Getting married to the person you love is thrilling. But it can also be a time of stress. From planning a wedding to arranging the paperwork, you have many steps to complete. If your fiancé(e) is a citizen of the United States but you are not, then you may also need to obtain a K-1 visa to enter the U.S.
The K-1 visa process
A K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) of an American citizen to immigrate to the U.S. As long as you and your partner marry within 90 days of your arrival (and you are otherwise eligible), you can change your immigration status to become a permanent resident of the United States.
This process is complicated. We have provided a basic overview of the process.
1. Determine your eligibility: Your fiancé(e) must be an unmarried citizen of the U.S. You must also be unmarried. You need to have seen your fiancé(e) in-person within two years of your visa application.
2. File an Alien Fiancé(e) petition: Your partner must file a Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) on your behalf. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review the filing and, if needed, will request additional information. Once approved, USCIS will send your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then send your petition to the Embassy or Consulate of your home country.
3. Complete a medical examination and attend a K-1 Visa interview: Once you are scheduled for your K-1 visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country, you will need to complete a medical examination by a designated medical examiner. You will then attend an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The consular officer will review your paperwork and ask questions about your relationship, intentions to marry, immigration history, and criminal history. The consular officer will determine whether to approve or deny your K-1 visa. If approved, the visa should be valid for six months and you will need to enter the U.S. before the visa expires.
4. Get married: Once you enter the U.S. with your K-1 visa, you and your partner will need to marry within 90 days.
5. Apply for a green card: After you are married, you will need to prepare and file paperwork to adjust your status to a permanent resident of the United States. You and your partner will eventually be scheduled for an in-person interview at a local USCIS field office. You have the right to bring an immigration attorney with you to the interview.
If your marriage is less than two years old and your application to adjust status is approved, you will receive Conditional Permanent Resident status and your green card will be valid for two years.
Within the 90-day period before your two-year green card expires, you will need to file additional immigration paperwork to show that you continue to be married and to request that the conditions on your permanent resident status be lifted. If approved, you will then receive a ten-year green card.
Planning a wedding is difficult enough without the added stress of applying for a K-1 visa. Many people choose to work with an immigration attorney to ensure that they complete every step of the process correctly. Whatever you choose, securing a K-1 visa is a critical part of immigrating to the U.S. to be with the person you love.