What is a K-1 Visa?

November 4, 2020

A K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the country assuming the two get married within 90 days upon entering. Given the primary beneficiary of the visa, many refer to it as a fiancé(e) visa. After the two are married, the couple can then apply for permanent residency. The citizen need-not live in the continental U.S. While the process can be expensive and time-consuming, it is an option to allow for a loved one to legally enter the country and remain permanently.

Eligibility of the U.S. citizen

There are several requirements that the citizen must possess before they consider applying for the K-1 visa. The applicant:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen, although they do not need to be living in the U.S.
  • They must be legally eligible to marry.
  • They intend to marry their fiancé(e) within 90 days upon entry in the U.S.
  • They must have physically met their fiancé(e) within two years from the visa application.
  • They must meet the income requirements.

There is an opportunity to waive the two-year in-person meeting requirement if meeting in-person goes against the custom or religious practices of the fiancé(e)’s family or meeting could cause result in extreme hardship for the citizen.

As for the income requirements, if a person fails to meet the requirements, there are alternative options. First, a petitioner could use certain assets in the equation and those assets must total more than three times the income requirement. Acceptable forms of assets include real estate, cash in the bank, vehicles, life insurance, and securities.

Second, the petitioner can find a joint sponsor. That person can take on the shared responsibility of the fiancé(e). The joint sponsor must also meet the qualifications of the citizen, including the income requirement, on their own.

In addition, if the couple met through a marriage broker under the International Marriage Broker Resolution Act (IMBRA), they must disclose that relationship. The citizen must also provide the IMBRA form that the broker obtained from the citizen authorizing the release of their personal contact information. Finally, a citizen could be disqualified from applying for a K-1 visa if they were convicted of certain crimes.


The total cost for the entire process is about $1,000. The cost of filing Form 129F: Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), is about $535, while the fiancé(e) will have to pay an additional $265 for the K-1 interview. There is also a $200 cost for medical expenses.

Process Length

Initially it will take about seven months for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process the Form-129F. It will then take up to six weeks for the agency to schedule an interview with the fiancé(e). Normally, the interviewer will make their determination at the conclusion of that interview. In rare instances, they will require additional time to make further inquiries. Once approved, the fiancé(e) then has four months to travel to the U.S. From there, the couple has 90 days to get married.


There is an intricate screening process involved when it comes to the K-1 process. Officials will collect information from different agencies in the intelligence community, law enforcement, and from immigration services. They will also incorporate fingerprint and facial recognition information. Officials will check the fiancé(e)’s background against different databases from law enforcement and national security and verify that the fiancé(e) is not listed on any terrorist watch lists.

Change of Plans

Not everything goes according to plan. People change their mind, or their feelings may alter. There are some contingencies in those cases if the relationship does not proceed as it was supposed to. Not all of them mean the fiancé(e) must return to their home country.

Failure to Marry Within 90 Days

In general, it is best to make the 90-day deadline to avoid any unnecessary costs, headache, and scrutiny. However, if a couple fails to meet the deadline, it does not necessarily mean the fiancé(e) must leave, although immigration officials will automatically assume the marriage is a sham and place greater scrutiny on it.

To start, the couple will have to file Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative, which will cost an additional $535. Given the now-suspicious nature of the relationship, the couple must provide even more evidence and proof that the two legitimately want to start a life together. If the couple does not marry within 90 days, then the fiancé(e) is technically in the country illegally and could be deported.

Getting Divorced

If a couple gets divorced before the fiancé(e) had the opportunity to receive permanent residency, the fiancé(e) can still apply for permanent residency. It can be complicated depending on the actions, but if they can demonstrate that their intention was to make a life with the citizen, immigration officials will allow a person to adjust their status, even if they get divorced before the processing of that adjustment.

Cold Feet

A fiancé(e) might arrive in the U.S. with every intention of marrying their partner and then in the end, decide not to go through with it. Under a K-1 visa, if they do not hold up their end of the deal, then they will have to return to their home country. The person must leave within six months of the expiration of their visa. If they fail to leave, they will be considered an illegal alien and face deportation if caught. In addition, they will also be barred from re-entering the U.S. for three to 10 years if they do not leave the U.S. within the allotted time.

Philadelphia Visa Petition Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Help Those Seeking K-1 Visas

If you are looking to bring your fiancé(e) into the country under a K-1 visa or you are looking to enter the country to marry a U.S citizen, reach out to the Philadelphia visa petition lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC. We help clients obtain the visa they need, and address and questions and concerns. For a free consultation, call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.