K-1 Visa Process
When a US citizen wishes to invite his fiancé to the US, he or she has to submit a K-1 or fiancé visa petition. If granted, the petition will allow a foreign fiancé to obtain a K-1 visa to come and stay in the US for up to 90 days. Within the 90 days, a couple must get married or fiancé has to leave the US. The K-1 status, once obtained can be used to adjust status or receive a green card only after the marriage with the US citizen who sponsored the K-1 fiancé.
The K-1 process consists of several steps:
STEP 1: US citizen files I-129F petition with filing fee and supporting documents (See www.uscis.gov). Only that US citizen who met his or her fiancé in person within the 2 years from the date of filing can submit an I-129F petition. There are very narrow exceptions to this rule, and a consultation with an attorney should be held whenever a US citizen wishes to invite a fiancé he has not met in person within the preceding 2 years. It takes government from 3 to 6 months to consider the I129F petition. Sometimes, it may take longer. It happens, for example, when USCIS issues a request for more evidence which will delay the process.
STEP 2: If the petition is approved, USCIS will submit the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). The petition will be valid for 4 months from the date of approval. The validity of the petition period can be extended by a consul. The NVC will send the approved petition to a US consulate in a county where the fiancé resides. This step may take up to 12 weeks.
STEP 3: When the Consulate receives the approved petition, it will notify the fiancé and provide instructions as to how to apply for a K-1 visa. Sometimes, fiancé needs to submit additional forms: a waiver of inadmissibility, for example. When fiancé complies with all the requirements, an interview will be scheduled. If it goes successfully, a K-1 visa which is valid for 6 months will be issued.
STEP 4: Fiancé, with the valid visa arrives at the airport and /or border and seeks admission. Again, if everything goes smoothly, the K-1 fiancé will be admitted to the US in K-1 status. Unmarried children of fiancé, if they are under 21 may come along, and if they come to the US within the year of the fiancé and are still under 21, there is no need for a separate petition as long as the petition for fiancé names them as dependents.
If the couple marries within 90 days, the US citizen may petition his spouse for a green card (permanent residence status) through a process called adjustment of status. Please see: Green Card Based on Marriage.