K-1 Visa - Fiance(e) of U.S. Citizen

OVERVIEW

A citizen of a foreign country, who wishes to enter the United States, generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.

DEFINITION

A United States Citizen may sponsor the entry into the U.S. of his/her international fiancé whom the United States Citizen intends to marry within 90 days of the entry to the U.S. The fiancé may not obtain more than a 90-day status in the U.S. to execute the marriage. The visa is the first step in obtaining permanent resident status for the spouse of an American citizen. The Fiancé Visa may not be extended or changed to another category.

DEFINITION OF "FIANCE(E)

A fiancé(e) is a person who is engaged or contracted to be married. The marriage must be legally possible according to laws of the State in the United States where the marriage will take place.
In general, the two people must have met in person within the past two years. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants some exceptions to this requirement. For example, it may be contrary in some traditions for a man and woman to meet before marriage.

Sometimes the USCIS considers a person a "fiancé(e)" even though a marriage contract has been concluded. In such cases, the American citizen petitioner and his/her spouse have not met, and they have not consummated the marriage.

ELIGIBILITY

In order to qualify for a Fiancee Visa, you must meet the following requirements:

You are engaged to a U.S. citizen
You have met your fiancé(e) within the previous two years (subject to the exceptions discussed below)
You and your fiancé(e) are both legally free to marry
You and your fiancé(e) both have a serious intention to marry within 90 days of your arrival into the U.S.

MEETING EXCEPTIONS

The Immigration and Nationality Act , INA § 214.2(k)(2) provides an exemption from the meeting requirement "if it is established that compliance would result in extreme hardship to the petitioner or that compliance would violate strict and long-established customs of the K-1 beneficiary's foreign culture or social practice, as where marriages are traditionally arranged by the parents of the contracting parties and the prospective bride and groom are prohibited from meeting subsequent to the arrangement and prior to the wedding day."

The "extreme hardship" exception is generally available only to people who are so disabled that they cannot travel at all. As for the second grounds for a waiver, very few people qualify for this exception, and those that do often have a difficult time proving it to the government's satisfaction.

WORK AUTHORIZATION

A K-1 visa holder may file an Application for Employment Authorization and if approved may work in the U.S.

DEPENDENTS

The child of a fiancé(e) may receive a derivative K-2 visa from his/her parent's fiancé(e) petition. The child must be named in the petition. After the marriage of the child's parent and the American citizen, the child will need to have a separate Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status filed. The child may travel with (accompany) the K-1 parent/fiancé(e) or travel later (follow-to-join) within one year from the date of issuance of the K-1 visa to his/her parent. If it is longer than one year from the date of visa issuance, a separate immigrant visa petition is required.
Remember that in immigration law a child must be unmarried. The stepparent/stepchild relationship must be created before the child reaches the age of 18.

VISA INELIGIBILITY

Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. In some instances, waivers may be available. Examples of these ineligibilities are:
Trafficking in Drugs
Having HIV/AIDS
Overstaying a previous visa
Practicing polygamy
Advocating the overthrow of the government
Submitting fraudulent documents



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