If you’re a U.S. citizen who is engaged to a foreign national, he or she may be eligible for a fiancé(e) visa. Below is more information on this very specific nonimmigrant visa, which is also known as a K-1 visa.
Who a fiancé(e) visa is for
Fiancé(e) visas are intended for foreign nationals who plan to marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days of their entry into the United States. If your foreign national fiancé(e) enters the country on this type of visa, you must get married within 90 days after his or her arrival. As fiancé(e) visas cannot be extended, if the wedding does not occur by the deadline, your fiancé(e) would have to leave the country to avoid being in violation of U.S. immigration law.
If you are planning to marry outside the United States, a fiancé(e) visa is not an option. Also, if your fiancé(e) is already residing here legally or if you are already married, this visa does not apply to your situation.
When you apply, you and your fiancé(e) must be able to show that you are both free to marry in the United States and that any previous marriages were legally terminated by divorce, annulment or death.
You must also be able to demonstrate a bona fide intent to establish a life together and that your planned nuptials are not a scam to secure immigration benefits. This includes showing that you and your fiancé(e) met in person at least once within the two-year period prior to your petition. A waiver of this in-person meeting can be requested if the meeting would have violated strict, long-established culture-based customs or if it would have resulted in extreme hardship to you, the U.S. citizen.
Note that fiancé(e) visas are available for same-sex engagements, regardless of marriage equality laws in the fiancé(e)’s country.
The first step in the application process is for you, the U.S. citizen, to file Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition to conducting security and background checks on you and your fiancé(e), USCIS will review your form and accompanying documents to determine if you have satisfactorily established a fiancé relationship.
Upon approval, your form will go to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, which will forward it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where your fiancé(e) lives so that he or she can apply for a K-1 visa. You will be notified when your fiancé(e)’s interview is scheduled and of the forms and documents that he or she must complete and bring to the interview. If the fiancé(e) visa is granted, it will be valid for up to six months for a single entry into the United States. Keep in mind that the consular office will make its own determination of whether the relationship is bona fide; the visa could still be declined at this stage.
When your fiancé(e) arrives
As with any entry into the U.S., a fiancé(e) visa does not guarantee admission. A Customs and Border Patrol agent at a port of entry will make the ultimate decision about whether your fiancé(e) will be admitted to the United States.
Once your fiancé(e) is admitted, he or she can immediately apply for permission to work in the United States using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; this initial authorization will be valid for 90 days.
After you marry, your spouse may apply for a green card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, for which you and your spouse will likely be required to appear for an interview. Immigrants who are married for less than two years when Form I-485 is approved will receive conditional permanent resident status, and their green card will be valid for two years.
If your fiancé(e) has children
Any children of your fiancé(e) who are under age 21 and unmarried may be eligible to come to the United States, either with or after your fiancé(e), on a K-2 nonimmigrant visa. As long as you marry within 90 days (and the children remain unmarried), they may also apply for green cards along with your new spouse.