There are many different avenues to attain citizenship in the USA and they can vary based off any number of different factors. One of those is the K-1 visa. While the K-1 visa is technically a ‘non-immigrant visa,’ the number of benefits that comes with it means it is often handled by the Immigrant Visa office in embassies and consulates. In the simplest terms, the K-1 visa is a visa specifically issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen. Here is the history and the process of K-1 visas.

K-1 Visa – The History

The K-1 visa came about in 1970 during the Vietnam War. At the time, the U.S. military required any Vietnamese person who wanted to marry a U.S. soldier to first get exit visas from their government as well as an immigrant visa through the U.S. Embassy. As you can imagine, both processes took time.

They required police and medical clearances for the Vietnamese citizen as well as getting certificates from the American Embassy notarized. All of that would work fine enough in usual circumstances. Unfortunately, the process regularly took longer than most couple could complete before the U.S. soldier had to return to the United States.

This would then be further complicated. As intending immigrants (because of the paperwork so far filled out) they would be unable to receive a visitor visa to visit America after the soldier’s return.  Roughly 100 of American-Vietnamese couples found themselves in this sticky situation, causing the Embassy and Congress to take note and eventually pass Public Law 91-225, creating the K visa.

K-1 Visa Eligibility

To be eligible for a K -1 visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are a U.S. citizen
  • You and your fiancé(e) are legally able to be married in the United States. (Neither are currently married)
  • You have met your fiancé(e) in person at least once within the 2 years before filing the petition for the K-1 visa. This can be waived if:
    • It would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen petitioner
    • Violate long-established, strict customs of the foreign culture or society
  • You intend to marry your fiancé(e) within 90 days of their arrival to the U.S. on the K-1 visa

The Process

Once you are feeling certain in your eligibility you will begin the next process, filling out applications, petitions, and other paperwork. You will be working with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS,) the Department of State (DOS,) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies. Throughout the process various security and background checks may be processed on both your fiancé(e) and you.

  1. First you will out a petition for your fiancé(e) with the USCIS. To do so you will file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e).
  2. Then, you will apply for a visa through the DOS.
  3. After receiving the K-1 visa, your fiancé(e) will go through an interview at a Port of Entry, meeting with a CBP officer who will make the final decision on entry.
  4. The Big Day! You and your fiancé(e) are married.
  5. Your spouse can now apply for an adjustment from K-1 visa to a Green Card that is valid for 2 years.

Does Your Fiancé(e) Have Children?

If your fiancé(e) has any children who are under 21, then they may be eligible to come to the U.S. through a K-2 visa. Their information will need to be included on the Form I-129f that is filled out. If you are married within the 90 days of arrival their/your child can also apply for a Green Card (with the Form I-485 paperwork). There are some stipulations here. K-2 nonimmigrant children need to remain unmarried to be eligible for the Green Card.

What Happens to Your K-1 Visa if You Fail to Marry?

Should the 90 days post admittance to the United States pass without you and your fiancé(e) the visa automatically expires. It cannot be extended. If the 90 days should pass then the visa holders must leave the country or be in violation of immigration law. Should you marry them after that 90 day period, the paperwork would change from a K-1 visa to filling out a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130).



If any of this seems confusing, we understand. Immigration law and the paperwork that is required can be difficult to understand and fill out correctly. If you have any other concerns or need help in your immigration case, do not hesitate to reach out.


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