One of the most common questions from U.S. citizens who petition to bring their foreign fiancé(e) to the U.S. is “How long is this process going to take?” They understandably want to be reunited with their fiancé(e) as soon as possible.
In this guide, I’m going to discuss the typical timeline in the K1 Visa process, common issues on K1 timing, and how to overcome these issues.
If you have any questions about anything that we discuss, please email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive to emails and would be happy to answer any questions you have.
- What is the Processing Time for the K1 Visa?
- Overview of the K1 Visa
- Process of Applying for a K1 Visa
- Issues with K1 Visa Processing Time and Possible Solutions
What is the Processing Time for the K1 Visa?
It takes USCIS approximately 6-8 months to process form I-129F. From there your application will move to the National Visa Center (NVC) for a background check. This takes about 2-4 weeks. The application then moves to a U.S. consulate. You can expect it will take about 3-5 months for your fiancé(e) to have their visa interview. If all goes well, they should receive their visa about a week later. Overall, the process from when you file form I-129F to when your fiancé(e) gets their visa takes about 10-15 months. Your fiancé(e) can then join you in the U.S. and will have four months to do so. Once they enter the U.S., you will have 90 days to get married. Once married, your new spouse can apply for a Green Card. Applying from inside the U.S. is called Adjustment of Status. This process typically takes 1-2 years.
Overview of the K1 Visa
The K1 Visa allows the foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. with the intention of getting married. Once married, your new spouse can apply for a Green Card through the Adjustment of Status process. This will allow them to receive their Green Card from within the United States. To be eligible for a K1 visa, you and your fiancé(e) must meet certain criteria:
- You must be a U.S. citizen. The K1 visa is not available for fiancé(e)s of Permanent Residents.
- You must plan to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s arrival to the U.S.
- You must both be legally free to marry. You must document that any previous marriage ended through death, divorce or annulment.
- You must have seen each other in person at least once in the past two years. You can request a waiver in cases where you can prove that this would be a severe hardship or would violate long-standing cultural practices. However, getting such a waiver is difficult.
- You must be in a bona fide relationship. You must prove that you are in a real relationship and not just one for immigration purposes.
- You must show that you can financially support your fiancé(e).
- You must not have been convicted of certain violent criminal acts. You can request a waiver in some circumstances.
- Your fiancé(e) must be admissible to the United Sates. Having a serious criminal history, previous immigration violations, certain diseases and other factors can make them inadmissible. Waivers can be obtained in some circumstances.
Process of Applying for a K1 Visa
- File form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). You will need to include supporting evidence related to the requirements outlined above. Once filed, you can expect that it will take USCIS 6-8 months to approve it.
- Your case is moved to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC will conduct a background check on your fiancé(e). They then forward the application to the U.S. consulate closest to where they live. This typically takes about 2-4 weeks.
- The visa appointment is scheduled and your fiancé(e) attends their appointment. Your fiancé(e) must complete form DS-160 before scheduling their consular appointment. They will also need to have a medical exam and get police clearances. They need to bring those documents, other personal documents and proof of your relationship to the visa interview. Generally, you can expect this process to take anywhere from 3-5 months.
- Your fiancé(e) receives their visa. This usually takes about 1 week. Some visa applications are sent for additional administrative processing. This can add several weeks or months to the timeline.
- Your fiancé(e) travels to the U.S. You have been waiting a long time for this! Once the visa is issued, your fiancé(e) will have four months to travel to the United Sates. They can travel at any point once they received their visa. The Department of State has been granting extensions due to travel limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Get married. You have 90 days to marry once your fiancé(e) arrives in the U.S. This timeline cannot be extended.
- Your new spouse applies for Adjustment of Status. Your spouse can apply for a Green Card by filing form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The processing time can vary considerably depending on where you live. You can generally expect it to fall in the 1-2 year range.
Issues with K1 Visa Processing Time and Possible Solutions
There are several factors that can have an impact on your K1 visa timeline. Some of these factors may be out of your control. There are some steps you can take to minimize potential delays.
1) Preparation – Having a well-prepared case can help shorten the processing time. Make sure that you carefully follow all instructions and provide ample evidence. If you don’t, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence or the consulate may send your application for administrative processing. This adds to the total processing time. Anticipate any potential issues in either of your backgrounds. Possible issues include having a criminal record or immigration violations. Be sure to address any such issues. You must also convince both USCIS and the consulate that your relationship is real. Relationships were the couple have major differences often get scrutinized more. Examples include big differences in age, educational level and culture. Preparing a strong petition that can withstand scrutiny will help.
2) USCIS Workload – Unfortunately, USCIS has difficulty processing their caseload in a timely manner. Some USCIS service centers and offices are faster or slower than others. Where you live determines which one processes your case. Having a well-prepared case and being well-organized can help you avoid delays such as Requests for Evidence.
3) Country of Origin – The country where your fiancé(e) is from can have an impact on the visa processing timeline. Some consulates have longer wait times for scheduling visa appointments and visa processing. Some countries have multiple consulates, some of which with faster timelines than others. Your fiancé(e) may want to check visa timelines for more than one consulate before determining where to interview. Additionally, some consulates have a reputation for tougher processing than others. This is especially true for consulates in countries that are perceived to have high rates of visa fraud. While this is a factor outside of your control, having a well-prepared case can make the process go much more smoothly.
4) Catastrophic Events – War, civil unrest, natural disasters, global pandemics and other such events and slow down or even stop visa processing. The events of the past year illustrate how these events can upend lives. You might be left without many options in such situations. Staying well informed puts you in a position to take advantages of whatever options there may be.
A K1 visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their foreign fiancé(e) so they can travel to the United States. You must then marry within 90 days of their arrival. Once married, your new spouse can apply for a Green Card through the Adjustment of Status process. It can take about 10-15 months from the point of filing form I-129F until your fiancé(e) receives their visa.
While some factors that can affect the timeline may be outside of your control, a well-prepared case that follows USCIS instructions and anticipates potential issues can help you avoid delays.
If you have questions regarding anything discussed in this guide, or if you need help with your K1 visa, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive via email and I would be happy to help you with your fiancé(e) visa.