United States Immigration Series Post No. 5 Fiancé / Fiancée & Marriage Visas to the United States

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

For the next two weeks, we continue our series on immigration and visas for the United States. Today, we will discuss fiancé / fiancée and marriage visas.

Foreign nationals living abroad who intend to marry a United States citizen and migrate to the US have two visa options available to them. Option one allows the foreign national to enter United States on a K-1 visa – a fiancé visa – and later, while in the US, marry and apply for legal permanent residency. The second option allows foreign nationals to marry US citizens abroad and apply for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa after marriage.

US Embassy in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia Photo Credit: Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons

US Embassy in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
Photo Credit: Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons

The different types of K-visas are:

  • K-1: Fiancés or fiancées of US citizens coming to the US for purpose of getting married
  • K-2: Minor, unmarried children of K-1 visa holders
  • K-3: Visa for foreign spouse of a US citizen
  • K-4: Unmarried children of K-3 visa holders

K-1 Fiancé / Fiancée Visa:

The K-1, or fiancé / fiancée, visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa issued to the fiancé of a US citizen that allows a person to enter the US to get married. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his / her US citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry. In case the marriage does not take place, the foreign national must depart the United States within 30 days of the expiration of the 90-day period to wed.

The requirements to file for a K-1 visa are as follows:

The petitioner must be a US citizen; non-citizens, including green card holders, cannot apply for a K-1 visa.

US Embassy in New Delhi, India Phoyo Credit: Soumya S Das via Wikimedia Commons

US Embassy in New Delhi, India
Phoyo Credit: Soumya S Das via Wikimedia Commons

  • The petitioner and K-1 visa holder must be legally eligible to marry under the laws of the fiancé/ fiancée’s country as well as the laws of the US.
  • The petitioner must have met the fiancé/fiancée within the last 2 years before filing for the visa (this requirement can be waived under special circumstances).
  • The petitioner must be able to financially support the beneficiary.
  • The beneficiary must be living outside US to qualify for a K-1 visa.
  • The visa holder’s main intention for entering the US must be to marry the US citizen / petitioner.
  • The beneficiary may not have a record of past violations of US immigration law.

The advantages of a K-1 visa are that it allows the foreign national to enter the U.S. before the marriage and remain here during the time required to adjust status to legal permanent resident. Technically speaking, the K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, but it actually serves as an immigrant visa. Once in US, the beneficiary can file for work permit to seek legal employment. Though the K-1 visa process is faster than most of the immigrant visas, it can take 90 days, or more, to obtain a work permit.

K-3 Marriage Visa:

US Embassy in Paris, France Photo Credit: Krokodyl via Wikimedia Commons

US Embassy in Paris, France
Photo Credit: Krokodyl via Wikimedia Commons

US citizens who marry foreign nationals abroad and wish to bring their spouses to the United States can apply for a K-3 visa, which is far more preferable than applying for immigrant / green card status from abroad. K-3 visas are for spouses of US citizens who are eligible to immigrate but whose immigrant visa petitions have yet been approved. Same sex spouses are now eligible for K-3 visas. K-3 visas allow entry to the US for two years, pending approval of the spouse’s adjustment of status to legal permanent resident / green card holder. If the petition is not approved in the first two years after the K-3 visa holder’s admission, the visa may be extended by two-year increments until residency is issued.

To prevent fraudulent marriages, the US Citizenship & Immigration Services enforces strict requirements to prove a valid marriage. Requirements for K-3 visa are:

  • The spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife.
  • The marriage entered must be based on love and not for citizenship.
  • The couple must demonstrate joint property ownership, joint bank accounts, joint financial management, etc.
  • The petitioner must have filed certain documents for adjustment of status for his / her spouse with the USCIS before K-3 visa can be granted.

K-1 visa and K-3 visa documentation can be complicated, and the process is document sensitive. TransLegal is available to help corporations and individuals navigate the intricacies of the US immigration system. Call us with your questions.


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