Fiancee Visas

K-1 (Fiancée) Visa:

What is it?

If you are a U.S. citizen, and you wish to marry a foreigner and bring her to the U.S. to become your wife, then a K-1 visa allows you to bring your fiancée here to get married. The K-1 Visa is sometimes referred to as a “fiancée visa”.

Once your fiancée arrives in the U.S. on the K-1 visa, you have 90 days to get married. Once you get married, your fiancée (now wife!) must apply to the USCIS for her Green Card before the 90 days expires [hence, you have 90 days both to get married, and for your wife to apply for her Green Card]. If you do not get married, then your fiancée must leave the U.S. upon expiration of the 90 days.


There are a number of requirements in order to apply for a K-1 visa for your fiancée:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen;
  2. You must have met your fiancée in person within the past 2 years;
  3. You and your fiancée must be legally free to marry (i.e. single or divorced);
  4. You and your fiancée must have a serious intention to marry within 90 days of your fiancée’s arrival in the U.S.
  5. You must meet minimum financial requirements;

Two-step process:

The K-1 application procedure is essentially a two-step process:

  • first, you file paperwork with the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Service) in the U.S., and, once approved, then
  • your case is sent to the U.S. embassy in your fiancée’s native country. She is asked to fill out paperwork and take a medical exam. She then goes for an interview in the U.S. embassy/consulate, after which her visa is granted.

The entire process takes from 5 to 8 months. That is a general estimate—the exact time would depend on where you live, and the service center and foreign embassy involved in your case.

Are there better alternatives for bringing a fiancée to the U.S.?

Some people wonder if they can just bring their fiancée to the U.S. on a tourist visa, and then decide whether and when to get married. This probably wouldn’t work for two reasons:

(a) first of all, it can be exceedingly difficult for single women from most countries in the world to obtain tourist visas to visit the U.S.
(b) if your fiancée did manage to get a tourist visa and come to the U.S. and marry you, the USCIS might regard this marriage as the result of visa fraud since she would have entered the U.S. with the pre-existing intent to marry you; also, the USCIS might closely scrutinize exactly what your fiancée told them when she entered the US, and there is the possibility that the USCIS would then accuse your fiancée/wife of misrepresentation.

In the worst case scenario, your wife would be denied a Green Card and subjected to deportation proceedings.In my view, it is not wise to approach something as important as marriage with a strategy which could backfire badly. It is much simpler and safer to opt for the K-1 route.

K-1 Fiancée vs. CR-1 Marriage Visa:

Another alternative is to marry your fiancée in her native country, and then apply for a CR-1 visa for her to come to the U.S. as your wife. So the question is: is it better to bring my fiancée to the U.S. to marry here on a K-1 visa? Or is it preferable to marry in her native country, and then bring her to the U.S. on a CR-1 visa?

All in all, K-1 visas are quicker to obtain. The CR-1 visa is a bit more time-consuming to obtain than a K-1 visa. There are two reasons for this:

(a) You cannot apply for the CR-1 visa until you are already married—and the logistics of arranging for this can take several months.

(b) The CR-1 process involves submitting paperwork to the National Visa Center, and this can involve delays. Hence, applying for a CR-1 visa would probably involve longer periods when you and your fiancé/wife would be separated—you in the U.S., your new wife in her native country—waiting to make wedding arrangements, or waiting for the USCIS and US State Department to process and approve her visa.

Hence, if you are planning the procedure from the beginning, it is quicker, and therefore preferable in most respects to pursue a K-1 visa for your fiancée.

IMBRA and the K-1 visa process:

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) became law in 2006. There are two instances in which IMBRA would require that you seek a waiver before proceeding with your K-1 petition:

(a) if you have filed 2 or more K-1 visa petitions at any time in the past, or previously had a K-1 visa petition approved within 2 years prior to the filing of your present petition; or

(b) if you have been convicted of certain violent crimes, or a sex crime against a minor. If either of these situations pertain, it is possible to seek a waiver, and continue with a new petition.
If IMBRA seems to affect your case, please contact us to discuss the situation and the possibility of seeking a waiver.

Do I need an attorney to obtain a K-1 visa for my fiancée?

It is not required that you have an attorney when you file the petition for a K-1 visa for your fiancée, but it is highly advisable to hire an attorney. There are a number of reasons for this:

(a) the USCIS and US State Department suspect that a large number of K-1 cases are fraudulent, and for that reason deny many petitions. You do not want to have your case caught up in this dragnet, and face a denial. If you hire an attorney, you will be better able to demonstrate that your case is bona fide and genuine, and that the USCIS and State Department should grant your visa.

(b) to navigate your way through the K-1 process, you have to fill out many forms. As a non-attorney, you will likely be unsure which forms to fill out, and exactly how to fill them out. You may read and reread the instruction, and think you understand . . . and yet some doubt may remain because you’ve never done this before.

If you make any mistakes or omissions, then your case will be delayed, possibly for months, and you may even meet with a denial from the USCIS, which would require you to start all over again. During any delay, you will most likely be separated from your fiancée, creating a sense of intense anxiety and even despair.

If you hire an attorney, you are benefiting from his/her experience—attorneys handle cases like this day-in and day-out, and know exactly what to do to help you get the visa for your fiancée.

[NOTE: for convenience’s sake, we have referred to the petitioner for a K-1 visa as a male, and the beneficiary as “your fiancée”. However, K-1 visas are gender neutral and are available to females petitioning for their fiancés as well]


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