I am often asked: What is a K-1 visa? A K-1 visa is another name for a fiance visa. A fiance visa is used to bring someone who you intend to marry into the United States. If you only want a friend or family member to come visit you in the United States then you would not undergo the K1 visa process. Instead you would try to help your friend or family member obtain a visitor’s visa.
A visitor’s visa can be obtained much faster than a fiance visa. Many times a person can find out the same day if a visitor’s visa would be granted. Unfortunately, a fiance visa currently takes between 7 and 9 months to obtain. This timeline is likely going to increase over the next couple of years.
(The logical question then becomes: Why not have my fiance come into the United States with a visitor’s visa as it is much faster to obtain than a fiance visa. The reason is that USCIS would consider this to be visa fraud. The misuse of the tourist visa could lead to your fiance losing the ability to obtain a marriage based green card and other very severe long term problems. Do not go this route.)
A fiance visa will not allow your fiancé to live in the United States indefinitely. It only allows your fiancé to enter the United States on a very temporary basis (90 days). If your fiancé wants to stay in the United States the she will need to marry you within 90 days and then apply for a green card. The process used to change from the K1 visa to the green card is called adjustment of status.
Whenever anyone contacts my office about a fiance visa I make sure to talk to them about the possibility of going to their fiance’s home country and marrying their fiance instead. There are definite benefits to going this route instead of the fiance visa route. However, as the fiance visa is a faster way to bring their future spouse into the United States, most of my clients choose this option. Here are some things to consider when choosing between both options.
a) Why the Fiance Visa Process is Better
The fiancé visa is a faster way to bring your loved one into the United States. The current fiancé visa waiting time, from start to finish is between 6-9 months with 8 months being the most likely amount of time to wait. The fiancé visa should allow your loved one to arrive 3-5 months sooner than if you do a CR1 case. However, the fiancé visa process is a 2 case process. Once your loved one enters with a fiancé visa, you will have 90 days to marry her and then you will need to file for her green card in the United States. The fiancé visa is the preferred way to go if you wish for your loved one to be in the U.S. sooner (even though it will likely cost more overall as you are filing 2 cases); you do not know your loved one as well, or your loved one has never been to the U.S. and you are concerned that they may not like living here; or if you wish to have a prenuptial agreement prepared prior to marriage.
Eligibility: You must be a U.S. Citizen, you must be able to marry (not currently going through a divorce); you must have met face to face in the past 2 years; you must be able to financially support your fiancé (and any children involved in the case).
b) Why the CR1 case is Better
The CR1 (marriage green card when your spouse is out of the country) case will take longer to obtain than a fiancé visa. Generally the wait is an extra 3-5 months. However, if you get married to your loved one and pursue this route there are some benefits. The first one is that you do not need to file for a green card once your spouse arrives in the U.S. as he will arrive with a green card. As you are only doing 1 case, instead of 2 as you are with a fiancé visa, the cost should be less (you will have travel expenses if you are in the United States and you wish to go to your future spouse’s country to get married. So there is a possibility that this route overall could cost more than the fiance visa then green card via adjustment of status route listed above) . In addition, with a CR1 your spouse will be able to start working upon arriving in the U.S. With a Fiance visa your spouse may not be able to start working for 3-5 months.
Eligibility: You must be married to each other at the time of filing the case; you can do this case if you are a permanent resident (green card holder); You must be able to financially support your spouse (and any children involved in the case).
The petitioner must be a United States citizen (not a permanent resident). Only U.S. Citizens are eligible to use the fiance visa process;
You must both be free to get married. You must wait until any current divorces are final. Do not file a fiance visa case while you are still technically married to another person;
You must have met each other, in person within the last 2 years. (Some potential clients have contacted my office with the mistaken belief that you must have been in a relationship with your fiance for 2 years–this is not true. Again, you only need to have had a face-to-face meeting sometime in the past 2 years. Video conversations do not count and do not satisfy this requirement. You may be able to obtain a waiver of this requirement based on religious or medical reasons. You cannot obtain a waiver if you cannot get the time off of work or you do not have the financial ability to pay to visit your fiance.
You must be able to show that you can financially support your fiancé in the United States. You must make 100% of the U.S. poverty levels unless there is an exception that applies in your case. This requirement is based on your family size. If you do not qualify based on your income you may be able to qualify based on your assets. Some embassies and consulates will also let you use a co-sponsor to meet this requirement. However, some will not let you use a co-sponsor. Check with us for current information in this area; and
You both intend to marry each other within 90 days of your fiancée entering the United States. You will both be required to state to the U.S. government that you intend to marry each other.
Please see our very popular blog post: ” 10 things to know about fiancé visas” for a more in-depth look at the fiancé visa process. If mistakes are made, even small mistakes, then there can be serious delays in the processing of the K1 fiancé visa. If you would like to get a fiancée visa for your loved one then you need to follow these two main steps. They are:
File a Petition with USCIS
The U.S. Citizen will file the fiance visa petition with USCIS. (Remember, only United States Citizens, not green card holders, can apply for a K-1 fiancé visa. If you are not a United States citizen but would like to become one then click here for information on becoming a United States Citizen) Once approved by USCIS it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The National Visa Center will run security background checks on your fiance. If all is in order the case will be sent to the appropriate US Embassy or Conulate. After the US Embassy or Consulate receives the petition, your fiancé will be notified as to what documents to bring to her interview and when and where the interview will take place.
The Fiance Visa
The application process for the K-1 visa includes the following: the required documentation, a medical examination along with any vaccination requirements. In addition there needs to be a showing of proof of support along with a completed affidavit of support form (with any supporting evidence–tax returns, letter from your employer showing that you are employed, bank statements). The required documentation for this step can vary by consulate. However, the documents which will be required can be viewed on the applicable US Consulate website.
Surprisingly, I am asked this question regularly. U.S. Citizens are ready and willing to pay an extra $1000 or more to USCIS in the form of fees if their fiance can come to the United States sooner. While there is a way to see if your H-1b case can process sooner by paying extra fees (premium processing) unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, this option is not available for k-1 fiance visa cases. This could change. However, as of today, it is not available. The best way to bring your fiance here as soon as possible is to retain a quality immigration law firm which is not going to make mistakes to delay your case. The law firm will be able to anticipate and resolve trouble areas prior to your case being filed and also resolve any issues should they arise in your case.
The very short answer is definitely yes. Usually when mistakes are made in a case the delay is between 3-6 months overall. This means that a well filed petition would have resulted in your fiance being with you 90 to 180 days sooner. These are days that are simply lost to the two of you. I have had cases that were brought to me after the case had been denied at the interview. My office was able to successfully re-file the case but the client was simply out 9 months of time. Don’t let this happen to you. Obtain help from a quality immigration law firm to help you navigate the K-1 fiance visa process.
I should just use an immigration consultant for my fiance visa as it is cheaper
Do you remember the old adage that said “you get what you pay for”. This should be kept in mind as you make a decision as to how you wish to proceed in your case.
It is definitely true that you can save some money by working with a paralegal, notario, or immigration consultant. However, many times these immigration helpers are not required to be regulated, licensed or insured. They will also not have the training to spot any and all potential issues or problems which could occur in your case (which could be overcome by proper planning). As a result you could go through the whole process and have your case delayed or worse denied. Do you want to risk your case being delayed an extra 6 months because you wanted to save a bit of money? In addition, if there is a problem in your case only an attorney will be able to talk to USCIS on your behalf. Moreover, you will be turning over highly sensitive documents to your legal representative (birth certificates, federal tax returns, bank statements etc.). Do you really want to turn these documents over to a non-lawyer. If you work with our office only an attorney would have access to these highly sensitive documents.
Our office makes the process quick, painless, and easy. We have handled these cases for over 20 years. There are no surprises for us. We handle everything for you from start to finish. Our fees are very competitive and we allow you to make low monthly payments on your case. You can call or email us, at no charge, and we can help you come up with the best immigration plan for your situation.
Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento immigration attorney with over 20 years of experience handling fiance visa, green card and other immigration cases. His office is located in Sacramento California. His office handles cases in California, the United States, and all over the world. He may be reached at 916-760-7270 or 888-801-6558. In addition, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org He would be happy to answer your immigration questions.
The above information is general in nature and is not intended to take the place of a consultation with an immigration attorney. No attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading this blog article. Always consult with an immigration attorney prior to filing any documents with USCIS.