Although qualifying for a K-1 visa is a complex process that requires lengthy and sometimes intrusive government investigation into the legitimacy of your relationship, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just like you invest your time and energy into knowing every little thing about the love of your life, using the K-1 visa program to reunite with your American fiancé will ultimately benefit your relationship tremendously.
What is a K-1 visa?
The K-1 visa category provides access to a specific type of family-based immigration that allows the future spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. for marriage. While a K-1 visa can be the first step to a marriage Green Card, they are not the same thing.
To qualify for a K-1 visa, you and your fiancé must prove that you:
- Are legally free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days of your partner’s admission to the United States; and
- Have met each other in person within the two years immediately before you filed this petition.
There are some exemptions from the in-person meeting requirement, i.e. when meeting your fiancé in person would violate strict and long-established customs of your partner’s culture, or when meeting would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen sponsor.
Under the K-1 visa program, couples have 90 days to get married after the foreign partner’s arrival in the U.S. Once you are married, the non-citizen applies for conditional permanent residency, which is valid for two years. To remove the condition on your residency status, the applicant must file then within the 90-days before the conditional Green Card expiration date. Once approved, the foreign spouse now has ten-year permanent residency status, just like any other Green Card holder.
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Can you bring children to the United States on a K-1 visa?
If you have unmarried children under the age of 21 from a previous relationship, you may apply to have them accompany you to the U.S. This includes any children that your home country legally recognizes as yours, whether they are biologically your children or born out of wedlock.
When you begin the application process, your fiancé, as your U.S. citizen sponsor, will need to include your children’s names in Part 2 of the Petition for Alien Fiancé that your fiancé will file with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Does divorce affect permanent residence status?
Unfortunately, the reality is that not all marriages result in “happily ever after.” The effects of a divorce, depends on the stage upon which the divorce occurred.
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Once you marry your spouse and the condition on your spouse’s residency is removed, your marriage should be treated just like any other in the event of divorce or the death of your spouse.
If you submitted your Form I-751 and your petition for permanent residency was approved without conditions, then you are considered a permanent resident regardless of your marital status. So, when your ten-year Green Card expires, you will not need your former spouse to sign your petition or file any waivers with you. Your residency is not dependent on your marital status, and you can still apply for citizenship as soon as you are eligible.
If a divorce occurs before the condition on your residency is removed, then the foreign national spouse may file alone, but must ask for a waiver of the requirement to file jointly, and must also meet certain criterias.
Also note, that if you have a change of address, you should update USCIS through your online account or by using the Change of Address card.
How can an experienced lawyer make getting a K-1 visa easier?
Counting down the days to your wedding is hard enough without the extra pressure of waiting to find out if you’ll be able to live with your fiancé on U.S. soil. However, you can take some steps to make the waiting process a little easier. Consider hiring an experienced immigration lawyer, which will allow you to explore your options for establishing a life in the U.S. with your fiancé. When you are ready to enlist the support of a lawyer who understands K-1 visa processes, schedule a consultation with Farmer Law.
“The Farmer Law PC team goes above when it comes to keeping us compliant and helping us learn more each day.”
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U.S. work visas, or any other aspect of immigration law.