to pick the relevant form (in this case, I-129F | Petition for Alien Fiancé) and the service center you plan to file with:
For reference, a Form I-129F filed through the Vermont service center has an estimated processing time of between 20.5 and 26.5 months as of January, 2021.
K-1 Fiancé Visa Consular Processing Times for 2020
After USCIS approves your application, you will need to go through consular processing.
This is a relatively short step that typically takes between 2 and 4 months.
In most cases, the only thing you need to do for this step is attend a visa interview at your local U.S. consulate or embassy.
During the visa interview, a consular officer will ask you a wide variety of questions about your relationship.
These may include questions about your work and family history, as well as your plans for entering the U.S.
The officer may also ask questions about your marriage to make sure that it is not fraudulent (i.e. a “green card marriage”).
It is important to answer all of these questions truthfully.
If all goes well, you should receive a K-1 visa stamp in your passport on the day of your interview, or shortly thereafter.
After that, it’s time to enter the United States.
Ultimately, the K-1 fiancé visa is an excellent option for many couples who want to get married in the United States.
However, keep in mind that the processing time for a K-1 visa can be quite lengthy.
This is particularly true if there are mistakes in your application.
In general, you should budget between 20 and 28 months for the entire K-1 visa process.
Though there are certainly exceptions to this rule, it’s usually better to budget more time than you need in order to create a buffer for unforeseen circumstances.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that you speak to an immigration lawyer before you apply for a fiancé visa.
By working with a good immigration attorney, you can save weeks or even months by submitting a perfect application the first time.