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The K-1 Visa, Explained


Information about wait times, costs, and requirements for a fiancé visa


What Is a K-1 visa?

A K-1 visa — also called a fiancé visa — allows the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States, as long as the couple gets married no more than 90 days later. The newly married spouse can then apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) based on marriage. Not sure if you qualify for a K-1 visa? Start by checking your eligibility.

The correct terminology is “fiancée” for a woman who is engaged to be married or fiancé for a man. For simplicity, we use “fiancé” to mean either a male or female engaged partner.

Is the K-1 visa right for me?

In some cases, it might make sense to skip the fiancé visa process altogether and go straight to getting married and applying for a spousal visa. This decision depends on where you are living, how long you wish to wait to be together, and various other circumstances. For more details, see our guide to differences between fiancé visas and marriage green cards. You can even take Boundless’ quick quiz to help determine which path is best for you.

In this guide you will learn about:

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K-1 Visa Timeline


The processing time for a K-1 visa application currently averages 6 months. This does not include the time from when the government approves your application to your interview date, which differs based on the country you’re applying from.

For more info, Boundless has put together a guide on wait times for each stage of the K-1 process,

Not sure if you qualify for a K-1 visa? Check your eligibility today.


K-1 Visa Cost


The total cost for a K-1 visa is roughly $1000.

Here is a breakdown of K-1 visa costs:

The government’s required fee for Form I-129F is $535. An applicant may pay with a money order, cashier’s check, or personal check. If you are filing at a USCIS lockbox facility, you can pay by credit card using Form G-1450 (“Authorization for Credit Card Transactions”). If paying by check, make the check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Once Form I-129F is approved, the engaged partner of the U.S. citizen is required to do a medical exam. The cost for the exam varies by provider, but $200 is typical.

Finally, the fee for the actual K-1 visa application is $265. This fee is usually paid at the interview—but it’s important to review specific instructions regarding time and place of payment, included in the embassy’s interview notice, which can vary by home country.

These fees do not reflect additional costs, such as translating and photocopying your documents and obtaining required documents such as your birth certificate.

Not sure what costs to expect? Boundless’ USCIS fee calculator can help determine the exact government fees for your K-1 visa application. We also help you pay your costs in installments, so you can get started now and pay later. Create a free account to use our fee calculator and explore your payment options.


K-1 Visa Eligibility


The K-1 fiancé visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their foreign partner to legally enter the United States. Each partner must prove they plan to marry within 90 days after the foreign fiancé arrives in the U.S.

To check whether or not you’re eligible, Boundless created a downloadable K-1 visa eligibility checklist.

Requirements include:

  • The sponsoring fiancé must be a U.S. citizen. A U.S. lawful permanent resident (a green card holder) is not permitted to sponsor their fiancé for a K-1 visa.
  • Each partner must be unmarried. As evidence, the couple must submit any previous divorce decrees, annulments, or death certificates of a former spouse.
  • The couple must prove their relationship is valid.
  • The pair have to prove they met in person at least once within two years of applying for the visa. Some exceptions do apply, including cases of extreme hardship or where meeting in person would violate certain religious, cultural, or social norms.
  • The couple must each submit a signed document stating they intend to get married within 90 days after the foreign fiancé arrives in the U.S. If available, include other evidence such as a venue booking or wedding invitations.
  • The U.S. citizen sponsor must meet the income requirements for a K-1 visa, namely the adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must equal to at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They may use a joint sponsor if they are not able to meet the income requirement on their own.

Note: Same-sex partners are eligible to apply for a K1 visa, regardless of whether the laws in the sponsored fiancé’s home country allow for sex-same marriage.

Not sure if you qualify for a K-1 visa? Check your eligibility today.


Step 1: Form I-129F


First, the U.S. citizen fiancé must file Form I-129F (“Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)”) with USCIS. The aim of this form is to prove the relationship is valid.

Here is a list of the require supporting documents that must be included with Form I-129F:

  • Proof that the sponsoring fiancé is a U.S. citizen (evidence could include a passport copy, certificate of naturalization, or birth certificate)
  • A copy of the foreign fiancé’s passport
  • Evidence proving the relationship is real, such as pictures together, travel itineraries for trips taken together, letters from family and friends confirming the relationship, emails or text messages between the partners, and so on.
  • The couple must prove they have met in person at least once within the two years before submitted the form. Evidence includes flight bookings, hotel itineraries, pictures, emails, etc.)
  • Each partner must sign a sworn statements explaining the nature of their relationship and stating they intend to get married within 90 days after the foreign partners arrives in the U.S.
  • The sponsored fiancé must include a copy of all previously issued Form I-94 arrival/departure records
  • One passport-style photo of the U.S. citizen fiancé and one passport-style photo of the foreign partner

After the form and supporting documents are filed at the appropriate address, USCIS will typically send a receipt notice within 30 days. USCIS may also send a Request for Evidence (RFE), if they need more information. Once the Form I-129F is approved, USCIS will send an approval notice.


Step 2: Form DS-160 and Interview


At this point, USCIS hands off the case to the U.S. Department of State. After the I-129F fiancé sponsorship form is approved, the sponsored fiancé will receive a notice from the U.S. embassy in their home country, including the date and location of their visa interview and a list of required documents.

DS-160

Next, the sponsored fiancé must complete the State Department’s online DS-160 form (technically called the “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application”). This is the actual K-1 visa application, and it’s very important to print the confirmation page once the form has been submitted online.

The State Department then requires the following documents:

Sponsored Fiancé Documents

  • Two passport-style photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Valid, unexpired passport
  • Police clearance obtained from all countries of residence of more than six months since the age of 16
  • Sealed medical exam form (obtained through physician abroad who is authorized by the State Department)

U.S. Citizen Fiancé Documents

  • Affidavit of support (Form I-134)
  • Most recent tax returns
  • Proof of relationship (copy of the approved I-129F package originally filed with USCIS)

Interview

The visa interview takes place at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the sponsored fiancé’s home country, usually about 4–6 weeks after the embassy’s initial notice.

The interviewing officer will typically make a decision on the case either the same day of the interview or shortly afterward. If they need additional evidence, they will request that it be submitted directly to the U.S. consulate.

Boundless offers end-to-end K-1 application support, including helping you prepare for your visa interview! Get started today.


Step 3: Arrival and Marriage!


Once requirements are met and the K-1 visa is approved, the sponsored fiancé is given a total of six months from the date of approval of the initial I-129F form to travel to the United States.

Upon arrival, the couple must get married within 90 days, or the sponsored fiancé will lose their K-1 status. If the couple decides not to get married, the sponsored partner will not be eligible to remain in the United States and is required to leave the country right away.

Unlike other visas, the K-1 does not allow for a change to another temporary visa (F-1, H-1B, etc.). It’s also forbidden to “adjust status” from a K-1 visa to a green card based on marriage to anyone other than the original U.S. citizen sponsor. The sole purpose of the K-1 visa is for the sponsored fiancé to enter the United States to join the sponsoring fiancé and get married within 90 days.

Of course, after getting married, the final step is to apply for a marriage-based green card, which will be sponsored by the same partner who originally sponsored the K-1 fiancé visa. Check out our overview of the marriage green card process, plus our start-to-finish guide for spouses of U.S. citizens living in the United States.

Boundless knows that every couple is unique. Our streamlined software tracks your application progress and securely stores your information and documents, so you can navigate each step of your K-1 journey with confidence. We make it convenient for you to pick up where you left off, just stick with Boundless for the next step and our software will auto populate your new green card application. You’ll even get a 12% loyalty discount when you stick with Boundless for the next step. Get started today!


K-1 FAQs


Can I work with a K-1 visa?

Yes, but you will need to apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) before you can work. Like the K-1 visa, this employment authorization is only valid for 90 days, starting from the day you arrived in the U.S..

If you choose to apply for permanent residency after you arrive, and file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), you can include Form I-765 with your application. This would grant you work authorization for one year.

Can I extend my K-1 visa?

The K-1 visa automatically expires after 90 days.

If my partner is a green card holder, not a U.S. citizen, can I still apply for the K-1 visa?

The K-1 visa is only open to the fiancés of U.S. citizens. If your partner is a green card holder, they will only be able to petition for your entry if you are already married.

How do I apply for a green card after I have entered the U.S. with a K-1 visa?

If you have entered the U.S. on a K-1 visa and now married your partner, congratulations on starting your new life together.

To start applying for your green card, you will need to file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). Boundless has prepared a guide to adjusting your status, so you can understand the next steps in this process.

Do I need an affidavit of support for the K-1 visa?

Yes, you will need to submit Form I-134 when applying for a K-1 visa.

What is the difference between the K-1 visa and the K-3 visa?

If you are the fiancé of a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a K-1 visa. If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you can apply for the K-3 visa. Both visas are available only to partners of U.S. citizens, not green cardholders.

My K-1 visa has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions, is there anything I can do?

According to USCIS, consular posts have been authorized to prioritize K visas. You should check the website of your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the latest information.

If your U.S. citizen partner has filed Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)) for you and this petition is set to expire, you may be able to extend the form and avoid having to file a new petition.