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What people need to know about K-1 or fiancé visas

A marital relationship is one of the most compelling reasons for someone to ask for entry into the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants both marriage visas for the spouses of citizens, as well as fiancé visas for those who get engaged to citizens.

Unlike a spousal visa, which is only available after someone solemnizes their relationship with another person, fiancé visas are available for those who have not yet legally combined households. The K-1 visa program can allow those in love and/or planning to marry in accordance with family wishes and cultural traditions to connect with their fiancé and pursue a marriage in the United States.

The fiancé from abroad must meet certain standards

Like any applicant seeking entry into the United States, those pursuing a K-1 or fiancé visa will need to meet certain standards. Typically, they will need to present medical records and be able to pass a thorough background check. Additionally, they will need to legitimize their relationship with the United States citizen sponsoring them for the visa. In many cases, evidence of a pre-existing relationship ranging from photos and emails to social media posts will play a major role in proving the validity of a fiancé relationship. In some scenarios, such as arranged marriages initiated by someone’s family, records of cultural tradition and family plans will be necessary to prove the validity of the engagement.

The visa will only provide 90 days of residency

Most visa programs offer multiple years of residency and the opportunity to renew the visa when it expires. That is not how the K-1 visa works. Those granted a K-1 visa will typically only have the right to stay in the United States for 90 days. If they fail to legally marry their fiancé within that 90-day window, they may be at risk of removal from the country. Therefore, those seeking to get married in the United States to a fiancé who currently lives abroad will often have to plan carefully for the ceremony and services for their marriage at the same time that they navigate the visa process or run the risk of falling behind schedule and being unable to formalize the relationship within the appropriate window of time.

A K-1 visa that results in marriage will lead to a green card with certain restrictions, although the fiancé who enters the country and marries a United States citizen can eventually remove those restrictions if the marriage lasts long enough. Learning more about K-1 visas and other family immigration opportunities may help those who care romantically about someone currently living in another country who would like to move to the United States.