Under the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act) and its amendments, the K visa allows the spouse and unmarried children (below the age of 21 years) of a U.S. citizen to enter, live, and work in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant until they receive Lawful Permanent Resident status. The K Visa is classified into K1, K2, K3, and K4. K1 and K2 Visas are for a U.S. citizen’s alien fiancé and their accompanying children. K3 and K4 are for a U.S. citizen’s alien spouse and accompanying children. The K-1 visa grants the US citizen’s fiancé to come to the US to marry the US citizen. The K-3 visa grants the alien spouse to come to the U.S. and live with their spouse.  Therefore, children of U.S. citizen fiancés belong to the K-2 category, and Children and spouses of U.S. citizens belong to the K-4 category.

K-1 Visa (Fiancés of U.S. Citizens):

  • The U.S. citizen must first file an I-129F petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). When the petition is approved, the alien fiancé may go for a K visa at the American Consulate abroad.
  • Prior to filing the I-129F petition, both the alien fiancé and U.S. citizen must have met personally at least once in the two years.
  • Both the U.S. citizen and the fiancé must stay as unmarried until the alien fiancé reaches the U.S.

K-2 and K-4 Visas (Children of U.S. Citizens’ Fiancés and Children of U.S. Citizens’ Spouses):

  • The child must be unmarried and remain under the age of 21 years.
  • The child must be from outside the U.S. and will attach to K-1/K-3 visa applicant or holder to come to the U.S.

K-3 Visa (Spouses of U.S. Citizens):

  • You have married a U.S. citizen
  • The alien spouse must be outside the U.S.
  • Your U.S. citizen spouse has filed Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS for you.
  • You want to enter the U.S. to wait for the approval of the petition to become a Lawful Permanent Resident.
  • An immigration petition for the benefit of the spouse must have been filed before the I-129F (K visa petition) is filed;
  • If marriage occurs outside the U.S., the K visa must be issued by the U.S. consulate in the country where the marriage occurred.
  • You have forwarded an approved Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé) to the U.S. Consulate (which issues immigrant visas) in the country where you were married. If you were married in the U.S., the approved petition has to be forwarded to a consulate which has jurisdiction over the area where you reside.

Advantages to having a K-3/K-4 non-immigrant visa:  you are allowed to work in the U.S. while waiting for your Permanent Resident status. However, in order to do this, you must have a work permit. To apply for a work permit, submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) to the USCIS center in Chicago.

Note: You will not need to apply for a work permit after you have become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. because you will receive a permanent resident card which allows you to permanently live and work in the U.S. Your valid K-3/K-4 non-immigrant visa allows you to travel outside of and return to the U.S., even if you are still waiting for your Permanent Resident status.

K-1 Visa

A K-1 visa is a dual decisive visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to enter the United States. Individuals interested in entering the United States to marry an American citizen and reside in the U.S. should apply for a K-1 Visa. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry. Once the couple gets married, the foreign citizen can accommodate his/her status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States (Green Card holder). The K-1 Visa (also known as the “fiancé(e) visa”) grants the holder conditional permanent resident status. K-1 visa holders are allowed to work in the U.S., but must re-apply for a work permit after receiving permanent status. The dependent children of K-1 visa holders may come along with the visa holder under K-2 status. A K-1 visa is legally classified as a non-immigrant visa, which mainly leads to important immigration benefits and is therefore often treated by the Immigrant Visa section of United States embassies and consulates worldwide.

Note: In case a K-1 visa holder does not marry his/her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry into the U.S., and then he/she must leave the United States within 30 days.

Eligibility Criteria

The K1 visa entitles the visa applicant to enter the U.S. to marry an American citizen over there for which an applicant needs to fulfill eligibility criteria as below:

  • Visa applicants need to demonstrate to the Consular officer that they are doubtful to become public charges in the United States.  Generally, this is accomplished by the petitioner filing an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134) showing that he/she has an income or assets that are above that of the poverty line in the petitioner’s state of residence.
  • Both fiancé(e)s must be qualified to be lawfully married in the state of residence of the petitioner.
  • You and your fiancé(e) must be free to marry which means that both of you should remain unmarried or be having the end of any past relationship through divorce, cancellation, or death.
  • U.S. citizen who will be getting married to a foreign national in the United States must file a petition for a fiancé(e) classification (K-1) for their fiancé(e).
  • You have also met with your fiancé(e) in person within the last two years before the beginning of the K-1 Visa petition process (filing the Form I-129F).
  • This requirement can be deferred only if the meeting with non-US Citizen’s fiancé(e) in person would oppose long-established customs, or if it would create extreme hardship for the U.S. Citizen.

Documentation

You as a foreign-citizen fiancé(e), and eligible children applying for K-2 visas will be required to bring the following forms and documents to the visa interview:

  • One Nonimmigrant Fiancé(e) Visa Application, Form DS-156K required.
  • One Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, Form DS-230, Part I, you need to complete, but you do not need to complete Part II.
  • Two Nonimmigrant Visa Applications, Form DS-156 (prepared in duplicate).
    Note: 
    K-1/K-2 visa applicants should not fill in Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

There are some different applications form requirements depending on K Visa applicants where he/she applied at (U.S. Consulate General Montreal and U.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juarez). The differently required documentation are as below:

  • A valid passport with a validity date of at least six months needed to enter the U.S. and beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exceptions).
  • Divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s) for both of you and the U.S. citizen sponsor is required.
  • Police records from your presently living country are needed, and all countries where you have lived for 6 months or more since age 16 (Police records are also needed of your accompanying children, age 16 or older).
  • Medical examination certificate may be required from both.
  • Proof of financial support (Form I-134 Affidavit of Support, may be requested).
  • Two 2×2 photographs. See photograph requirements for more information.
  • Relationship proof with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e).

Note: The Consular Officer may ask for additional information, such as photographs, ID cards (to prove their identity), as well as divorce orders or cancellation records to prove that they both qualify to marry with each other, and other proof that the relationship with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) is genuine. Documents in foreign languages or other than the language of the country in which the application takes place should be translated. Applicants should take to the visa interview clear, clear photocopies of civil documents and translations, such as birth and divorce certificates are required.

How to Apply

The application process for K-1 status begins when both applicants have fulfilled the eligibility criteria, and then an American is liable to file a petition for the foreign fiancé(e) by fulfilling certain forms as mentioned below:

  • Applicant (sponsor) must file Form I-129F [petition for the alien fiancé(e)] with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live. For more information on where to file the petition visit Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). Further information is available on the USCIS website under Fiancé(e) Visas.
    Note:  
    Form I-129F cannot be filed at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or USCIS office abroad.
  • After the petition gets approved by the USCIS, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) of the State Department, which in turn forwards it to the Embassy or Consulate where your fiancé(e) will apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa.
  • No attorney or other agent is necessary to petition someone for a K-1 visa, however, some prefer to hire an attorney to handle the paperwork and facilitate the process.
  • Once the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you (sponsor) will apply and receive the petition from NVC, it will provide specific instructions to you, including where to go for the required medical examination. At the time of your interview, digital fingerprint scans will be taken. Some visa applications may need further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.
  • K-1 visa applicants’ children may apply for K-2 visas. Separate applications must be submitted for each K visa applicant accompanying them, and fee must be paid for each K visa applicant differently.

Processing Time

For Form I-129F [petition for an alien fiancé(e)], you can visit the USCIS website to check the status of your petition. Anyway, once your case has been received from NVC by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that will process it, the length of time differs from case to case accordingly. Some cases are deferred because applicants do not follow instructions carefully or supply incomplete information.

Note:  Most importantly applicant should provide correct postal addresses and telephone numbers.

Additional Information

A K-1 visa is printed on a self-adhesive label, similar to a tourist visa, but defined with the name of the petitioner. This label applied onto the fiancé(e)’s passport which is valid for one entry into the United States within six months of the date of the proceeding. After the marriage, they may file for Adjustment of Status (to become a Legal Permanent Resident of the US). After filing for Adjustment of Status they may live in the U.S. beyond the 90 day K-1 Visa validity while their Adjustment of Status application is adjusted.

K-3 and K-4 Visas

K visas are open to spouses of U.S. citizens who are the beneficiaries of an immigrant visa petition. The spouses’ unmarried children under the age of 21 are also eligible. After arriving in the U.S. under K status, these visa holders must apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. K visa holders may seek employment regardless of whether their permanent status has been approved. K visas are valid for up to two years.