If you’re a U.S. citizen who’s engaged to a non-citizen who lives in another country and you plan to bring them here to marry and start your life together, they’ll need a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. It’s also referred to as a fiancé(e) visa.
Before you submit the necessary form — Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e) — to begin the process of getting your spouse-to-be to the U.S., you need to understand the requirements for this visa for yourself and the person your spouse-to-be:
- You must be a U.S. citizen.
- You need to get married within 90 days of the day they enter the U.S. on their K-1 visa.
- Both of you must be able to legally marry. For example, neither of you can be underage or not officially divorced.
- Your relationship must be real. It cannot be a “Green Card” marriage just to obtain legal permanent resident status.
- The two of you must have spent time together in person at least once in the past two years.
There are a couple of exceptions to this last rule if meeting in person would have violated cultural norms or caused extreme hardship.
Steps after the petition is approved
This is just the beginning. If your petition is approved, your fiancé will then need to apply for the visa in their own country – typically in the U.S. embassy or consulate. They’ll need to go through a background check and an interview.
Even if no problems are found and the visa is granted, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the U.S. port of entry have the final say. Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure that all of their documentation is in order and ready to present.
Once the two of you are married (within 90 days), your new spouse may apply for a Green Card. This is where the two of you will need to go through an interview process so that officials can determine that the relationship and marriage are real.
What happens if you don’t marry?
If you don’t marry within 90 days, the visa automatically expires. Remaining in the country on an expired visa can cause serious problems, including deportation.
We’ve just touched on the basics of obtaining this type of visa. If you plan to petition for one, or if your efforts have been unsuccessful, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.