A U.S. citizen can sponsor their future spouse to come to this country on a fiancée visa known as a K-1 visa.
If the visa is approved, the couple must marry within 90 days to the person who sponsored their visa in order to qualify for adjustment of status to permanent residence in this country.
How to apply for a fiancé visa
To start the process to obtain a fiancée visa, an application is submitted to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security.
Later, once the K1 visa is approved by the USCIS, the fiancé or fiancée has a consular interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad.
What documents support the fiancée visa?
It is helpful to submit photographs of the couple together, including photos with family members if possible. We recommend that clients also submit statements from family members confirming that the relationship exists.
It is also necessary to submit financial documents proving that the petitioner US citizen can support the fiancée in the United States financially. This usually includes tax returns, W2s from an employer and a letter confirming present employment.
Upon submission of the application, the Immigration Service attempts to determine if the relationship is bona fide.
Once approval in the U.S. occurs, there is a consular interview at the Consulate overseas at which the applicant may be asked questions about the relationship. Usually only the intending immigrant attends this interview. At the end of the interview, if the officer is satisfied the relationship is bona fide, and all other requirements for the visa are met, the visa is approved.
Adjustment of status in the U.S.
Once the person comes to the United States, the couple must marry within 90 days. At that point, there is another procedure known as Adjustment of Status required to obtain permanent residence for the immigrant. There are more forms to file and documents to submit, with an interview at the end of the application process, which both spouses must attend.
If the officer is satisfied the marriage is bona fide, and all other requirements for permanent residence are met, the adjustment of status application is approved. If the marriage is less than two years old, the immigrant is given conditional permanent residence.
This status gives the immigrant all the same rights as a permanent resident except that it expires after 24 months.
Two years after the granting of conditional permanent residence, a new application must be submitted to the immigration service, documenting that the marriage still exists.
U.S. law does not allow the individual to switch to a different U.S. visa under any circumstances. If the marriage does not occur, the foreign national generally must return to their home country. So the fiancée visa is not a good option unless the couple are relatively sure they will be married.
Pluses and minuses of the K-1 visa
The fiancée visa is useful for persons who cannot obtain a tourist visa and are not eligible for a visa waiver; they often have no other way of coming to the U.S. to spend time with a future spouse.
The visa has the benefit of allowing the foreign national to spend up to 3 months with their fiancée living in the U.S. to “test the waters” of their relationship before actually getting married.
One problem with the fiancée visa: it can be a long process, especially now during the Trump Administration.
And once the petition is filed, it is often difficult for the intending immigrant to visit the U.S. on a tourist visa or visa waiver (ESTA). The U.S. Consulates are often unwilling to grant a tourist visa if a foreign national has a fiancée visa application pending; likewise even if the fiancée has a tourist visa or is eligible to enter the U.S. without a visa, U.S. border officials might turn the fiancée away at the airport because of the pending application.
Therefore, Clients should carefully consider their future travel plans before filing the visa application and be prepared for the possibility of being apart for long periods of time.