Beyoncé said it best: “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it." The fiancé (K-1) visa process allows U.S. citizens to do just that by inviting them to come to this country for the wedding and then life here as a legal permanent resident. The following is a breakdown of the five essential steps.

Step 1: File the I-129F Petition. The U.S. citizen submits this petition in the United States. The application must be submitted with proof of the relationship. Documents which have proved useful are photographs, flight information for trips taken abroad to visit the fiancé, evidence of trips taken together, and affidavits from family and friends. Of course, the evidence needed will vary depending on the case. In general, the fewer items demonstrating the relationship, the greater the need for professional immigration services.

Step 2: Prepare all documents for the embassy interview. There are additional documents and forms that must be submitted to the Department of State after Immigration approves the fiancé petition. Normally, the fiancé will need to obtain a medical exam, provide an original birth certificate, original divorce decree, and passport photos. Each embassy has its own instructions that must be followed. Importantly, the U.S. citizen will need to provide an affidavit of support and proof of income. The instructions for this form alone are over 10 pages long. Again, you might prefer the assistance of an attorney.

Step 3: Attend the interview. It is preferred, but not necessary, for the U.S. citizen to attend the interview with their fiancé. The fiancé should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled interview time and be familiar with all documents contained in the package they expect to submit. If approved, they will be issued a K visa shortly after their interview.

Step 4: Enter the United States and marry within 90 days. The fiancé should be aware that they will likely experience a delay of several hours at the airport upon entering the United States. This is normal. After being admitted to the United States, the couple MUST marry within 90 days. If the couple is not prepared to marry upon arrival, the K visa may not be the best option for them.

Step 5: Apply for a green card. Foreigners who marry their U.S. citizen fiancés within 90 days of entering the United States may apply for a green card. The instructions explaining the application for residency, like those for the affidavit of support, are lengthy because the form applies to obtaining a green card based on several eligibility categories. An experienced immigration attorney will help the couple avoid further confusion and represent them until the green card is in hand.

It is strongly advised that an experienced immigration attorney be used to apply for a K visa due to the many steps involved. Although the author is a Board-certified immigration expert, this guide is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Schedule a consultation with an attorney to address individual concerns.