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If you are a U.S. citizen who wants to bring your foreign fiancé to the United States for the purpose of marriage, you will need to apply for a K1 non-immigrant visa. A K-1 visa also known as a fiancé visa, allows a foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States to marry a U.S. citizen. The foreign national can apply for an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident after they are in the United States. While the process may seem simple, there are actually many challenges involved in obtaining this visa.

K-1 Visa

This option applies to a relationship in which one partner is residing outside of the United States and the couple is engaged to be married. As a nonimmigrant visa, the K-1 is temporary and only useful for a short-term basis. However, it is one of the fastest and easiest routes to permanent residence and citizenship thereafter.

The first step in obtaining a K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the U.S. citizen sponsor to file a Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e). The names of all K-2 children should also be included in the petition if the fiancé has a child and intends to bring the child to the United States. The package must contain the required forms, passport photos, documentation of relationship, and personal sign statements of their intent to get married. Once USCIS approves the Form I-129F petition, they will transfer the case to the U.S. Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC). The sponsored fiancé(e) will receive a notice from the NVC through the U.S. embassy in their home country about 30 days after USCIS approves the Form I-129F. This notice will provide the date and location of the required visa interview. It will also include a list of additional supporting documents and instructions on how to provide these documents to the local U.S. embassy. Make sure that the contact information you provide on your Form I-129F is correct or you may not receive this notice.

Once the notice is received from the NVC, the State Department’s online DS-160 form: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application should be completed. This is the actual K-1 visa application. After you complete this form, you need to print the confirmation page. This is very important because you will need to send the confirmation page to the embassy and bring it to your visa interview. The officer will review the documentation and conduct an interview to ensure that the relationship is not fraudulent and to look for possible reasons why the applicant would be inadmissible. The interviewing officer will typically make a decision on the case either the same day of the interview or shortly afterward. If they need additional evidence, they will request that it be submitted directly to the U.S. consulate. If the K-1 visa is approved, the officer will take the passport to imprint the new visa. The fiancé’s child will receive a K-2 visa that will allow them to enter the United States.

After entering the US on a K-1 visa, the foreign fiancé(e) will have to seek admission at the port of entry. Much like any visa, the K-1 visa does not guarantee admission to the United States. Whether or not the foreign fiancé(e) is accepted will be decided by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

Requirements include:

  • The sponsoring fiancé must be a U.S. citizen. Note that the Unites States lawful permanent residents or a green card holders are not eligible to sponsor their fiancé.

  • Each partner must be unmarried. As evidence, the couple must submit any previous divorce decrees, annulments, or death certificates of a former spouse.

  • The couple must prove their relationship is valid.

  • The pair have to prove they met in person at least once within two years of applying for the visa. Some exceptions do apply, including cases of extreme hardship or where meeting in person would violate certain religious, cultural, or social norms.

  • The couple must each submit a signed document stating they intend to get married within 90 days after the foreign fiancé arrives in the U.S. If available, include other evidence such as a venue booking or wedding invitations. If no marriage occurs within 90 days, the K-1 visa holder will be forced to leave the country.

  • The U.S. citizen sponsor must meet the income requirements for a K-1 visa, namely the adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must equal to at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They may use a joint sponsor if they are not able to meet the income requirement on their own.

Same-sex partners are eligible to apply for a K-1 visa, regardless of whether the laws in the sponsored fiancé’s home country allow for same-sex marriage.

If the couple meets all requirements, the fiancé(e) may apply for permanent residence (Green Card) in the United States through filing Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Can you work with a K-1 Visa?

The answer is YES. If the foreign fiancé(e) plans to work upon arrival in the US, they may immediately file form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, which authorizes them to work for 90 days after entry. Once the couple is married, the foreign fiancé(e) may apply for work authorization at the same time they apply for permanent resident status and this would grant work authorization for one year.

Social Security Number

Once you become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., you will need to acquire a Social Security Number (SSN). You can request SSN through your online immigrant visa application DS-260. If you did this, then you should receive your SSN card in the mail within 3 weeks of your arrival as a permanent resident.

If you did not request an SSN with your application, then you will need to visit a Social Security office and apply for a number there. You can only do this once you have a permanent address in the United States, however, you will need to bring your passport or Form I-551 (Permanent Resident Card) as well as your birth certificate. This will also apply for each person that is applying for SSNs along with you.

The process of obtaining a K-1 visa, as well as the transition from visa to U.S. citizenship, can be long and complex. Any errors made during the process can result in weeks or even months of delays. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle the process can help minimize the risk of delays and provide peace of mind. For more information on how we can assist you, please visit our website at or email us at

Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm, an immigration law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Phone 305-371-8846


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