While it is (unfortunately) true that all types of visas are subject to some degree of myths and misunderstandings — including a few major falsehoods that have endured for decades —the K1 visa is arguably the least understood; especially among some of its critics who believe that it is merely a way for people to deceptively “marry their way into becoming a permanent resident.” Actually, given the immense amount of rigorous scrutiny and due diligence by the U.S. Foreign Consulate in the petitioner’s native country, and by the USCIS and DHS in the U.S., nothing could be further from the truth!
K1 Visa: the Basics
A K1 visa — a.k.a. a fiancé or fiancée visa – enables qualifying foreign petitioners to legally enter the U.S., provided that they are going to marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days. If the marriage fails to take place within 90 days, or if the petitioner marries someone else (i.e. not the U.S. citizen named in the application), then she or he must leave the United States.
To apply for a K1 visa, in most cases a foreign-citizen fiancé or fiancée must submit proof of having met their U.S. citizen sponsor in the last two years, and this meeting must have been face-to-face (i.e. not over the phone or via the internet).
However, in cases where it is not acceptable for a fiancé or fiancée to meet her or his betrothed prior to the marriage (not because of anything to do with where the individuals were born, but because of cultural norms), then USCIS may at its discretion grant an exception to this requirement.
Nonimmigrant vs. Permanent Resident
Contrary to what some people think, a K1 visa does not automatically grant petitioners permanent resident status via marriage. While in the U.S., after the marriage and before their K1 visa expires, petitioners may apply for adjustment of their status to a permanent resident (LPR) with USCIS and the DHS, respectively. The petitioner may also apply to have any unmarried children under the age of 21 obtain a K2 visa, and join their parent and (new) step-parent in the U.S.
Complex Application Process
Applying for a K1 visa is very complex, and as noted earlier, the process involves initial screening and approval from the U.S. Consulate in the petitioner’s native country. The official documents that petitioners must submit include (but are not limited to): a valid passport for travel to the U.S., a divorce or death certificate for any previous marriage, police clearance, medical examinations, evidence of financial support, and so on. In addition, the U.S. Consulate, USCIS, and/or DHS may ask for additional information at their discretion, which if requested must be submitted properly and by a specific deadline.
To learn more about the K1 (and K2 visa for children under 21), contact the Pollak PLLC team today. We will learn about your unique situation, clearly answer your questions. And if you wish to move ahead with a petition, we will work with you and your fiancé or fiancée to create a complete, timely and persuasive application.
Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at karenlp@pollakimmigration