The K-1 visa classification is specifically for finace(e)s of US Citizens seeking admission to the US to get married.
To be eligible for a finace(e) visa,
1) the petitioner must be a US Citizen,
2) both members of the couple must be legally able to marry,
3) the foreign national must have intent to marry within 90 days or entering the US, and
4) they must have personally met within the past two years
Proving that both members are legally able to marry requires evidence that they are both of age, and that any previous marriages were properly terminated. If, for example, the US Citizen spouse married someone overseas and previously brought them to the US, then went overseas and unilaterally filed for divorce, such a divorce would not establish that the individual is now legally able to marry. Also, in first cousin marriages, state laws regarding first cousin marriage may be an obstacle to obtaining a fiance(e) visa. The general rule is that the immigration service will accept a marriage if it happens in a state or country where the marriage is lawfully recognized.
Intent to Marry in 90 days
Intent to marry within 90 days is required, but once the fiance(e) enters, failure to get married within 90 days does not eliminate the opportunity to later get married and file for adjustment of status, but your K-1 status will expire. Of course, to avoid any complications, it is best to abide by the 90 day rule
Do you have to meet your fiance(e) within two years?
As for the requirement of having personally met the fiance(e) within the part two years, there are exceptions. If the petitioner can prove that there are hardships which make it difficult to have personally met, the requirement of having personally met can be waived. Other exceptions include customary, cultural, or social practices which have restricted meeting before marriage.
When can I Obtain a K-1 Visa?
Premium processing, in which the petition will be processed within 15 calendar days, is not available in K-1 petitions. The processing time varies. USCIS provides a wait-time schedule.
What are the Advantages and Limitations of a K-1?
The K-1 visa is ideal for those who prefer not to travel overseas to marry their fiance(e) and apply for their green card from the US. Applying for a K-1 visa process is a faster process than having to travel overseas to get married, and wait for a spousal petition to get approved. The finace(e)'s unmarried children under the age of 21 may also enter the US with the fiance(e) as accompanying relatives. The K-1 visa is also a multiple entry visa and the visa holder may also apply for work authorization immediately upon admission to the US.
There are no extensions allowed in K-1 visas under any circumstances. Even after marriage, the K-1 visa holder will go out of status after the 90 day period of admission, and therefore should take action on applying for adjustment of status expeditiously.
Why Hire an Attorney to Prepare an K-1 visa Petition?
K-1 visa petitions are not especially complicated, however an attorney can save the petitioner time by taking responsibility in preparing the petition package. In cases where there have been previous marriages, or the members of the couple are related as first cousins, an attorney can help assess the sufficiency of the documentation to prove legal ability to marry, and assess whether state laws would preclude the K-1 petition.
The above just few basic things you should know. One should not act or refrain to act based only on the above. No attorney client relationship is created unless a retainer is signed by both parties.
Additional resources provided by the author
To discuss K-1 visa petitions and other alternatives with an experienced immigration lawyer from the Shah Peerally Law Group, feel free to contact us by email or call us at 510-742-5887. Our staff is multi-lingual, with members who speak Spanish, French, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Tigrigna, and Amharic.