The K-1 Visa, Explained
Information about current processing times, costs, and requirements for a fiancé visa
What Is a K-1 visa?
A K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa, is a non-immigrant visa that allows the foreign fiancé of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage and then become a permanent resident. The holder of the visa has 90 days to get married in the U.S., after which they can apply for an adjustment of status to get a marriage-based green card.
The traditional terminology is “fiancée” for a woman who is engaged to be married or fiancé for a man. For simplicity, we use “fiancé” as a gender-neutral term, referring to the beneficiary partner.
Is the K-1 visa right for me?
Due to long processing times, proposed application fee increases, and the increase in online weddings in the last few years, it makes sense for some couples to skip the fiancé visa process altogether and instead go straight to getting married and applying for a CR1 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 the differences between fiancé visas and marriage green cards.
Unsure about which immigration path is best for you? Answer a few simple questions to get started.
K-1 Visa Processing Time
Boundless tracks USCIS data by field office every month. Based on our analysis, the processing timeline for a K-1 application currently averages 14-19 months (as of May 11, 2023).
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes processing times for all applications once every three months. According to their most recent release, the wait time for a fiance visa is approximately 14.5 months.
Boundless helps you file faster and easier, plus, we’ll match you with the best visa for your unique situation. Answer our 5-minute questionnaire to get started.
K-1 Visa Costs
The current total cost for a K-1 visa is $800.
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.
USCIS fees for Form I-129F could increase in 2023. Learn more.
Once Form I-129F is approved, the engaged partner of the U.S. citizen is required to complete 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.
Obtaining a K-1 visa is only the first step to becoming a permanent resident in the U.S. For more, check out Boundless’ guide on the total cost, timeline, and process to adjust status from a K-1 visa to a marriage green card.
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.
Fiancé visa 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.
U.S. immigration can be complex and confusing. Boundless is here to help. Learn more.
The K-1 Visa Application Process: Step-by-Step
Step 1: Form I-129F
The first step in the process to obtain a K-1 visa is for the U.S. citizen fiancé to file Form I-129F (“Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)”) with USCIS. The aim of this form is to prove the relationship is valid.
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 statement explaining the nature of their relationship and stating they intend to get married within 90 days after the foreign partner 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.
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.
Do not forget 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)
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.
Not sure which visa is right for you? Answer a 5-minute questionnaire and we’ll guide you through your visa options. Learn more.
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 travel visa (F-1, H-1B, etc.). It’s also forbidden to “adjust status” from a K-1 visa to a marriage-based green card 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.
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.
K-1 Visa FAQs
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.
No. The K-1 visa automatically expires after 90 days.
No. 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.
After you’ve entered the U.S. on a K-1 visa and married your partner, you will need to file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) to become a permanent resident. Boundless has prepared a guide to adjusting your status, so you can understand the next steps in this process.
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, historically you could apply for a K-3 visa. In recent years, the K-3 visa has been issued on a case-by-case basis. The common path for married couples when one partner lives abroad is the CR-1 spousal visa, which is available to partners of U.S. citizens and green card holders.
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.