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Sponsoring a Marital Partner for Immigration with a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa

The world has never been smaller, and it’s never been easier for people from different countries to meet and fall in love. If you’ve given your heart to a foreign national, you can also bestow the benefits of legal permanent resident (LPR) status. The K-1 visa application is for American citizens who wish to bring a noncitizen to the U.S. for the purpose of a legal marriage. Citizens who plan to marry outside the U.S., or whose intended spouse is already in the country, need not apply for a K-1. To petition for a fiancé(e) visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The petitioner is a U.S. citizen.
  • The citizen intends to marry the noncitizen within 90 days of the noncitizen’s entry to the U.S., although there are exceptions.
  • Both parties are free to marry, meaning that any previous unions have been dissolved through annulment, divorce or death.
  • The parties have met in person at least once within two years of filing the petition, or have a waiver based on religious or cultural exemption or extreme hardship (rarely granted).
  • The petitioner must establish the bona-fides of the relationship.
  • You must pay a filing fee of $340.   

Petitioners file a Form I-129F for the fiancé(e), naming all of the fiancé(e)’s children under 21 whether they plan to enter the U.S. or not under a K-2 nonimmigrant visa. Those children who are 21 may enter on a K-2 up to a year after the principal beneficiary has entered the U.S., even if the principal has adjusted his or her status already.

Once your spouse has the K-1 visa, he or she may enter the U.S. for 90 days so the wedding ceremony can take place. After the wedding, the foreign national spouse can apply for legal permanent resident (LPR) status and receive a green card. The foreign national spouse is free to remain in the U.S. while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration processes the request.  If the beneficiary does not marry the petitioner within 90 days, he or she may do so at a later date so long as it is a marriage to the original petitioner and no one else. 

Things to know about K-1 visa entry

The application process is a very hopeful time for petitioners and their fiancé(e)s, but while the parties are anxious for the many benefits, they must also be mindful of pitfalls. Here are a few brief points to understand:

  • Having been admitted on a K-1, your fiancé(e) may immediately apply for permission to work and need not wait until the wedding has taken place. However, any authorization granted based on K-1 status is only valid for the 90 day life of the visa. Once married, the foreign national should file for an extended work authorization at the same time as permanent residence.
  • Fiancé(e) visas cannot be extended beyond the 90 days. If you do not marry, the fiancé(e) must leave the country or be in violation of U.S. immigration law. Any removal process that resulted could prevent the fiancé(e) from getting permission to return to the U.S. in the future.  Except, even if a beneficiary does not marry within the 90 days and overstays his or her time in the ZU.S., he or she may still file for adjustment of status based upon marriage to the same petitioner at any time thereafter.

As you look forward to a happy union, you want to avoid any frustration, delays and unnecessary expenses. To deal with the complexities of the process, consult a knowledgeable attorney at Bretz & Coven, LLP. Call us at 1 (212) 267-2555 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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