Are You a U.S. Citizen Planning on Marrying a Foreign Citizen?

There are many types of visas, covering a variety of situations. A K1 visa is for one of life’s happier moments — you’re getting married. If your future spouse is a foreign national and you are a U.S. citizen, this visa will allow him or her to legally enter and stay in the country for the wedding.

When petitioning for a fiancé(e) visa (Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)) you need to establish the following:

  • You, the petitioner, are a U.S. citizen.
  • You plan on marrying within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s arriving in the country.
  • The two of you are free to marry. If there were previous marriages they must have legally ended by divorce, death or annulment.
  • You met, in person, at least once in the two years prior to filing the petition, with two exceptions that would require a waiver:
    • The requirement to meet violates strict, long-standing customs of your or your fiancé(e)’s culture or social practice
    • Meeting would cause extreme hardship to you.

There’s no predictable time frame for approval, because each case is unique. You can check the current processing times for the I-129F petition by looking at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) “Check Processing Times” page.  Petitions are reviewed in the order that they’re received. When processing is done, an approved petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). They will send the petition to the applicable U.S. Embassy or consulate. They will also need time to process the visa.

After the K1 visa is granted:

  • Your fiancé(e) can enter the United States for 90 days so you can get married.
  • After the ceremony your spouse can apply for permanent residence and stay in the country while USCIS processes the application.

If your fiancé(e) has a child (younger than 21 and  not married), a K-2 nonimmigrant visa may be available to him or her. The names of your fiancé(e)’s children need to be on the Form I-129F petition.

Your fiancé(e) may apply for permission to work by filing a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, after entry. A work authorization due to a nonimmigrant fiancé(e) visa is valid for 90 days after entry. He or she could also apply for an extended work authorization when he or she files for permanent residence (using Forms I-765 and I-485).

If for some reason the wedding doesn’t take place within 90 days of his or her entry into the country, the fiancé(e) status automatically expires and cannot be extended. Your fiancé(e) should leave the U.S. at the end of the 90 days if the marriage doesn’t take place. If your fiancé(e) does not, he or she will be violating immigration law, which could cause deportation and/or could impact future eligibility for U.S. immigration benefits.

If you are an American citizen planning on marrying a foreign citizen and you plan on living in the U.S., in addition to all the paperwork and planning that comes with a wedding you also need to address immigration issues. Failure to do so could make your special day not so special, and your marriage could start in a tangle of immigration problems.

If you live in Kentucky and you have questions about a K1 visa or need one in order to get married, contact our office so we can discuss the legal process, the applicable law and how we can help.

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]