Fiancée Visas | K Visas – Marriage of a United States Citizen to a Foreign National
We live in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller. As world travel has become easier, the frequency of marriages between nationals of different countries has also significantly increased. United States citizens are no exception to this trend.
While not perfect, the United States ’ immigration system has established visas that are designed to enable the marriage of U.S. citizens to nationals of foreign countries. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 created the K-1 visa for fiancées of U.S. citizens and their unmarried children under the age of 21(K-2). In 2000, the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act, commonly known as the LIFE Act, amended the K visa program to also allow a spouse of a U.S. citizen, and that spouse’s children under the age of 21, to obtain a K-3(K-4) visa.
Despite falling within the same category of K visas, the K-1 and K-3 visa processes are remarkably different. Therefore, it is vital that the couple understand their options and follow the path that will best meet their needs.
K-1 Fiancee’s VisaIn these types of cases, the U.S. citizen is considered the Petitioner and the foreign fiancée is considered the Beneficiary. In order for a K-1 visa to be issued to the Beneficiary, the Petitioner must first obtain an approved I-129F petition from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service ("CIS"). In order for an I-129F petition to be approved, the Immigration Service must find from the evidence submitted that: (1) the Petitioner and Beneficiary have met in person within the two years immediately preceeding the filing of the petition; and (2) the Petitioner and Beneficiary are legally able to marry within 90 days after the beneficiary enters the United States .
Along with the I-129F form, the Petitioner must also submit to CIS a form G-325A and passport style color photographs for both the Petitioner and Beneficiary. The Petitioner must also submit evidence, such as, affidavits from both individuals and/or other persons with personal knowledge of their relationship, photographs of the couple together, letters, e-mails, telephone bills, documentation of wedding plans, etc. The supporting evidence should be sufficient to enable the CIS to make a decision that a bona fide relationship exists between the Petitioner and the Beneficiary.
If CIS approves the I-129F they will notify the Consulate designated on the I-129F where the Beneficiary intends to apply for their visa. Each Consulate’s policy and procedures differ, but generally, the Consulate will send a letter to the Beneficiary describing what needs to be submitted to the Consulate to finalize the processing. The Consulates’ processing times can fluctuate based on the time of year during which the application is submitted, as well as the required security clearances. The final step of the process is for the Consular Officer to interview the Beneficiary in order to make the final determination of eligibility for a K visa.
If the Consulate issues a K-1 visa, the Petitioner and Beneficiary must marry within 90 days of the time that the Beneficiary enters the United States . Further, the K-1 visa issued by the Consulate is only valid for a single entry.
Once in the United States the K-1/K-2 Beneficiary is authorized to work only after applying for and obtaining work authorization from CIS.
K-3 Spouse VisaThe purpose for providing K-3/K-4 visas is to allow families to be together while the visa petition submitted by the U.S. Citizen is pending. However, a K-3 visa will only be issued if an immigrant visa is unavailable to the Beneficiary.
It is also vital to understand that only a U.S. Citizens’ spouse and the spouse’s unmarried children under the age of 21 can qualify for K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visas. Unlike the K-1 Fiancee visa, in order to qualify for the K-3 visa, the Beneficiary must already be married to a U.S. citizen. Further, in order to qualify for the K-3 visa, the Petitioner must have already filed an I-130 Immigrant Visa petition on behalf of the Beneficiary. Once the I-130 is filed, the Petitioner must then file, and get approved, an I-129F petition on behalf of the Beneficiary spouse.
Different than the 90-day admission period granted for K-1 visa entries, the K-3 visa beneficiary should be granted a two year period of admission upon entry to the United States . If the Beneficiary can show that they are taking steps to progress their immigrant visa process, they can file an extension of their K-3 status by submitting a form I-539 no more than 120 days before their status expires. K-3 and K-4 visas issued by the Consulate allow for multiple entries into the United States and can be valid for up to 10 years.
Similar to the K-1/K-2 visa status, once in the United States the K-3/K-4 Beneficiary can obtain work authorization from CIS for the duration of their K status. The work authorization can be extended if the Beneficiary can show that their application or petition is awaiting approval.
Which Visa is best for you?If you are not currently married, the major factor that will determine whether a K-1 or K-3 is best for you is where you want to get married; abroad or in the U.S. ? Clearly, the decision of where to get married is a personal decision for each couple and takes into account various factors. If you plan on getting married outside the United States it would most likely be more advantageous to pursue a K-3 visa. However, if you plane on getting married in the United States , it generally makes more sense to pursue the K-1 visa. If you have questions about this process. Please call an immigration attorney with expertise in handling these types of cases.
This e-mail does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
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