On your random trip abroad, chances are you will meet local people of different cultures and background. Sometimes, even your regular trip to a destination that you have been many times may produce a chance meeting with someone who might just be the person that you are looking for to spend your life with. You might meet such a person during your train ride, airplane ride or a bus ride. Now, if that person was a US citizen also, you should congratulate yourself because you just saved $1310 USD at the time of this writing (8/2014). Chances are, though, that you are reading this because the person is NOT a US citizen and they do NOT have any way to come to America to live except through marriage with you. Now, you can do this two ways. The person can come to the US on a tourist/student visa and after 90 days you guys can get married and file for Adjustment of Status (AOS) and get a green card this way. This is the traditional marriage through green card. Just follow my most comprehensive guide and you should be able to do it smoothly. However, if the individual does NOT want to come to America on a student/tourist visa, but rather come with the full intention of getting married and immigrating to America permanently, the K-1 visa is the visa to go with.
The K-1 visa is actually a non-immigrant visa intended for a fiance of a US citizen to enter the United States and get married within 90 days and apply for AOS. Because most people who enter on a K-1 visa end up getting married and filing AOS, the K-1 visa is actually handled by the immigration visa section of the US Embassy/Consulates. Officially it is classified as non-immigrant because technically the individual could come to America, and realize they made a mistake because the US citizen they met is an asshole, and leave the country without immigrating. The K visa also has a K-2 version which is for the dependents of the fiance if they also choose to immigrate to America. Keep in mind the dependents (children) must be under 21 and unmarrie to accompany the fiance to America. The K visa, along with a few others, are one of the non-immigrant visas that are restricted if you have a J-1 2 year home residency requirement. This makes sense because again, a K-1 visa holder typically ends up getting married to a US citizen and filing for AOS. Remember, you must be a US citizen to file for a K-1 visa; permanent residents are NOT eligible to file a K-1 visa for their fiance.
To get started, gather some of the necessary supporting documents of your intention and relationship:
- Declaration of how you two met in the last 2 years: one of the requirements is that you and your fiance must have met in person within the last 2 years before you started to apply for the K-1 visa. This requirement can be waived if strict customs of the finance’s culture precludes you two from meeting. The declaration only has to document your story and relationship and then it must be signed and dated. The below is a sample statement:
I, [name], intend on sponsoring my fiance, [fiance name], for a K-1 visa to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage and immigration. We met in [month, year] during my trip to [country] while I was [purpose of the trip]. [Provide details of your first meeting, such as: During my trip to the Gambia, I went on a white-water rafting excursion on the Gambia River and my fiance was the one of the staff members who was guiding the trip. My fiance and I got to bond and talk and soon we made plans to meet up again during my stay in the Gambia. The attached are my excursion photos with my fiance as well as my plane ticket that I used to travel to the Gambia during May 2012]. I have attached [copies of supporting documents, see next section] for your review. We have been in an established bona fide relationship since [month, year] and also provided additional documentation of an on-going relationship. Please review my application and process my fiance’s K-1 visa application.
[Your Name], signed and dated.
- Supporting documents for initial meeting and on-going relationship: the more detailed and thorough your documents are, the better chances that your application will go smoothly without a need for Request For Evidence (RFE). An RFE requires you to provide more documentation to prove your application is genuine and adds more time to your application. You should keep all originals and send in copies. Sometimes an RFE might ask you to send in the original, in which case you must. For your initial application though, just send in copies. You can place post-its or highlight the important section of these documents that helps supporting your application. The following are a list of documents that you should get copies of for your application:
- airplane tickets and boarding passes
- train passes
- bus passes with dates
- hotel receipts with dates
- passport stamps with dates
- photos of you and your fiance together (write date and location on the back)
- photos of the engagement (write date and location on the back)
- letters exchanged
- emails exchanged
- copy of engagement ring receipt
- Original statements of your intent on marriage: both you and your fiance must provide an original statement declaring an intent on marriage within 90 days of entering America. The below is a sample statement. Remember, both you and your fiance must write one. Both originals must be sent with the application:
Dear Sir or Madam:
I, (applicant’s or beneficiary’s name), do hereby state that I am legally able and willing to marry (petitioner’s or beneficiary’s name), and intend to do so within 90 days of my arrival into the US using the K-1 visa.
Now, you need to gather some civil and financial documents which validates your identity and citizenship, as well as your ability to marry your fiance and your ability to support the finance:
- 1 passport style photo. Check my guide here to make your own and save some money
- Copy of birth certificate of the US citizen. If the US citizen is not born in the US, then a copy of the the US citizen’s naturalization certificate. If the certificate is not available, you can attempt to copy the identity page of your US passport. This is the last resort and your application could be put into question.
- Copy of any final divorce certificates of all previous marriages or death certificates of previous marriages if the spouse had died. This is to ensure that you are not currently married to anyone else as the US legal system does not allow one person to be married to multiple people.
- If the US citizen had changed their name due to previous marriages, then all legal documents regarding the name change such as marriage certificate, adoption decree or court order must also be submitted (copies).
- If the US citizen was convicted of any crimes, then all court documents regarding the charge of the crime and the disposition of any convictions must also be submitted.
- Past 2 years of Federal tax return
- Proof of employment that can be a letter from the employer or last 2 pay stubs or the W2s that you have received for tax filing.
- bank statements that show current balance, total deposits for the past year and the date of the account opening.
Your foreign fiance also needs to gather a few important documents:
- 10 passport style photos. Check out my post on how to make your own passport style photo to avoid extra costs. Of course, if the fiance’s home country has a very cheap way of making passport photos, then by all means let a professional do it. Mail this photo to the US citizen because the US citizen needs to submit the photo with the initial application
- Document all pass immunizations as per recommended adult immunizations by the CDC. There will be a medical examination performed and if any recommended immunizations were not documented or performed, the fiance must have the immunization before they can be permitted to enter America
- Copy of any final divorce certificates of all previous marriages or death certificates of previous marriages if the spouse had died. This is to ensure that you are not currently married to anyone else as the US legal system does not allow one person to be married to multiple people
- If the fiance had changed their name due to previous marriages, then all legal documents regarding the name change such as marriage certificate, adoption decree or court order must also be submitted (copies)
- A passport valid for travel for at least 6 months beyond the intended entry date into America
- Police certificates from the foreign government indicating that the fiance is not a criminal or have been convicted of serious crimes in the past. Also need this from any country that the fiance had stayed for more than 6 months since age 16.
- Payment of $265 at the time of writing, check http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/fees-visa-services.html to confirm.
Step 1 – US citizen files for petition
Now, after all the above listed documents have been gathered and ready, here is a final checklist for the first initial application.
The US citizen will submit the following to USCIS:
- Cover letter detailing the application contents. Here is a great example.
- Check made payable to USCIS. Currently $340 as per http://www.uscis.gov/i-129f
- A completed I-129F. Get it from http://www.uscis.gov/i-129f
- Declaration of how you and your fiance met
- Original statements from both the US citizen and the fiance declaring an intent to marry
- Proof of having met in the last 2 years
- G-325A for both the US citizen and fiance. Get it from http://www.uscis.gov/g-325a
- 1 passport style photo of the US citizen. On the back, write the US citizen’s name
- 1 passport-style photo of the fiance. On the back, write the fiance’s name
- Copy of the US citizen’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate or passport ID page
- Copy of any final divorce decrees or death certificates documented the termination of any previous marriages
- Copy of any legal name change court orders, marriage certificates or adoption decrees
- Copy of any final court orders showing any criminal charges and conviction dispositions
- G-1145 E-notification. Get it from http://www.uscis.gov/g-1145
Make 2 copies of each document submitted, you will keep 1 copy and the other copy should be mailed to your fiance in the foreign country. The fiance should have all the documents that you submitted as well to confirm/review your application.
Mail the application to the following address:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS): (I recommend using Priority Mail, cheap and fast)
P.O. Box 660151
Dallas, TX 75266
For USPS Express Mail and courier deliveries:
2501 South State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
Step 2 – Fiance prepares for interview in foreign US embassy/consulate
After the I-129F package has been received, you will receive a I-797C Notice of Action. This is to just to let you know that the USCIS has begun processing your application. This is a good time to send to your fiance the following documents:
- The entire I-129F application package that you sent in
- Additional photos/evidence of your relationship since you initiated the application
- A completed I-134 Affidavit of Support. Get it from http://www.uscis.gov/i-134
- Supporting financial documents of the Affidavit of Support (see above)
- Another statement of intent on marriage after arrival in America, dated recently. This is to confirm that the intention to marriage has not yet changed
Once your I-129F is approved, you will receive a second I-797C indicating that. Your fiance is now ready to schedule an interview at the embassy/consulate to get the K-1 visa. Your fiance must bring all the above documents AND if possible, more evidence of an on-going relationship since the filing of the application. The fiance will also need to get a medical examination prior to the interview; just follow the direction as indicated on the letter from the US embassy or consulate. There are specific doctors that your fiance must go to for the exam. The letter should also instruct the foreign finance on filing for the K-1 visa through the Department of State. The following additional documents are required from the fiance:
- Completed DS-160. This can only be done online now. Go here https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/
- A valid, active passport that is valid 6 months beyond the date of intended entry into America
- Copy of any final divorce decrees or death certificates documented the termination of any previous marriages
- Copy of any court orders, marriage certificates or adoption certificate if there was a name change
- Police certificate
- Medical examination
- 2 passport style photos
- Payment of visa application fees
Step 3 – Success and coming to America
After the fiance has the interview and if it is approved, the foreign fiance can now make arrangements to enter the US. Once the fiance is inside America, there is a 90 day window to get married. Once the marriage occurs, the fiance must file a I-485 Adjustment of Status to get a permanent resident (green) card. Follow my comprehensive guide on filing Adjustment of Status based on marriage.