If you are a U.S. citizen planning to marry a foreign national, a fiancé visa (K-1 visa) is the way to get your fiancé to the U.S. It is important to note that a fiancé visa is only available to a fiancé of a U.S. citizen. If you are a permanent resident, you cannot bring your fiancé to the U.S. on a fiancé visa. A fiancé visa is not an immigrant visa. It is a visa that your fiancé gets for the purpose of coming to the U.S. in order to get married. You and your fiancé must marry within 90 days of his/her arrival in the U.S. After you marry, you must file an application to adjust your fiance’s status to the status of a permanent resident and a work permit. Your fiancé may work during the time his/her application to adjust status is pending.
In order to apply for a fiancé visa, you and your fiancé must show that you have a good faith relationship and that you plan to get married. A good faith relationship can be shown by photographs of you together taken over the time you have known each other, your correspondence, evidence of trips you took together, phone calls to each other, money transfers, affidavits of friends and family who know you as a couple, etc. Your intent to marry can be shown by a sworn statement by both of you that you intent to marry each other within 90 days of your fiance’s arrival in the U.S. Wedding plans can also be shown by proof of wedding arrangements, such as venue reservations, catering contracts, wedding invitations, or an appointment at the local government office if you don’t wish to have a wedding celebration.
You and your fiancé must have met each other in person 2 years within filing of the visa petition. Proof of your meeting must be presented to USCIS, such as photos of you together and evidence of the trip(s) you took to meet each other. Sometimes, it is not possible to meet in person because of cultural or health reasons. If that is your case, you must show proof to USCIS as to why you and your fiancé did not fulfill the meeting requirement.
Another issue to keep in mind is compliance with the International Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). This law requires background checks for all marriage visa sponsors and background checks for U.S. citizens who use marriage brokerage services that provide dating services between U.S. citizens/permanent residents and foreign nationals for a fee. An “international marriage broker” is defined as an entity that charges fees for providing matchmaking services between U.S. citizens/permanent residents and foreign nationals. Many people meet over websites and a website can be considered an “international marriage broker” if it falls within the definition. If you have used the services of an “international marriage broker,” it is important to consult an immigration lawyer in order to understand what documentation you must submit to USCIS.
Upon approval of a fiancé visa petition, the file gets transferred to the appropriate consulate of the country where your fiancé will have his/her visa interview. To prepare for the visa interview, your fiancé will have to undergo a medical exam and submit various documents to the consulate at the time of the interview. One of these documents will be an affidavit of support that you have to sign and send over to your fiancé. The affidavit of support would show the interviewing official that you, as the petitioner, have sufficient financial resources to support your fiancé while he/she is in the U.S. on fiancé visa.
The most frequently asked question is how long it will take to process a fiancé visa. The process does take several months as all required information to prepare the petition must be gathered, all foreign language documents must be translated, and USCIS processing times must be taken into account as well as the time it takes to schedule a medical exam and a visa interview. Because of backlogs and other factors that are not within our control, we cannot predict how long it will take to process a visa petition from start to finish. The advantage of the fiancé visa is that you do not have to travel to a foreign country to get married, your fiancé comes and stays if you get married, and the fiancé visa process takes less time than consular processing for a marriage-based green card.
Written by Ekaterina Berman, a San Jose divorce and family immigration lawyer. My goal is to provide experienced and caring representation in family law matters to every client.