We get a lot of questions from long distance couples about closing the distance in the USA and the struggles they’re having with the K1 Visa process.
To better help our readers we asked our good friend and fiance visa expert, Prem Kumar, to break down the process step by step.
Prem is a bonded Immigration Assistance Provider who has helped thousands of couples with their applications. He has also produced easy to follow guides on preparing for two of the most important parts of the process, the Fiance Visa Petition (I-129F) and the K1 Visa Interview.
Enjoy! Lolo & Nate
After guiding tens of thousands of applicants through the K1 visa process, there’s one aspect that sticks out between those who have a successful experience versus those who struggle.
It all comes down to how well they know each step and how much they prepare.
To make it as easy and manageable as possible, there are ten basic but critical steps to be aware of during the K1 visa process.
From meeting your fiance for the first time all the way to getting married and holding a green card in your hands, these procedures apply to everyone.
Ten Crucial Steps In The K1 Fiance Visa Process
1. Three major fiance visa requirements you can’t overlook
You must have met one another in person, face-to-face
The first step goes without saying, but you’ll be surprised how many folks think it’s not important.
It doesn’t matter where you met, how you met, or even if you didn’t have a romantic relationship at the time. As long as you’ve met at least once, you’re qualified.
Although there are waivers available, they’re rarely granted, so consider this a huge requirement.
You must be legally free and able to marry
Both of you must be over 18 years old and submit any divorce documents at the time of filing.
Being in divorce proceedings, or being separated, is not enough. You must be single, divorced, widowed, etc.
The US petitioner must be a US citizen
If the petitioner or sponsor is not a US citizen, you won’t qualify for the K1 Visa. Also, the foreign beneficiary should not have any inadmissibilities (such as criminal records or adverse health problems) or immigration violations (such as past overstays on a US tourist visa).
2. Prepare and submit the I-129F Petition
To start, you must prepare and submit your I-129F Petition for an Alien Fiance. This application is a full set of forms, supporting documents, evidence of relationship, and payment fee ($510 USD as of October 2nd, 2020) that you send to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This petition is important and must be done meticulously. It’s your “first impression” to the government regarding your relationship and your eligibility.
Get this wrong, and you can set yourself back months or even receive a complete denial. That’s why you must demonstrate, through application forms or evidence, that you qualify for a K visa and have a genuine relationship.
In addition, with statements and evidence you show your intent to get married within 90 days upon arrival into the US by the foreign beneficiary.
Aside from forms, the USCIS also needs to see that you’re a real couple and not just trying to take advantage of the immigration system. For that, provide a selection of your best Proof of Relationship.
Most couples submit copies of the items below as evidence that they’re relationship is legitimate:
- Love letters
- Airline tickets, and
- Hotel receipts
Just be sure not to get too excited. Don’t send too much evidence as it may become suspicious or even suggest to authorities that you’re already married (and ineligible for a fiance visa).
Submitting a great I-129F Petition shows the government you’re serious about your relationship and receiving approval. If you want to cut through all of the misinformation and uncertainty, check out Prem’s step by step guide to getting your I-129F approved and without delay.
3. Playing the waiting game
Because of the popularity of the fiance visa, once you submit your application to the USCIS, you join a queue of thousands of couples in line ahead of you.
You’ll wait while the USCIS performs background checks, verifies eligibility, assesses your relationship for signs of fraud or sham, and if all looks good, approves your case.
The I-129f processing time generally takes between 3-5 months, which is the toughest part because the excited couple has to sit and wait patiently to hear back from the government.
Unfortunately, delays may occur if there are problems or issues with your application. In which case, the USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE).
4. The NVC Process
Following a USCIS approval, your documents are forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), an agency responsible for processing applications.
For fiance visa applicants, the primary duty of the NVC is to perform background checks and assign a Case Number to you. This becomes an important identifying number from now on.
Prem’s insider tip: Even though the NVC operates without your intervention, it’s a good idea to follow up and double check they’ve received your case in one piece from the USCIS.
The NVC normally takes between 4-6 weeks to perform all their checks before they send your case to the US Embassy / Consulate abroad.
5. Prepare documents needed for the K1 visa interview
Upon receiving your case, the US Embassy performs more background checks before allowing you to apply for a visa. Within 2-3 weeks after receipt, applicants are contacted with a list of documents they’re required to have before an interview can be scheduled.
This is the part where your foreign fiance gathers up all final documents, such as:
- Birth certificates
- Police certificates
- Valid passport
- Medical examination reports
- Any divorce documents
- DS-160 online application, and
- Affidavit of Support (I-134)
These are crucial for a successful interview because according to the US Department of State figures, most fiance visa applicants are delayed because they aren’t prepared with proper documents at the time of the interview.
Go slow and be deliberate about this.
With documents ready, your foreign fiance must inform the embassy before being granted access to schedule an interview.
Prem’s insider tip: Be wise when selecting an interview date. Give yourself enough time to iron out the travel details to and from the Embassy. Notice: there are only a handful of Embassies per country, so extensive travel may be required.
6. The Fiance Visa interview
This is the all-important, heart-stopping, life-changing, and momentous Fiance visa interview. It’s where months of your waiting and preparations come to a grand finale.
Your fiance must appear in person at the US Embassy, where an immigration officer interviews him or her face-to-face and assess your case. The officer may approve or reject your visa based on how prepared you are and how you answer questions.
Your fiance must present all the documents you recently prepared, answer any questions the officer may have in reference to the relationship, and verify that he or she will go to the US and marry you within 90 days.
If your fiance has any children who intend to emigrate together, they attend the interview together to apply for a K2 Visa.
If your partner is approved, the Embassy will stamp a visa. And if you get to this point in one piece, consider it mostly done. You have passed the toughest and most-challenging part of the visa process.
It’s no secret that the interview is pivotal to your application’s success. For many this can be an intimidating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Prem’s course on Preparing for the K1 Visa Interview helps long distance couples enter the interview confidently and with the necessary knowledge to complete it successfully.
7. Entering the US with your K1 Visa
With a 6-month validity period following an approval, your foreign fiance can enter the US with a K1 Visa. If he or she has children, they may also enter with their K2 Visas. A K visa can be used to enter at any Port of Entry such as an airport or land crossing.
Note that a K Visa is valid for single entry, meaning your partner cannot use it multiple times or fly back home at leisure. Once he or she enters, it’ll be some time before there’s an opportunity to travel internationally again (domestic travel is not a problem).
Prem’s insider tip: Be sure you pick a good time to enter. Have you sold your property abroad? Do you need to settle any outstanding debts? Have you given enough notice to your employer before you permanently emigrate to the US?
8. Marry within 90 days
Upon entry into the US, you two have one major task:
To fulfill your promise made months ago that you’ll marry each other within 90 days of entry.
Your priority should be to get your marriage license and get married as soon as possible. Even though you’re given 90 days, it’s best to do it quickly because you never know if delays will spring up in the future.
Once married, your foreign partner can stay in the US.
If for any reason you decide not to get married, your foreign partner must leave the US during the 90-day period.
9. File your Green Card paperwork (I-485)
Following marriage, you’re now eligible to apply for Legal Permanent Residency, commonly known as a Green Card. In order to “adjust status” from a fiance visa holder to a Legal Permanent Resident, you two must submit an application for a Green Card.
The I-485, Adjustment of Status, is a packet you prepare and send to the USCIS after marriage showing that you two are married and want your partner to live in the US.
You must prepare the application, payment fee ($1,225 per person as of April 30th, 2020; additional family members are at a lower rate), supporting documents, and other evidence, just like the first time around with the I-129F fiance visa application.
When the USCIS receives this packet, they will process your case and review your details for eligibility.
If everything is in order, they schedule you for an in-person interview (roughly 12 months after submission) to assess your bona fide marriage and make sure you’re admissible to the US.
If approved at the Green Card interview, you will get your Conditional Green Card.
10. Get a Conditional Green card (and start living life)
A conditional Green Card is valid for 2 years because for newly married couples, the US wants to test the relationship to be sure you weren’t taking advantage of the immigration system.
If you are still married (bona fide marriage) at the end of the 2 years, the USCIS extends the Green Card to a regular, full 10-year card.
In the meantime, you are allowed to live, work, and enjoy a life in the US. You may also travel outside the US temporarily for any reason as long as your permanent home is in the US.
Final Thoughts On The K1 Visa Process
For long distance couples, keeping these 10 steps top of mind throughout the application process will put them on the right path to finally “closing the distance” in the USA.
The paperwork preparations are vitally important and often require a good foundation.
While you can do the research yourself, my step by step guide to the Fiance Visa Petition is that foundation many couples require, which helps to improve their chances of approval and without delays.
The majority of couples will also experience different timelines and different questions at the interview stage.
My K1 Visa Interview Preparation guide takes couples from overwhelming uncertainty to being completely prepared for what will be one of the most important interviews of your lives.
I truly believe having someone, like myself who specialises in K1 Visas, hold your hand through the entire process, will improve your chances of success.
Not only do you get to work directly with me to help prepare your application, you’ll also join our active and supportive community of thousands of couples that are at or have been at the same stage as you are.
Remember, the more you’re educated about the procedures, the better time you’ll have navigating the K1 visa process successfully.