K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide



Congress created the K-1 fiancé(e) visa in 1970 out of recognition that the existing visa options for couples were insufficient. One option was for the U.S. citizen to go abroad to marry, after which the foreign spouse could apply for an immigrant visa on the basis of the marriage. Another option was for the foreign fiancé(e) to obtain a B-2 (visitor for pleasure) visa to come to the U.S. to marry, but an important limitation is that B2 visas are only available if the foreign fiancé(e) does not intend to immigrate to the U.S.[1] In creating the K-1 visa option, Congress sought to create a method for a foreign fiancé(e) to enter the U.S for purposes of marriage and immigration.[2]

This article covers the requirements and procedures to apply for a K-1 visa, as well as the terms and conditions of K-1 status. Also covered are the rules for the fiancé(e)’s unmarried children under age 21 to apply for K-2 visas.

A word of caution: family-based immigration is a lengthy, sometimes complex, and ever-changing process. Some people are ineligible to immigrate, and others can only immigrate by qualifying for a special “waiver” of ineligibility grounds. It’s common for immigration cases to be delayed and the couple kept apart if specific procedures are not carefully followed at each step along the way, or if incomplete information or documentation is submitted. I would encourage every couple to at least consult with a qualified and experienced immigration lawyer to find out if there are any hidden pitfalls in their case. Love and marriage are too important to leave the immigration process to chance.

1.1 Application Steps and Processing Time

This article covers each stage of the application process. For each step, the average processing time is shown.

  • Step 1: The U.S. citizen files a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancée (i.e., K-1 petition) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (5 months processing time at all Service Centers).
  • Step 2: USCIS forwards the approved petition to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) for clerical processing. (2-4 weeks).
  • Step 3: The fiancé(e) applies for a K-1 visa (and any children apply for K-2 visas) at a U.S. Consulate abroad. (2-4 months).
  • Step 4: The fiancé(e) and any children apply for admission to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) inspector at a port of entry. Upon admission, the fiancé(e) has K-1 status and the children have K-2 status.
  • Step 5: To qualify for conditional resident status, within 90 days of when the fiancé(e) enters in K-1 status, the couple must marry
  • Step 6: Then the foreign spouse and each K-2 child must file with USCIS a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. (7-9 months).

1.2 Related Topics

Other related topics not covered in this article include:

  • Choosing the Best Visa Strategy for a Fiancée or Spouse: K-1, K-3, or Immigrant Visa?
  • Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa: see especially Part III. A fiancé(e) is technically ineligible to enter the U.S. on a B1/B2 visitor’s visa if she intends to reside permanently in the U.S.
  • Guide to Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status (available upon request)
  • Rights and Obligations of Lawful Permanent Residents: among other things, this article explains how approval of the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, results in conditional resident status. That status is valid for two years. Within the 90-day window before that status expires, a Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, may be filed with USCIS to request permanent resident status.
  • The fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may be classified as a B-2 visitor if he or she intends to return to a residence abroad soon after marriage. A B-2 visa may also be issued to come to the United States:

    (1) Simply to meet the family of his or her fiancé(e);

    (2) To become engaged;

    (3) To make arrangements for the wedding; or

    (4) To renew a relationship with the prospective spouse.[3]

Step 1: The K-1 Petition

1.1 Overview of the Requirements

The requirements for a U.S. citizen to file a K-1 petition are as follows:

  1. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen.
  2. The citizen and foreign fiancé(e) must be free to marry. This means that both of you are unmarried or that any previous marriages have ended through divorce, annulment, or death. And there must be no legal impediments to marriage.[4]
  3. The couple must have met at least one time in person within the two-year period prior to filing the K-1 petition.[5] This can be proven through affidavits, trip itineraries, plane ticket stubs, letter, photographs, or other evidence, as explained below. This requirement can be waived only if meeting would violate long-established customs (e.g., marriages in the fiancé(e)’s country are traditionally arranged by the parents and the prospective bride and groom are forbidden from meeting until the wedding day), or if meeting would create “extreme hardship” for the petitioner. The USCIS Administrative Appeals Office has held that “lack of finances” or inability to take time off work does not constitute extreme hardship. Medical and security conditions form the most prevalent bases for hardship waivers granted by USCIS.[6]
  4. The foreign fiancé(e) must “seek[ ] to enter the United States solely to conclude a valid marriage with the petitioner within ninety days after admission.”[7] The law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes.[8] (Petitions filed on behalf of a same sex fiancé(e) are treated in the same manner as those filed on behalf of opposite-sex spouses.[9]) In addition, the petitioner must “have a bona fide intention to marry, and … [be] willing to conclude a valid marriage” within the 90 days.[10] These requirements are discussed further below.
  5. There is no requirement that the foreign fiancé(e) speak English. The K-1 visa appointment at the U.S. Consulate abroad can be conducted in the fiancé(e)’s preferred language. Nevertheless, the above requirement of intent to enter into a valid marriage implies that the couple must share a common language to communicate in, or that the couple should be prepared they have other ways to communicate (e.g., through an interpreter or through translation software).
  6. If the citizen has been arrested or convicted of certain crimes, you must include police and court records with the K-1 petition.[11] Related information will be disclosed by the consular officer to the foreign fiancé(e) during the K-1 interview.[12]
  7. If the citizen has been arrested for a “specified offense against a minor,”[13] USCIS will schedule the petitioner for fingerprinting to conduct a criminal background check.[14] If USCIS determines that the petitioner has been convicted of a “specified offense against a minor,” a Form I-129F or Form I-130 will be denied except that USCIS may grant an exception if it determines in its sole and unreviewable discretion that the petitioner does not pose a risk of harm to the beneficiary.[15]
  8. International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) limitations and waivers:
  • The citizen must not have exceeded the limitations on the number of K-1 petitions filed. The limit is two or more K-1 visa petitions filed at any time in the past or any K-1 petition approved within two years prior to the filing of the current petition.
  • Even if the citizen has exceeded that limitation, USCIS in its discretion may grant the citizen a waiver of the limitation as a matter of discretion.
  • But no waiver will be given to a petitioner with a history of violent offenses unless extraordinary circumstances exist or unless the petitioner has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.[16]
  • In addition, once a petitioner has had two fiancé(e) or spousal petitions approved, if a subsequent petition is filed fewer than 10 years after the date the first petition was filed, USCIS will notify both the petitioner and the beneficiary of any subsequent petition about the number of previously approved petitions.[17]

1.2 Intent to Enter into a Valid Marriage

Here’s a more detailed explanation of the requirement that the couple must have a good faith intention to marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)’s admission to the U.S.[18]

A good faith intention to marry means that the parties intend to establish a life together.[19] The level of intent that must be show is firm “commitment.”[20] And this “life together” most typically involves living in the same home, commingling finances, having sex, and having children, although no single factor is required. For example, the couple may need to live apart for a period because of work or may not intend to have children.[21]

In contrast, marriages of convenience,[22] paper marriages, marriages that occur only because the green card is the sole objective are illegal. U.S. government policy is to root out phony marriages, to prosecute the both parties criminally,[23] and to deport the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse. According to USCIS, some factors that raise “red flags” perhaps (but not necessarily) indicating a sham marriage include[24]:

  • Large disparity of age;
  • Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language;
  • Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background;
  • Family and/or friends unaware of the marriage;
  • Marriage arranged by a third party;
  • Engagement after a very brief courtship
  • Marriage contracted immediately following the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to depart the United States;
  • Discrepancies in statements on questions for which both parties should have common knowledge;
  • Petitioner resides with family members of the beneficiary in the U.S.;
  • Beneficiary is a friend of the petitioner’s family; and
  • Petitioner has filed previous immigration petitions, especially K-1 or spousal petitions.

It’s important to address such red flags in the K-1 petition because if the consular officer later becomes aware of red flags not considered by USCIS in the petition, the consular officer may return the petition to USCIS with a recommendation that the petition be revoked.

The U.S. government will assess the intent of the parties by reviewing their conduct. For example, do they appear to know each other well enough to form an intent to establish a life together? Does the petitioner know the fiancé(e)’s family, and vice-versa? Have the parties taken other actions showing a commitment to make a “life together.”

The couple will be required to submit documentary evidence of the validity of their intent to marry. This may include, for example:

  • Photos of the couple together and with their extended families and friends over a period of time of their relationship, showing that they know each other well.
  • Evidence of plans for the wedding.
  • Evidence of gifts the couple has given to each other and to their respective families.
  • Letters or emails between the couple showing that they have a real relationship, that they plan to marry, and that they plan to establish a relationship together.
  • Affidavits from the couple’s relatives explaining that they have seen the couple’s relationship evolve and are aware of the couple’s intent to marry and to have a life together.

The couple may also be interviewed regarding the validity of their intent to marry. Inconsistency in statements made by the couple may be the basis for denial.[25]

The couple bears the burden of proof. This means that it’s not enough to just say you intend to marry. You need to submit evidence that is sufficient to persuade the officer that you intend to establish a life together.

Note that there is no requirement that the relationship be perfect. The U.S. government can’t refuse to issue a visa merely because they believe the marriage may not succeed. The only requirement is that the couple has the good faith intent to marry. In fact, providing evidence of issues or difficulties in the relationship can be helpful to prove that it’s real. For example, the couple can provide evidence that they initially had different opinions regarding whether to have children or how to manage money but that they have taken steps to resolve the issues, such as compromising or discussing the issue or seeking pre-marital counseling with a therapist or social worker.

1.3 Procedures

USCIS Jurisdiction

The petition should be filed with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility.[26] From there, it will be assigned to a USCIS Service Center for processing. Assignment is based on factors such as the petitioner’s state of residence and the current workload at each service center. Currently, K-1 petitions are being assigned to the California, Texas and Potomac Service Centers. [27]

Petitions are divided up among the service centers in order to maintain a balanced workload. The petition cannot be adjudicated at a USCIS office abroad.

Documents to Be Submitted

The petition packet should include the following documents:

  1. Filing fee: $535. A check or money order should be payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” [28]
  2. Forms G-28, Notices of Entry of Appearance as Attorney, on behalf of each fiancé(e)
  3. Form G-1145, Notification of Acceptance of Application/Petition (to be notified by email and/or SMS of USCIS acceptance of the petition)
  4. Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancée
  5. One passport-style photo of each fiancé(e) taken within 30 days of filing
  6. Evidence of the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship—copies of your U.S. birth certificate, your valid, unexpired U.S. passport, your Certificate of Naturalization, and/or your Certificate of Citizenship
  7. Documentation establishing that all prior marriages of the petitioner and beneficiary, if any, have been legally terminated (e.g., any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees)
  8. For same-sex couples, prior to nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage, the petitioner’s statement had to detail plans to marry in a jurisdiction that had marriage equality. In addition, the evidence of wedding planning had to show that the marriage would take place in a marriage equality state.[29] This is no longer required.
  9. If either of you is of an age that requires special consent or permission for you to marry in the jurisdiction in which your marriage will occur, give proof of that consent or permission.
  10. If either you or your fiancé(e) is using a name other than that shown on the relevant documents, you should provide copies of the legal documents that made the change, such as a marriage certificate, adoption decree or court order.
  11. Petitioners convicted of offenses specified above must submit related police and court records, even if the records were sealed or expunged.
  12. Petitioners requiring an IMBRA waiver should submit related documentation.
  13. Evidence that you have met your fiancé(e) in the last two years (unless a waiver applies),[30] have a valid relationship, and have a mutual intent to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s admission in K-1 status. [31] This may include, for example, the types of evidence listed here: Top 11 Ways to Prove a Valid Marriage for Immigration.

The fiancé(e)’s children are listed in the Form I-129F. Separate petitions are not necessary for them.[32]

Photocopies of supporting evidence are submitted, although USCIS has the power to subsequently request that originals be submitted for review. Certified English translations need to be filed of documents in foreign languages.

If You Met Through an International Marriage Broker

The petition asks whether you have met through an “international marriage broker” (IMB). Meeting this way does not affect eligibility for a K-1 visa. However, the form asks this question to help the government regulate the IMB industry. If you have met through an IMB, a consular officer is supposed to obtain the IMB’s identity and confirm that the IMB is in compliance with laws requiring the IMB to disclose certain information about the citizen to the fiancé(e).[33] That information includes the results of a search in the sex offender registry, information about civil protection orders or restraining orders issued against the citizen, certain arrest and conviction records, information about marital history, information about the citizen’s children, and information about the citizen’s residences since age 18.[34]

Not every dating service is an IMB. Specifically, an IMB is a company or individual that charges fees for providing dating, matrimonial, or matchmaking services, or social referrals between citizens and foreign nationals.[35]There are two important exceptions to the definition of an IMB. The term doesn’t include:

(i) a traditional matchmaking organization of a cultural or religious nature that operates on a nonprofit basis and otherwise operates in compliance with the laws of the countries in which it operates, including the laws of the United States; or

(ii) an entity that provides dating services if its principal business is not to provide international dating services between United States citizens or United States residents and foreign nationals and it charges comparable rates and offers comparable services to all individuals it serves regardless of the individual’s gender or country of citizenship.[36]

Many online dating services fall within the second exception.


USCIS will issue a receipt notice upon receiving the petition and subsequently a written decision in the matter. That decision will be either a written approval notice, a request for additional evidence, a notice of intent to deny allowing submission of rebuttal evidence, or a denial notice. A denial can be appealed to the USCIS Administrative Appeals office.[37] In certain instances, a motion to reconsider or reopen can also be filed following a denial.

Petition Validity

A Form I-129F approval is valid for 4 months from the date of USCIS approval.[38] The petition “may” be revalidated by a USCIS or a consular officer thereafter any number of times for additional 4-month periods if the officer finds that the parties are free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days after the fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States.[39] One 4-month extension is common where there are delays in the K-1 visa process. However, repeated revalidations may provoke concern about the intentions of the parties. In sum, there is a risk that an officer who is not convinced of the validity of the marriage may effectively deny the K-1 visa application simply by allowing the petition to expire and refusing as a matter of discretion to revalidate it.

Step 2: National Visa Center Processing

In 2003, USCIS began sending all approved I-129Fs to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Once there, the NVC will create a case record with the petition information. NVC does part of the security check previously done by the Consulate. In particular, the NVC does a National Criminal Information Center name check on each applicant.[40]

Then the case is forwarded to the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad.

In 2009, USCIS begin forwarding K-1 cases to Consulates electronically. This eliminated a problem associated with mailing petitions to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, in which cases were delayed for up to several months by China Customs.

The U.S. citizen should receive notification by mail when NVC has sent the petition to the U.S. consulate.[41] The notification letter will provide a unique number for the case. If more than 4 weeks pass since the U.S. citizen has received the USCIS approval notice but the NVC notification has still not been received, our law firm can contact the NVC to follow up.

Step 3: Consular Processing

3.1 K-1 as a Hybrid Visa

The K-1 has been called a “hybrid” visa because it is a nonimmigrant visa (allowing admission for only 90 days) but it is intended to facilitate immigration.[42]

According to a State Department rule, “The consular officer, insofar as is practicable, must determine the eligibility of an alien to receive a [K-1 visa] as if the alien were an applicant for an immigrant visa” except that the vaccination requirement doesn’t apply.[43]

As a result, the two-year foreign residence requirement applies to prior J-1 exchange visitors even though the statute does not explicitly mention applicability to K-1s.[44] Also, the grounds of inadmissibility for polygamy[45] and totalitarian party membership[46] apply even though they are not applicable to other nonimmigrants.

Procedurally, unlike most nonimmigrants, a K-1 visa applicant is required to undergo a medical exam, wait for a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) name check, and present a police certificate.[47]

3.2 Requirements for the K-1 Fiancee

To qualify for a K-1 visa, the fiancé(e) must meet the following requirements.[48]

1. Same Requirements as K-1 Petition: At the consular processing stage, the same requirements from the K-1 stage must still be met. Pay particular attention to the requirement that you prove to the consular officer that you intend to enter into a real marriage, making a life together, within 90 days of admission to the U.S. Some visa applicants are unprepared to prove they meet this requirement leading to refusal of the visa. Consular officers often justify their refusals with the following types of logic:

  • It does not appear that the claimed relationship is continuous and on-going since the couple has met just one time.
  • The foreign fiancé(e) is unaware of basic facts regarding the citizen’s occupation or his employer’s name.
  • The foreign fiancé(e) is unaware of basic facts regarding the citizen’s educational level or the name of the college he attended.
  • The foreign fiancé(e) is unable to provide basic facts about the planned wedding, such as the place of the ceremony, the manner of celebration, who will be invited, or how much the wedding will cost.
  • The foreign fiancé(e) is not familiar with the requirement to marry within 90 days of admission to the U.S.
  • The citizen is unaware that the foreign fiancé(e) has children (i.e., those children weren’t listed in the K-1 petition) or that the children have serious physical or mental health problems.[49]
  • If the petition did not disclose that the foreign fiancé(e) was pregnant, the consul is authorized to proceed with action on the visa application only if the consul receives, in writing or telegram, an acknowledgement from the citizen that the citizen was aware of the pregnancy and wishes to proceed with the marriage.[50]
  • When more than one citizen has an approved petition for the same foreign fiancé(e), the consul must suspend action and return all petitions with a covering memorandum to USCIS for further review.

To avoid refusals on this basis, our firm works closely with the couple to prepare for the interview.

2. Inadmissibility: One set of issues that consular officers focus on, but which the USCIS does not review at the K-1 petition stage, is whether the applicant is subject to the grounds of inadmissibility. To be issued a visa and admitted to the U.S. at a port of entry, a foreign national must be “admissible.” Detailed grounds of inadmissibility exist related to:

  • Medical-related grounds.
  • Crime-related grounds.
  • Security-related grounds, including certain current or former members of the Communist Party.

  • Public charge grounds.
  • Labor certification and requirements for physicians and health-care workers.
  • Illegal immigrants and immigration law violators.
  • Documentary requirements.
  • Draft evaders.
  • Persons previously removed or unlawfully present in the U.S.
  • Miscellaneous grounds.
  • Prior J-1 exchange visitors subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement.[51]

At the beginning of the representation our firm will help the fiancé(e) determine whether any of the grounds of inadmissibility apply and whether any waiver of inadmissibility is available.[52]

3. Automatic termination: The K-1 visa will not be approved—and the underlying visa petition will be automatically terminated—if the U.S. citizen dies or files a written withdrawal of the petition before the fiancé(e) arrives in the United States.[53]

3.3 Requirements for the K-2 Child

To qualify for a K-2 visa, the applicant must meet the definition of a “child”. In addition[54]:

  • The grounds of inadmissibility must not apply.
  • The approval of the petition must not have been terminated.
  • The child must be accompanying or following to join the K-1 fiancé(e).

3.4 Procedures Before the Visa Appointment

Place of Application

As with other nonimmigrant visa applications, the default place where the K-1 visa application should be filed is with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.[55] In the alternative, a post may as a matter of discretion accept an application from an individual who is physically present but not resident within its jurisdiction.[56] And in certain situations, an applicant who has previously remained in the U.S. beyond the period of authorized nonimmigrant stay may be required to apply in his or her country of nationality.[57]

The Form I-129F asks the petitioner to identify the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the fiancé(e) would like to apply for the visa.[58]

  • China: All K-1 and K-2 visa appointments are held at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.
  • Thailand: All K-1 and K-2 visa appointments are held at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Notice to K-1 Visa Applicants (Packet 3)

The first contact from the Consulate will be that the Consulate will mail to the foreign fiancé(e) a Notice to K-1 Visa Applicants (Packet 3) in English and the local language. A copy of the petitioner’s approved Form I-129F will be included for the foreign national’s review. This packet provides instructions for completing online the Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

China: The Packet 3 requests that the K-1 and K-2 applicants mail to the Consulate the following materials once all documents have been collected for the visa appointment:

  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Passport ID page (photocopy)
  • Two passport-style photos

Thailand: The Packet 3 requests that the K-1 and K-2 applicants mail to the Embassy[59]:

  • Form DS-2001
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Passport ID page (photocopy)
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Evidence of payment of the visa application fee
  • Copies of financial, civil, and other documents

Upon receipt of the Packet 3, the Consulate will complete additional security checks (“clearance procedures”) through databases that use biographic information (e.g., name, date of birth) and biometric information (e.g., facial recognition) as identifiers.[60]

Visa Application Fee

The visa application fee for a K-1 or K-2 visa applicant is USD 265 or the equivalent in local currency.

China: The visa application fee must be paid through CITIC Bank after submission of the Form DS-160 but prior to scheduling an appointment.

Thailand: The visa application fee must be paid through Krungsri Bank prior to returning to the U.S. Embassy the documents requested by the Packet 3.

Registering Your Passport Return Location

Once your visa is approved, the U.S. Consulate will return your visaed passport to you at your chosen location. The passport is usually returned about 1 week after the Consulate approves your application, although delays are possible.[61]

U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou: You may choose among the following passport return methods[62].

  • Premium delivery option: This option allows you to choose delivery to a home, office, or other address in Mainland China by EMS. You will receive an email from the Consulate with the EMS tracking number when the U.S. Consulate gives the passport to EMS. To choose premium delivery, you have to provide a valid address and phone number. There is a fee of RMB 92 per passport, payable upon delivery. To receive your passport, you must show an original government-issued photo ID to the delivery person.
  • Pick up the passport yourself at a local CITIC Bank branch: Our firm can give you a list of local CITIC Bank branches. You can choose which one you want to go to in order to pick up your passport. You will receive an email from the Consulate with the EMS tracking number when the U.S. Consulate passes the passport to EMS. To receive your passport, you must present an original government-issued photo ID. We recommend you also bring your consular Appointment Confirmation Letter. Please note that CITIC will hold your passport for only 15 days, after which it will be returned to the Embassy/Consulate. You must collect your passport within 15 days. There is a fee of RMB 68 for this service, except that pickup at the following 4 CITIC locations is free:
    • Beijing – 1F, Bldg E, No 8, Fuhua Mansion, Chaoyangmen North Street, Beijing
    • Guangzhou – 1, 2 Floor, CITIC Plaza, 233 North Tianhe Road, Guangzhou, Guangdong
    • Shanghai – Pacific Plaza, GF, No 1168 Nanjing West Rd, Shanghai
    • Shenyang – Nanhu branch, No.50, Cai Ta Street, He Ping District, Shenyang, Liaoning

You may change your preferred document delivery address until midnight on the day of your interview appointment.[63]

You can sign a letter of authority to designate another person to receive your passport through either of the above methods. For example, a friend, family member, or a member of our law firm staff can do this. The third party must present additional documents.

  • their own original government-issued photo ID for identification;
  • a photocopy of your government-issued photo ID; and,
  • a letter of authority, signed by you, authorizing the third party to collect your passport.[64]

If you are a third-country national applying for a visa at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, a special concern is that you may be unable to board a plane or train without your passport to be used as ID. So you may want to stay in Guangzhou to pickup your passport at the local expedited pick-up location. In the alternative, at the end of the consular appointment, if your visa is approved, you may want to tell the consular officer that you need the passport to return home, in which case the consular officer will give you a 221(g) notice asking you to drop off your passport at a local CITIC Bank branch when you return home, after which it will be forwarded to the Consulate, the visa will be added, and then it will be returned to you via your selected passport return method. It takes about two weeks for your passport to complete that round-trip process.

U.S. Embassy in Bankok: You can choose the mailing address for your passport to be returned to at www.ustraveldocs.com/th. You will indicate your choice and download your GSS registration to return with the other Packet 3 documents. The passport will be sent by Thai Post. There is no fee for this service. It is the applicant’s responsibility to coordinate with the designated Thai Post office to receive his/her passport should the applicant not be present at the time of Thai Post’s first delivery attempt. If you fail to coordinate with Thai Post within 7 days, the passport will be returned to the Immigrant Visa Unit.[65]

Packet 4 / Scheduling the Appointment

After the Consulate reviews the documents provided in response to Packet 3 and performs necessary security checks, the Consulate will then send the Packet 4 to the foreign fiancé(e) by email in English and the local language..

China: The Packet 4 contains information about scheduling the interview online at www.ustraveldocs.com. Prerequisites include paying the visa application fee and choosing a location for the Consulate to deliver the visaed passport to after the interview. Appointments are usually available within 2-4 weeks. The Packet 4 also includes a link to the K Visa Instructions, with a generic list of documents to bring to the interview, and medical examination instructions.

Thailand: Packet 4 will include the consular appointment notice and related instructions. Interviews are generally scheduled within 60 days of the Embassy’s receipt of the Packet 3 documents. If the Packet 4 is slow in arriving or lost in the mail, you can check online to see whether your appointment has been scheduled. You can also get the Packet 4 instructions for the interview online.[66]

Medical Exam

The appointment letter will also provide instructions for each K applicant to undergo a medical examination at a consulate-approved medical center prior to the immigrant visa interview.

The purpose of the medical examination is to ensure that the applicant doesn’t fall within the health grounds of inadmissibility, including (1) having a communicable disease of public health significance (chancroid, gonorrhea, granuloma inguinale, infectious leprosy, HIV infection; lymphogranulomavenereum, infectious-stage syphilis, and active TB); (2) having a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that has posed, or may pose, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of yourself or others; and (3) having been a drug abuser or addict.

The medical examination includes a medical history, a physical examination, a mental examination, a chest X-ray for tuberculosis (followed by further tests if the results may be abnormal), and blood tests for syphilis and HIV. Some exceptions are made for applicants under 15 years of age.

For K-1 and K-2 visa applicants, it is optional to have the doctor provide any missing vaccinations and complete a vaccination worksheet. Our firm recommends that you do this in order to avoid the need to visit a doctor in the U.S. in connection with your Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status.

Our firm will provide you with detailed instructions for the medical examination.

After the medical exam has been completed and test results have been returned, the medical center will put the exam into a sealed envelope for you to bring to the interview.

Of course, the applicant should be sure to tell our law firm about any potential issues, such as prior hospitalization at a mental health institution, prior use of illegal drugs, alcoholism, or even a single arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.

China: Currently in China, there are approved medical centers in Beijing, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

Thailand: Currently, there are designated medical centers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.[67] If your medical report will not be completed by the time of your consular appointment, you will not be interviewed. It will be necessary to reschedule the appointment.[68]

3.5 K-1 Visa Appointment

Documents to Bring

The documents which each K-1 or K-2 visa applicant should bring to the interview include[69]:

  1. Form DS-160 confirmation page[70]
  2. Passport. Limited Validity: The Consulate tells applicants a good rule of thumb: the passport valid for at least “8 months beyond the visa issuance date.” Here’s why: (a) K-1 visas are typically valid for 6 months[71]; and (b) by law, the passport must be valid for 60 days beyond immigrant visa’s expiration, except that for immediate relatives applying in their country of nationality the passport and visa may expire on the same date.[72] So, if the passport isn’t valid for at least 8 months (with the exception stated above), then the visa will be limited so that it expires 60 days before the passport.[73]
  3. Birth certificate:
  • China: A notarial birth certificate is required. If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1996, this will normally be issued by a Chinese notary based on review of your medical certificate of birth. If you were born earlier, it will be issued by the notary based on other evidence.[74]
  1. A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees (for the citizen or foreign fiancé(e))[75]
  • China: A notary can issue a notarial divorce certificate based on review of the divorce certificate issued by the civil affairs bureau or the divorce decree issued by a court.[76]
  1. Police certificates: For each applicant age 16 or above, police certificates from (1) the country of nationality (or, if unlike China, a single certificate doesn’t cover the entire country, separate certificates for each place of residence after turning 16); (2) current residence; (3) other countries where the applicant has resided for at least one year; and (4) any place where ever arrested. Limited Validity: Police certificates are valid for just one year if from a country visited or inhabited subsequent to the certificate’s issuance. The visa can’t be valid beyond a certificate’s expiration date.
  • China: This will be issued by a Chinese notary based on a certificate of no criminal conviction from the public security bureau.[77]
  1. Military records, if any:
  • China: According to the U.S. State Department, these are “[g]enerally not available,”[78] and so are not required.
  1. Court and prison records, if any
  2. Medical examination (vaccination form is not required) taken by a physician designated by the Consulate. This exam can only be taken after the interview has been scheduled. Limited Validity: Timing of the medical exam is important. The TB portion of the medical exam is valid for 6 months if there is no tuberculosis (TB) finding (or if there is Class 2 or Class 3 TB), HIV, or Class A medical condition. The TB portion of the medical exam is valid for just 3 months if there is an HIV finding or certain TB findings (Class B1 TB Pulmonary, Class B1 TB Extrapulmonary). Other portions of the medical exam are valid for one year.[79] The visa validity can’t exceed the exam’s validity.
  3. Evidence of available financial resources to demonstrate that the fiancé(e) will not become a public charge. This includes:
  • Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, by the petitioner[80]
  • Most recent federal income tax return (with W-2s and other attachments)
  • Other evidence of sustained income or assets, as prudent (e.g., for example, bank and investment statements; recent paycheck stub or employer letter confirming employment; a self-employed person may submit business or professional license, business bank statements, and background information about the business).
  • If the petitioner’s income does not meet the poverty guidelines, a Form I-134 by a joint sponsor may be submitted along with proof of U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residence, evidence of income or assets, and evidence of the relationship between the joint sponsor and foreign fiancé(e))
  1. Two passport-style photographs[81]
  2. Updated evidence that you two intend to enter into a real marriage within 90 days of the foreign fiancé(e)’s admission. (The Consulate may wish to review the foreign fiancé(e)’s hukou for this purpose).

Children applying for K-2 visas should have evidence that the foreign fiancé(e) has been granted full custody in a divorce proceeding or, if a joint custody situation exists, that the other parent is fully aware of the intended relocation to the U.S. and does not object.

  1. The USCIS approval notice for the K-1 petition, and a copy of the K-1 petition packet (in case any or all of it has been misplaced by the government).[82]
  2. China: Resume / Foreign Travel List / U.S. Work Plan in Chinese and English, listing:
  • all educational history;
  • all of your employers and all specific job responsibilities and projects;
  • any publications you have written. Note titles, descriptions and dates of all publications. Be as comprehensive as possible;
  • a list of all foreign destinations visited, including dates and purpose of travel; and
  • a work plan explaining where the applicant(s) will seek employment after immigrating to the United States.
  1. Prior U.S. immigration records, such as prior passports with U.S. visas or used for U.S. travel, visa extension applications and approval notices, and records of Immigration Court proceedings.

Any documents not in English should be accompanied by a certified English translation.[83]

Typically, it’s convenient for a child seeking a K-2 visa to interview together with the K-1 visa applicant. However, it’s also possible for a child to apply for and receive a K-2 visa up to one year after the K-1 visa was issued, even if the parent has already married and been granted adjustment of status.[84]

An important function of the immigration attorney is to advise the foreign fiancé(e) regarding what documents to bring to the consulate in your particular case and to review those documents to be sure they are sufficient and persuasive.

More generally, it is the immigration attorney’s job to prepare the applicant for the interview, identifying any potentially problematic issues and advising you about the strategy for resolving those issues.

China and Thailand: Neither the citizen petitioner nor the attorney is allowed to attend the interview.[85] This means that the attorney must prepare the fiancé(e) to be her own advocate. This often involves more work than if the attorney were able to attend the interview.

Entering the Consulate / Security Restrictions

Arrive at the Consulate 15-30 minutes in advance of your scheduled appointment. You may not be allowed to enter if you are late.

When you are near the Consulate, please pay attention to your personal safety and to secure your personal belongings.

Be prepared to pass through a security checkpoint. You are not allowed to bring into the Consulate any of the following items[86]:

  • Battery-operated or electronic devices such as mobile phones, digital diaries, digital watches, pagers, cameras, audio/video cassettes, compact discs, MP3s, floppy disks, laptops, or portable music players;
  • Large shoulder bags/purses – only bags that can be carried by hand will be permitted;
  • Bags such as travel bags, backpacks, briefcases, suitcases, leather, cloth bags, and zip folders – you can only carry plastic bags containing application-related papers;
  • Food items;
  • Sealed envelopes or packages;
  • Cigarettes, cigars, match boxes, lighters;
  • Sharp objects such as scissors, pen knives or nail files;
  • Weapons or explosive materials of any kind.
  • Other items prohibited at the discretion of security staff.

China: You will need to show your passport and appointment letter to enter. Enter through the consular customer entrance on Huaxia Road, near Exit B1 of the Zhujiang New Town subway station (on lines 3 and 5). There are two lines outside the Consulate—one for nonimmigrants, and another for immigrants. Wait in the latter. There is no facility at the Consulate General to store prohibited items such as cell phones. You must make arrangements to store these items before entering, although there may be one or more street-level entrepreneurs near the Consulate willing to store such items. Once you pass through security, you will be directed to the Immigrant Visa Unit on the 3rd floor. Take a ticket from the ticket machine and wait for your number to be called so you can proceed to the document checker.

Thailand: You will need to show your passport and appointment letter (if you have received it) to enter. You will be allowed to check one cell phone at the Embassy gate. You will also be allowed to bring the CD with your x-ray into the Embassy.

Document Checker

The document checker is a local employee of the Consulate. He or she will collect some of your documents. This may include, for example, your passport, DS-160 confirmation page, and medical exam. The document checker will pass these documents to the consular officer.

The document checker may also ask some questions to see if your documents are complete and accurate, such as: Have you been to the U.S.? Have you lived in any third country for a year or more? Have you been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?

Domestic Violence Pamphlet

A consulate employee will give you the USCIS Pamphlet, “Information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa.” You can read this now. It’s available in more than a dozen languages, including Chinese, at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/IMBRA.html. During your interview, the officer may ask you basic questions to confirm you understand the pamphlet.

During the Interview

During the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken. The scan is used to establish your identity and for a biometrics-based background check.

During the interview, the consular officer will ask questions to be satisfied that the applicant is informed of the Form DS-160’s contents and will incorporate any changes requested.[87] The officer may require the applicant to respond to any further questions concerning grounds of inadmissibility under INA 212(a) and to submit any additional documents needed to establish eligibility. In fiancé(e) cases, the questions often turn on whether the marriage is valid. In short, it is the consul’s job to develop whatever additional information may be needed in determining the applicant’s eligibility to receive the visa.

The officer will also[88]:

  • Inform you of any protection orders or criminal background information regarding the petitioner that USCIS has reported, then give you time to decide whether to proceed with the visa application and still intend to marry the petitioner within 90 days of entering the United States.
  • Inform you of any previously approved Form I-129F petitions filed by the petitioner.  (This will also be shown on the approved Form I-129F provided to you by the consular post).
  • Ask you whether an international marriage broker (IMB) facilitated the relationship.
  • Provide you with a copy of the USCIS pamphlet, “Information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa.” (You may have already received this pamphlet with the “Notice to K-1 Visa Applicants” (Packet 3).[89]
  • Orally review with you the contents of the pamphlet to confirm that you have read and understood it.

During the interview, the officers don’t ask each applicant the same questions. Instead, the officers tailor their questions to address their specific concerns about each case. The consular officer may require the applicant to answer any relevant question.[90]

Our firm will help the applicant form a strategy regarding how to prepare for and do the interview. This will include, for example, preparing the applicant regarding what questions to expect during the appointment and how to answer truthfully and in a way helpful to the case.

You may request that the consular officer return your original civil documents (e.g., marriage, birth, and police certificates) at the end of the interview, if you provide photocopies for the officer to keep.


The consular officer should adjudicate your application at the end of the appointment, notifying you of approval, or of one of these results:

Refusal under 221(g): Refusal under section 221(g) of the Act is a temporary refusal for the Consulate to gather more information in the case:

If the officer wants to investigate the case or request a background check from the Department of State in Washington, DC, or conduct an investigation, they will give you a written notice saying that “additional processing” is required.

  • If the officer believes that your relationship is a sham entered into only for purposes of securing a visa, and that you do not intend to make a life together, the officer will return your case to USCIS with a recommendation that the petition be revoked.[91] The officer should only return the petition to USCIS based on a determination that the relationship is a “sham,” and may not do so merely because the couple has failed to submit sufficient evidence of the validity of the relationship.[92] Consular officers must have “specific evidence,” generally unavailable to USCIS at the time of petition approval, to question USCIS’ approval of a petition due to fraud, changes in circumstances or clear error by USCIS.[93] The Consular officer’s determination that the relationship is a sham may not be based on observations that are “conclusory, speculative, equivocal, or irrelevant.”[94] However, USCIS will typically not revoke the petition. Instead, since the petition’s validity has typically expired, USCIS will simply notify the petitioner that the returned petition is no longer valid.[95]

Expired Petition: As discussed above, a Form I-129F approval is valid for 4 months from the date of USCIS approval.[96] The petition “may” be revalidated by a USCIS or a consular officer thereafter any number of times for additional 4-month periods if the officer finds that the parties are free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days after the fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States.[97] However, if the officer is not convinced of the validity of the marriage, they may effectively deny the K-1 visa application simply by allowing the petition to expire and refusing as a matter of discretion to revalidate it.

Refusal under 221(a): This is a refusal on the basis that the applicant falls within the grounds of inadmissibility. In some cases, a waiver may be available. The waiver procedure is a hybrid of nonimmigrant procedures and immigrant procedures.[98]

3.6 Check the Status of Your Application and Track Your Passport

You can check the status your visa application on the State Department’s CEAC website (beginning 3 days after your appointment).

You can also track the return of your visaed passport:

  • U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou: Once the passport has been collected from the U.S. embassy or consulate for delivery, you will receive a confirming email. For premium delivery, that email will include the EMS tracking number. For pickups at CITIC Bank, after receiving that email, you can also track the status of your passport here. When the status changes from “origination scan” to “ready for pickup,” you can go to the Bank to pick up your visa.
  • U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong: If you are eligible for an immigrant visa on the day of your interview, you should allow approximately 7-10 business days for your application to be processed and the visaed passport to be returned to you. You can track the status of your passport here.
  • U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez: An automated email is sent as soon as the courier assigns a tracking number to your shipment. The status of the shipment can be followed using this CSRA website or the DHL website.

3.7 The Visa Approval Packet

The visa approval packet will be returned to the location you previously selected. The packet will include the following documents:

Visaed Passport

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Sample K-1 Visa

The data on the K-1 visa includes the following:

  • Issuing Post Name: The location of the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that issued the visa.
  • Control Number: The control number is the upper right corner of the standard U.S. visa stamp is assigned by the government to keep track of visa issuances.
  • Visa Type/Class:
  • R: Means regular passport
  • Class: Should be K1 or K2
  • Personal Data: Check to make sure that all your personal data is correct. This includes your name, date of birth, passport number, gender, etc.
  • Entries: Should be 1.
  • Issuance and Expiration Dates. While a K-1 visa is generally valid for a period of 6 months, your visa may be valid for a shorter period, due to factors such as expiration of your medical exam, police clearance, or passport.
  • Annotation:
  • Pet.: This is the petitioner’s name
  • Pet No.: This is the USCIS receipt number for the I-129F
  • Visa Number (red):

Visa Approval Packet

The consul will give you a visa approval packet in a sealed envelope. The packet is made up of the Form I-129F, Form DS-160, civil documents (e.g., birth certificate, police certificate), affidavit of support, and the medical examination. Any accompanying child’s documents are enclosed in the parent’s packet. These materials are provided to you within a week after the interview, although delays are possible. Do not open the sealed envelope. Instead, submit it to CBP upon arrival at the port of entry.

Check the Status of Your Application

You can check the status of your application any time at this website: https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx. (The site is typically not updated during the 72 hours after the visa appointment).

  • China: You can also track your passport return at http://ustraveldocs.com/cn/cn-niv-passporttrack.asp. There are also ways to track your passport by email, chat, or telephone.[99] If your status shows “origination scan,” it means your passport has left the Consulate and is on its way to the delivery location you have chosen. It is however not available yet. Only when the status shows “ready for pick up,” does it mean you can go to the CITIC branch you have chosen to pick up your passport.

Visa Validity

The K-1 visa is valid to enter the U.S. one time, typically within a 6-month period, although this period could be shorter depending on the expiration of the validity of other documents such as your passport, the medical examination, and the police certificate.

3.8 Administrative and Judicial Review

  • If the grounds of ineligibility upon which the visa was refused cannot be overcome by the presentation of additional evidence, the principal consular officer at a post, or a specifically designated alternate, shall review the case without delay and record the review decision.[100]
  • An applicant may seek an advisory opinion from the Visa Office Advisory Opinions Division (AOD) if the applicant believes that the Consulate made a mistake of law (not fact).[101] AOD takes the position that advisory opinions are confidential, and will not release the opinion to the applicant or attorney. AOD will furnish only a letter notifying the attorney or the applicant of the decision and a summary of the basis for the decision.
  • Re-application for K-1: One option is to file a new I-129F and then apply again for a K-1 visa. Note the IMBRA limitations on the number of I-129Fs which may be filed, as discussed above.
  • Get married and then apply for a CR-1 immigrant visa: Another option is to get married and then seek a CR-1 immigrant visa.
  • Judicial review: Due to the court doctrine of “consular nonreviewability,” only in rare cases is it possible to challenge an immigrant visa refusal in court.

Step 4: Admission at a U.S. Port of Entry

4.1 Getting Ready

As mentioned above, you should enter the U.S. during the visa’s validity period.

Inspection will be at your first U.S. port of arrival. If from there you will be transferring to a connecting flight, we recommend that you plan for your itinerary to include at least a three-hour layover at your first port of arrival. The reason is that although inspection of new immigrants may be quick, delays are possible.

Bring your visaed passport with you, of course. Also bring with you the sealed K-1 approval packet. If the Consulate determined that you have a “Class A” or “Class B” medical condition—but not if the Consulate determined you have no defect, disease, or disability—the Consulate will give you a second packet labeled “Medical Report,” which you should also bring with you.[102] You aren’t required to present your chest x-ray at the port of entry, although you are advised to bring it with you to the U.S. and keep that as part of your permanent medical records.[103]

In addition, the cautious approach is to bring with you in your carry-on luggage (not in your checked luggage) copies of all the documents we asked you to bring to the Consulate in connection with your case. In a small percentage of cases, the CBP inspector may want to review these documents.

4.2 Entering the U.S.

Inspection is usually cursory and brief. If we are aware of any potentially problematic issues, we will advise you beforehand about the strategy for dealing with them.

CBP is responsible for inspecting both immigration and customs-related inspections functions.

Applicants for K-1 admission are not required to speak English. If you don’t understand a question the officer asks you or you are unable to answer in English, feel free to tell the officer. A translator or Chinese-speaking officer will be arranged.

CBP has authority, without warrant or probable cause, to conduct interrogations and searches of persons and baggage.[104] This includes electronic devices such as laptop computers and smartphones. Since such devices may hold extensive and private data (e.g., trade secrets, attorney-client and doctor-patient communications, research and business strategies, health information, and financial records), you may be well-advised to use technological measures to protect your data, such as wiping your hard drive clean[105] or encrypting your data before international travel.[106]

Prepare for CBP Searches of Your Luggage and Electronic Devices

Read about how in our firm’s Client FAQs, at https://lawandborder.com/client-faqs/.

Customs Issues and Carrying Cash

On the plane, the flight attendant will give you a Customs Declaration Form 6059B. This form includes basic information about what you are bringing into the country. If you are traveling with other immediate family members, you can complete one customs declaration for your entire family.

A complete discussion of U.S. customs laws is beyond the scope of this article, but it’s important to note that when entering the U.S., you will be required to declare to CBP the amount of “monetary instruments” you are bringing into the country. Monetary instruments refer to coins or paper money of the U.S. or other foreign countries, travelers’ checks, personal checks (endorsed) or money orders, securities or stocks in bearer form, promissory notes, bills of lading, etc. A person who carries currency or other monetary instruments in an aggregated amount exceeding 10,000 USD at one time into the U.S. is required to file with CBP a “FinCEN Form 105: Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments.”[107] Depending on the specific situation, failure to file the report, or filing report with a material omission or misstatement, or filing a fraudulent or false report, may be a crime and the monetary instruments may be seized and forfeited.[108]

When you arrive at the port of entry, there may be a special line for “New Immigrants.” If not, ask the CBP employee who is directing traffic which is the line you should stand in. Any accompanying family members may wait in the same line with you.

When you reach the front of the line, show the officer your passport and the sealed K-1 visa approval packet.

The CBP officer may serve you right there or may ask you to go to a room to the side of the main inspection area, called “secondary inspection.” The officer will keep the contents of the K-1 visa approval packet. The officer may want to review other documents and ask you questions along the same lines as the consular officer.

Only a judge can force you to reveal information to the government (including the login password or decryption key for an electronic device). And under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a judge can’t require you to reveal information that is self-incriminating. However, you should never lie. And if you refuse to provide information, CBP may consider you uncooperative, which the officer may consider when deciding whether to let you enter the U.S. It’s in your interest to be courteous to agents at all times during the border inspection process.

When the officer decides to admit you to the U.S. in K-1 status, the officer will add to your passport an entry stamp showing your status as K-1 and the expiration of that status 90 days later.

Step 5. Terms of Stay in K-1 Status

5.1 Timing for Marriage

Your K-1 or K-2 status will expire 90 days after entry, as shown on your Form I-94, Departure Record.

You should marry within those 90 days. One tip for the marriage: after the ceremony, ask the state for a certified copy of the marriage certificate, which you will need for your adjustment application.

See below for the consequences of failure to marry during the 90-day period.

5.2 International Travel after the K-1 Admission

Since a K-1 visa is valid for a single entry, you would need to undergo a time-consuming new visa application to reenter the U.S. as a fiancé(e). Moreover, the new visa would be valid only for the balance of the 90-day period following your admission to the United States. And the marriage must still take place within 90 days from the date of the original admission to the United States. Instead of seeking a second K-1 visa, to travel abroad it’s usually best to quickly marry and apply for adjustment of status and, on that basis, apply for “advance parole” (permission to travel abroad while the adjustment application is pending). That application is generally adjudicated within 90 days of filing.

5.3 Employment Authorization While in K-1 Status

Under USCIS regulations, K-1 fiancé(e)s are automatically authorized to work in the United States for their 90-day period of admission as shown on the I-94.[109] However, to get evidence of their work authorization, K-1 fiancé(e)s need to apply for employment authorization documents (EADs).[110] Under U.S. law, when an employer hires any individual, the individual must show eligibility to work in the U.S. and the employer must confirm that using Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. K-1 fiancé(e)s need EADs to confirm eligibility to work in the United States.

USCIS currently provides employment authorization to K-1 nonimmigrant for duration of status of up to 90 days, upon approval of an application for employment authorization (Form I-765).[111] Applying for this employment authorization is generally a waste of time because USCIS may take up to 90 days to approve the application, meaning that there would be no remaining period of employment authorized.[112] Generally, the best strategy is to wait to file an application for employment authorization with the application for adjustment to permanent resident status. That application is generally adjudicated within 90 days of filing.

5.4 Social Security Card

A K-1 or K-2 nonimmigrant can apply for a Social Security Card even without first having an employment authorization document (EAD). The passport with the K-1 admission stamp and Form I-94 are sufficient evidence of eligibility to work in the U.S. to qualify for a Social Security Card.[113]

In our experience, this policy is not known to all Social Security employees. Therefore, it may be helpful to bring a copy of the official Social Security Administration policy on this matter.[114]

The card will include the following legend, “Valid for Work only with DHS Authorization.”[115]

For more on application procedures, see www.ssa.gov.

5.5 Immigration Consequences of Potential Problems with the Marriage

K-1 Fiancées are Ineligible for Change or Extension of Status, or to Apply for Permanent Resident Status Other Than Through Marriage to the K-1 Sponsor

If the K-1 nonimmigrant does not marry the U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of admission in K-1 status, the K-1 and K-2 nonimmigrants are subject to removal (deportation).[116]

If there’s a decision not to marry, speak to an attorney about the wisdom of leaving the U.S. before K status expires in order to avoid the negative consequences of “overstay” in the U.S.[117]

A person in K-1 status is ineligible to apply to USCIS to change within the U.S. to another nonimmigrant classification, such as student, visitor, etc.[118] And it’s not possible to apply for an extension of K-1 or K-2 status.[119]

If the marriage does not occur until more than 90 days after admission, you are ineligible to adjust on the basis of the approved Form I-129F.[120]

A K-1 fiancé(e) is not eligible to adjust to permanent resident status other than through marriage to the U.S. citizen sponsor,[121] except that it may be possible for a battered spouse to self-petition for permanent residence, as mentioned below. This bar also applies to the fiancé(e)’s K-2 children.

This does not mean that fiancé(e) would be barred from acquiring lawful resident status if she were in fact eligible to immigrate based on other grounds, such as qualifying employment or marriage to a different U.S. citizen. She could only obtain her residency, however, by applying for an immigrant visa at an appropriate U.S. consulate abroad.


The law is not clear about what happens if the couple divorces after the I-485 is filed but before it is adjudicated. But the Board of Immigration Appeals has held that a K-1 fiancé(e) may be granted adjustment of status even if the marriage to the petitioner no longer exists at the time that the adjustment application is adjudicated, so long as the applicant can demonstrate that he or she entered into a bona fide marriage to the petitioner within 90 days of entry.[122] Of course, the timing of the divorce may raise questions about the bona fides of the marriage.[123]

Further, the divorce doesn’t impact the requirement that for the I-485 to be approvable, it must be accompanied by a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, filed by the U.S. citizen petitioner.[124] This creates a conflict of interest between the parties. On one hand, the citizen may wish to minimize potential financial liability by withdrawing the I-864 prior to approval of the I-485. On the other hand, the foreign spouse may oppose withdrawal of the I-864 on the grounds that it would lead to denial of the I-485. Conceivably, a prenuptial agreement or divorce settlement could include terms by which the foreign spouse surrenders the right to sue the citizen to enforce the I-864 and/or the citizen agrees not to withdraw the I-864.

Nonviable Marriage

As discussed above, the key legal requirement is that at the moment of marriage the parties must have intended in good faith to establish a life together. So, technically speaking, the adjustment application should be approved even if the couple informally separates before the I-485 is adjudicated.

As a practical matter, however, if the adjustment of status application is filed not long after the marriage occurs, and the parties have already separated by the time of filing or by the time of the K visa holder’s adjustment interview, the USCIS will closely scrutinize the relationship to ascertain whether the marriage was a sham entered into primarily to obtain the beneficiary’s immigration status. The couple should prepare for strict USCIS scrutiny of the bona fides of the parties’ intent both when the K visa was issued and when the marriage took place.

Domestic Violence

Congress has enacted legislation to provide remedies so that noncitizen victims of domestic violence have the opportunity to attain or retain lawful resident status despite the fact that their U.S. citizen abuser may refuse to help them, or worse, may threaten to instigate their deportation.

Death of the U.S. Citizen Petitioner

Before Marriage

If the U.S. citizen petitioner dies before marrying the foreign fiancé(e), her right to remain in the U.S. will end.

After Marriage

If the U.S. citizen petitioner and the K-1 fiancé(e) marry within 90 days of admission, the K-1 nonimmigrant (and any K-2 children who are otherwise eligible) remain eligible to adjust status, just as if the petitioner had not died, even if the I-485 has not been filed or adjudicated.[125] There is no need to file a Form I-360. Eligibility ends if the K-1 nonimmigrant remarries.

Step 6. Adjustment of Status

6.1 In General

Following the timely marriage, you may file a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. As of the moment of marriage, you are technically out of status—you are no longer the fiancé(e) of the U.S. citizen petitioner. So it’s prudent to file the Form I-485 not long after the marriage. Note that a technical violation of status, such as remaining in the U.S. after K-1 status expires or working illegally will not make you ineligible for adjustment of status.[126]

The Form I-485 is an application to adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, i.e. get a green card. The application not only checks that you have married the citizen petitioner, but also checks (again) that the grounds of inadmissibility don’t apply and that your marriage isn’t a sham.

A second medical examination is not necessary for the adjustment application because an examination was already done for the K-1 or K-2 visa application. (But in the rare instance where one year has elapsed from the time of the medical exam to the time of filing the adjustment application, a new exam will be required.) Still, in conjunction with the adjustment application, the applicant will need to visit a USCIS-designated doctor to fill in a vaccination form.[127]

The time required for adjustment of status can be lengthy—sometimes over one year. Still, an adjustment application can qualify for an employment authorization card and advance parole, which allow international travel, within about 3 months of filing for adjustment.

If the marriage is less than two years old when the application for adjustment is approved, you will be granted conditional permanent resident status. You will be required to file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Status, within 90 days of the two-year anniversary of the I-485 approval.[128]

For more information, see our firm’s Guide to the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status.

6.2 Children “Aging Out” and Marrying

K-2 Visa and Admission Stages

To qualify for a K-2 visa and for admission to the U.S. in K-2 status, the child must be under age 21.[129]

USCIS may in certain cases be willing to expedite the I-129F in order to facilitate issuance of a K-2 visa before a child ages out.

It is not known to the author whether the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou would currently be willing to expedite the K-1 and K-2 interviews in order to prevent age-out.

Adjustment of Status Stage

Regardless of how old the K-2 nonimmigrant is at the time the I-485 is filed or adjudicated, it is the age “at the time of admission to the United States with the K-2 nonimmigrant visa” which controls.[130]

Marriage of a K-2 Nonimmigrant

There doesn’t appear to be any authority on point, but since it is a K-2’s eligibility “at the time of admission to the United States with the K-2 nonimmigrant visa” which controls, marriage subsequent to admission should not impact eligibility for adjustment of status.[131]

6.3 Penalties for Marriage Fraud or Submitting False Information

I can’t stress strongly enough the serious consequences of sham marriage or submitting false information to USCIS or Department of State:

  • Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage contract for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws is subject to imprisonment for up to 5 years or a fine of up to 250,000 USD, or both.[132]
  • A person who willfully and knowingly falsifies a material fact, makes a false statement, or makes use of a false document in connection with an immigration application or petition may be fined up to 10,000 USD or imprisoned up to 5 years, or both.[133]
  • “Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act is inadmissible.” This means that a person who has engaged in such fraud or misrepresentation is permanently barred from entering the U.S. unless a waiver is granted.[134]
  1. See Friedberger v. Schultz, 616 F. Supp. 1315, 1318 (E.D. Pa. 1985) (noting that aliens were often unable to obtain visas to get married in the U.S.).

  2. H. Rep. No. 91-851, at 5 (1970).

  3. 9 FAM 41.31 N14.1-1.

  4. See Matter of Manjoukis, 13 I. & N. Dec. 705 (Dist. Dir. 1971) (petition denied because 14-year-old petitioner was statutorily unable to enter into a valid marriage under Michigan law). But see Matter of Balodis, 17 I. & N. Dec. 428 (R.C. 1980) (petition approved where proposed marriage of first cousins invalid in state of intended residence, but valid if performed in another state).

  5. INA § 214(d); 8 C.F.R. § 212.2(k)(2).

  6. “The medical condition need not be the petitioner’s own; the USCIS has approved hardship waivers where the petitioner had a seriously ill close relative, and the petitioner’s presence was necessary for that person’s proper care. The petitioner’s hardship may also be psychological. The USCIS has several times granted waivers to persons who suffer from agoraphobia and claustrophobia, for whom travel would be disastrously traumatic.” Sarah B. Ignatius and Elisabeth S. Stickney, Immigration Law & Family § 7:48 (2014 ed.).

  7. INA § 101(a)(15)(K)(i).

  8. Matter of Zeleniak, 26 I. & N. Dec. 158 (BIA 2013).

  9. USCIS Same-Sex Marriages (Apr. 3, 2014), http://www.uscis.gov/family/same-sex-marriages.

  10. INA § 214(d).

  11. The “specified” offenses include domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, dating violence, elder abuse and stalking; homicide, murder, manslaughter, rape, abusive sexual contact, sexual exploitation, incest, torture, trafficking, peonage, holding hostage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, or an attempt to commit any of these crimes; crimes relating to a controlled substance or alcohol where the petitioner has been convicted on at least three occasions and where such crimes did not arise from a single act.. INA § 214(d)(3).

  12. 8 U.S.C. § 1375a(a)(5)(A)(iii).

  13. A “specified offense against a minor” generally includes any offense against a person under 18 years old involving: kidnapping (unless committed by a parent or guardian), false imprisonment (unless committed by a parent or guardian), solicitation to engage in sexual conduct, use in a sexual performance, solicitation to practice prostitution, video voyeurism as described in 18 U.S.C.A. § 1801, possession, production, or distribution of child pornography, criminal sexual conduct involving a minor or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct, or any other conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor. Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, subsection A, § 111, Pub. L. No. 109-248, 120 Stat. 594 (July 27, 2006). See also Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Assoc. Director, Operations, USCIS HQDOMO 70/1-P, Guidance for Adjudication of Family-Based Petitions and I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07030669; Memorandum from Donald Neufeld, Acting Assoc. Director, Domestic Operations, USCIS HQ 70/1-P, Transmittal of SOP for Adjudication of Family-Based Petitions under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10041530.

  14. Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Assoc. Director, Operations, USCIS, Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, July 28, 2006, AILA InfoNet Document 06080264; Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Assoc. Director, Operations, USCIS HQDOMO 70/1-P, Guidance for Adjudication of Family-Based Petitions and I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, AILA InfoNet Document 07030669.

  15. Section 402(b) of the Adam Walsh Act, Pub. L. No. 109-248, 120 Stat. 594 (July 27, 2006). See also 9 FAM 41.81 N13.1. A USCIS memorandum states that the petitioner must submit relevant evidence, including proof of rehabilitation, sufficient to “clearly demonstrate[], beyond any reasonable doubt, that he or she poses no risk to the safety and well-being of his or her intended beneficiary(ies).” Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Assoc. Director, Operations, USCIS HQDOMO 70/1-P, Guidance for Adjudication of Family-Based Petitions and I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, at section D, page 5, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07030669, see also Memorandum from Donald Neufeld, Acting Assoc. Director, Domestic Operations, USCIS HQ 70/1-P, Transmittal of SOP for Adjudication of Family-Based Petitions under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10041530.

  16. INA § 214(d)(2).

  17. INA § 214(r)(4).

  18. INA §§ 101(a)(15)(K)(i), 214(d).

  19. Bark v. INS, 511 F.2d 1200, 1202 (9th Cir. 1975).

  20. See 8 C.F.R. 216.5(e)(2).

  21. Matter of Peterson, 12 I. & N. Dec. 663 (BIA 1968) (elderly couple with separate bedrooms).

  22. A marriage of convenience is a marriage between two people for practical or financial reasons and not for love or intimacy.

  23. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 1546 (visa fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (false statement); 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy); INA § 275 (marriage fraud).

  24. See e.g. Adjudicator’s Field Manual § 21.3(a)(2)(H).

  25. Nikrodhanondha v. Reno, 202 F.3d 922 (7th Cir. 2000) (although couple had 2 children, court upheld BIA denial where couple gave different years for when they first met, different reasons for the initial breakup, different periods of time when wife in Thailand for wedding, and false information as to when they were living together).

  26. www.uscis.gov/I-129F.

  27. USCIS, Service Center Forms Processing, https://www.uscis.gov/forms/service-center-forms-processing (last viewed Sept. 29, 2016); AILA/SCOPS Telephone Conference Agenda 4, AILA Doc. No. 16092801 (Aug. 24, 2016) (Potomac Service Center now adjudicating I-130s).

  28. USCIS Fee Schedule, 81 Fed. Reg. 73292 (Oct. 24, 2016) (to be codified at 8 C.F.R. § 103.7).

  29. In the analogous situation of applications for fiancée visas where one spouse is transgender, USCIS explicitly directs the petitioner to include evidence of plans to marry in a state which would recognize the couple’s marriage if the petitioner lives in a state that would not allow the couple to marry. See “Adjudication of Immigration Benefits for Transgender Individuals,” AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12041360.

  30. For evidence to submit in support of a waiver of the requirement to meet, see Sarah B. Ignatius and Elisabeth S. Stickney, Immigration Law & Family § 7:48 (2014 ed.).

  31. See Form I-129F Instructions at 5 (June 13, 2013) (“Submit evidence that you and your fiancé(e) intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s entry as a K-1. Evidence of your intention to marry may include a statement of intent to marry.”)

  32. 9 FAM 41.81 N2.

  33. 8 U.S.C. § 1375a(b)(1)(C).

  34. Id.

  35. 8 U.S.C. § 1375a(e)(4).

  36. Id.

  37. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(4). A prior lawsuit, Tran v. Napolitano, filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, in June 2010 and subsequently dismissed, unsuccessfully challenged the USCIS regulation limiting petition validity to 4 months as ultra vires.

  38. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(5).

  39. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(5); 9 FAM 502.7-3(B)(d)(1)(b) (July 21, 2020).

  40. 9 FAM 502.7-5(C)(3)(e).

  41. U.S. Dep’t of State, Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé(e) (K-1) (visited May 4, 2014), http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/types/family/fiancé(e)-k-1.html.

  42. Friedberger v. Schultz, 616 F. Supp. 1315, 1318 (E.D. Penn. 1985) (holding that the J-1 foreign residence requirement set forth in INA § 212(e), which by its terms applies to applicants for “an immigrant visa, or for permanent residence,” also applies to K-1s).

  43. 22 C.F.R. § 41.81(d).

  44. Friedberger v. Schultz, 616 F. Supp. 1315, 1318 (E.D. Penn. 1985).

  45. INA § 212(a)(10)(A).

  46. INA § 212(a)(3)(D). See Form I-601 Instructions at 4 (Nov. 23, 2010) (“you may apply for a waiver pursuant to INA section 212(a)(3)(D)(iv) if you are the … fiancée of a U.S. citizen”).

  47. 9 FAM 41.81 N4.

  48. 22 C.F.R. § 41.81(a).

  49. DOS Cable, SOP 61: Guidelines and Changes for Returning DHS/BCIS Approved IV and NIV Petitions, Cable 041682, Feb. 4, 2004.

  50. 9 FAM 502.7-5(C)(5)(a)(5)(a); OI 214.2(k)(2).

  51. 9 FAM 41.81 N8.

  52. For more on this topic see, Grounds of Inadmissibility under U.S. Immigration Law, https://lawandborder.com/grounds-of-inadmissibility/. K-1 and K-2 visa applicants are subject to the same grounds of inadmissibility and are eligible for the same waivers as immigrant visa applicants. In this sense, they are treated differently than other nonimmigrant visa applicants because their intent is to immigrate to the U.S. 22 C.F.R. §.41.81(c); 9 FAM 41.81 N3-4. Even though the K-l has been characterized as the functional equivalent of an immigrant visa, a K-l fiancée is statutorily ineligible for relief on grounds requiring entry on an immigrant visa. Lee v. INS, 9 F.3d 1552 (9th Cir. 1993).

  53. 8 U.S.C. § 214.2(k)(5).

  54. 22 C.F.R. § 41.81(c).

  55. INA § 221(g)(3).

  56. 22 C.F.R. § 41.101(a).

  57. INA § 222(g); 22 C.F.R. § 41.101(c).

  58. Form I-129F (rev. June 13, 2013), Part 2, item 36.

  59. U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Instruction and Appointment Packets (last visited July 30, 2017), https://th.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/packets/.

  60. 9 FAM 502.7-5(C)(3).

  61. For example, the interviewing officer or their supervisor reviewing an application after the interview may notice that an application cannot be approved without additional documentation.

  62. CGI Federal Inc., Track & Retrieve My Passport (last viewed Jan. 26, 2022).

  63. Id.

  64. See a sample at http://ustraveldocs.com/cn/LetterOfAuthority.pdf. The letter should include the representative’s full name as shown on their government-issued photo ID and the applicant’s name. In case of a group/family, a single letter of authority with the required information for each of the applicants will be accepted.

  65. U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Appointment Packet for Fiance(e) K Visa Applicants (Packet 4) (Mar. 2017), https://th.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/packets/.

  66. U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Fiancé(e) (K-1 Visas) (last viewed July 30, 2017), https://th.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/fiance-k-1-visas/.

  67. U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Appointment Packet for Fiance(e) K Visa Applicants (Packet 4) (Mar. 2017), https://th.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/packets/.

  68. Id.

  69. See generally U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, K Visa Instructions (downloaded May 4, 2014).

  70. Effective October 2013, this form is required instead of the Forms DS-156, 156K, and DS-230.

  71. 22 C.F.R. 42.64(b); 42.72.

  72. 8 C.F.R. § 211.2; 22 C.F.R. § 42.64(b).

  73. 9 FAM 42.64 PN2.

  74. DOS, Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country > China, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html (last viewed May 11, 2023). See also Gary Chodorow, China Birth Certificates: What is Needed for U.S> Immigration Purposes?, https://lawandborder.com/china-birth-certificate/ (May 10, 2023).

  75. Id. For a person who is unmarried, a notarized “single status” statement is no longer required.

  76. DOS, Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country > China, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html (last viewed May 11, 2023).

  77. DOS, Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country > China, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html (last viewed May 11, 2023).

  78. DOS, Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country > China, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/China.html (last viewed May 11, 2023).

  79. 9 FAM 40.11 N6 (Oct. 9, 2008).

  80. The State Department states that the Consulate may suggest submission of this form, but the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou lists it as a required form.

  81. U.S. Dep’t of State, Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé(e) (K-1) (last visited Apr. 1, 2019).

  82. Not specifically required in China or Thailand.

  83. U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, K Visa Instructions (downloaded May 4, 2014). This differs from the State Department’s general rule that “[d]ocuments in foreign languages, other than the language of the country in which the application takes place, should be translated” (emphasis added). U.S. Dep’t of State, Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé(e) (K-1) (visited May 4, 2014), http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/types/family/fiancé(e)-k-1.html.

  84. 9 FAM 41.81 N12.

  85. The attorney can contact the Consulate before the interview to inquire as to the Consulate’s position on certain legal issues. And if there is a problem at the interview the attorney can contact the Consulate afterwards to try to resolve the issue.

  86. CGI Group Inc. Security Regulations (last visited Aug. 27, 2013), http://ustraveldocs.com/cn/cn-niv-securityinfo.asp.

  87. 22 C.F.R. § 42.67(a)(3); 9 FAM 42.67 N2; 9 FAM 42.67 PN1.

  88. 9 FAM 502.7(C)(4).

  89. This pamphlet is available in more than a dozen languages, including Chinese, at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/IMBRA.html (last viewed Dec. 10, 2016).

  90. 22 C.F.R. §§ 42.62(b)(2), 42.63(c).

  91. In this situation, the officer’s denial may cite to INA § 221(g) or to § 212(a)(5)(A). The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has determined that the latter, which is the ground of inadmissibility for persons coming to the U.S. to work but who lack a labor certification, may be appropriate where a family-based petition is returned to USCIS for revocation. Matter of Polanco, 14 I & N Dec. 483 (BIA 1973). See Department of State on Refusal of Family-based Petitions under INA § 212(a)(5)(A), AILA Doc. No. 06052461 (May 24, 2006).

  92. 9 FAM 41.81 N6.5.

  93. DOS Cable #041682, SOP 61: Guidelines and Changes for Returning DHS/USCIS Approved IV and NIV Petitions, Feb. 24, 2004.

  94. Id.

  95. In such case, it may be worth arguing that USCIS should exercise its power to extend the validity of the K-1 petition, 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(5), and then reaffirm it. However, I am not aware of any precedent for this.

  96. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(5).

  97. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(5); 9 FAM 502.7-3(B)(d)(1)(b) (July 21, 2020).

  98. The actual application is for a nonimmigrant waiver under INA § 212(d)(3)(A). However, the nonimmigrant waiver wouldn’t be appropriate unless an immigrant waiver would also be available when the K-1 fiancée applies for adjustment of status. 9 FAM 41.81 NN9.1 – 9.3. If an immigrant waiver may be available, then the applicant files a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. Id.

  99. CGI Corp. Inc., Track & Receive My Passport (last visited Aug. 27, 2013), http://ustraveldocs.com/cn/cn-niv-passporttrack.asp.

  100. 22 C.F.R. § 41.121(c). But see 9 FAM 41.121 N2.3-7(a) (the supervisor need not review all refusals).

  101. 9 FAM 41.121(d); 9 FAM 40.6 N6.1.

  102. 9 FAM 42.66 N15.

  103. 9 FAM 42.66 N15; IFM ch. 17.9.

  104. INA § 287; 19 U.S.C. § 1461.

  105. Exception: if you have notice of an impending civil suit or government investigation, you are obligated to preserve relevant material.

  106. A good resource for more information is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border, a Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices (Dec. 2011), available at www.eff.org.

  107. 31 C.F.R. § 1010.340. The form is available at http://www.fincen.gov/forms/files/fin105_cmir.pdf.

  108. The crime is punishable by a fine of not more than 500,000 USD or imprisonment of not more than 10 years See 31 CFR §§ 1010.820(d), 1010.830, 1010.840.

  109. See8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(a), (a)(6)

  110. Id. ; Memo from Wiliam Yates, Acting Assoc. USCIS Dir. for Ops., “The Meaning of 8 CFR 274a.12(a) as it Relates to Refugee and Asylee Authorization for Employment” (Mar. 10, 2003) (discussing the “confusion … seem[ing] to arise from a blurring of the distinction between an alien having employment authorization versus an alien having evidence of employment authorization).

  111. 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(a)(6).

  112. Efforts to facilitate work authorization for K-1s have been unsuccessful. See e.g., AILA USCIS Benefits Policy Committee Meeting with USCIS (Apr. 16, 2015), AILA Doc. No. 15042032. In fact, USCIS and the Social Security Administration have discussed a proposal to eliminate this category of employment authorization. Memo from Emilio T. Gonzalez, Director, USCIS to Prakash Khatri, USCIS Ombudsman, Response to Recommendation #25, Employment Authorization Documents, June 20, 2006. But the proposal was abandoned. Office of the Inpsector General, SSA, Hearing on the Role of Social Security Numbers in Identity Theft and Options to Guard Their Privacy (Apr. 13, 2011), http://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/congressional-testimony/hearing-role-social-security-numbers-identity-theft-and-options.

  113. This policy is also controversial, and the Social Security Administration is currently considering changing the policy to require that the K-1 fiancée present an EAD.

  114. RM 10211.420 Employment Authorization for Non-immigrants, https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110211420 (Apr. 27, 2016); RM 10211.530 List of Documents Establishing Lawful Alien Status for an SSN Card, https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110211530 (May 22, 2013).

  115. SSA, Your Social Security Number and Card 5, https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10002.pdf (last viewed Nov. 26, 2015).

  116. INA § 214(d). See e.g. Kalal v. Gonzalez, 402 F.3d 948 (9th Cir. 2005) (A woman who entered in K-1 status but then married a U.S. citizen who was not the petitioner was properly ordered removed.).

  117. For information about the consequences of “overstay,” see our Firm’s article, Admission to the U.S., and Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Nonimmigrant, available at https://lawandborder.com/admission-to-the-u-s-and-your-right-and-responsibilities-as-a-nonimmigrant.

  118. INA § 248(1); 8 C.F.R. § 248.1(a). Under the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, change to T or U status is possible.

  119. 8 C.F.R. § 214.1(c)(3).

  120. INA § 214(d); INS Operations Instructions 214.2(k)(5). See also Memo from James A. Puleo, Assoc. INS Comm’r, Examinations, Legal Opinion Fiances or Fiancees Who Marry Later than 90 Days after Entry, CO 245-C (July 24, 1991). However, at least one federal appeals court has held that the 90-day limit may be tolled if, due to circumstances beyond the fiancée’s control, it was impossible to conclude the marriage within the given time frame. Moss v. INS, 651 F.2d 1091 (5th Cir. 1981). It may, however, be possible to adjust on the basis of a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, filed simultaneously with a Form I-485. Puleo Memo, supra.

  121. INA § 245(d).

  122. Matter of Sesay, 25 I&N Dec. 431 (BIA 2011). The Board’s rationale is that the K-1 nonimmigrant’s adjustment eligibility is predicated on the I-129F approval and is fixed as of the time of admission to the U.S. as a K-1, conditioned on a timely and legally valid marriage to the petitioner. Id. at 439-440.

  123. Matter of Sothon Song, 27 I&N Dec. 488 (BIA 2018); Matter of Sesay, 25 I&N Dec. at 444.

  124. 8 C.F.R. 213.12(a), (b)(1).

  125. AFM ch. 10.21(b); USCIS Policy Memorandum, Approval of Petitions and Applications after the Death of the Qualifying Relative under New Section 204(k) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (PM-602-0017) (Dec. 16, 2010). See Memorandum, Donald Neufeld, Assoc. Director, Domestic Operations, et al, USCIS, HQDOMO 70/6.1.1-P, 70/6.1.3-P, AFM Update AD10-09, Additional Guidance Regarding Surviving Spouses of Deceased U.S. Citizens and their Children (REVISED) (Dec. 2, 2009), AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09121430.

  126. INA § 245(c); 8 C.F.R. § 245.1(b)(4)(i) and 245.1(b)(5) and (6).

  127. Memorandum, Paul W. Virtue, Acting Exec. Assoc. Comm’r., INS Office of Programs, 96 ACT #055, HQIRT 50/5.12 (Sept. 29, 1997).

  128. INA § 216(a)(1).

  129. Note that the Child Status Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 107-208, 116 Stat. 927 (Aug. 6, 2002), does not apply to K-2 children. See Memorandum, The Child Status Protection Act—Memorandum Number 2, AD 03-15, Johnny Williams, Exec. Assoc. Comm.,

    Office of Field Operations, HQADN 70/6.1.1 (Feb. 14, 2003), AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03031040. See also Alvidrez v. Ridge, 311 F. Supp. 2d 1163, 1165 (D. Kan. 2004).

  130. Matter of Le, 25 I&N Dec. 541, 546 (BIA 2011); cf. Carpio v. Holder, 592 F.3d 1091, 1102 (10th Cir. 2010).

  131. Josh Lunsford, Understanding Marriage-Based K Nonimmigrant Visas: The Difficulty of Saying “I Do,” EOIR Immigration Law Advisor 1, 16 (June-July 2013).

  132. 8 U.S.C. § 1325.

  133. 18 U.S.C. § 100.

  134. INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i).

21 responses to “K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide”

  1. […] The K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the country for 90 days to allow for the marriage to take place, and the foreign spouse may then apply for conditional residence. There are multiple interviews as well as checks of law enforcement and national security databases as part of the process. For more information about the K-1 visa, see the K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide. […]

  2. Terrymoore Ezekiel Avatar
    Terrymoore Ezekiel

    Dear Sir,

    I’ve been denied a K-1 visa under section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. First let me state out what the consulate said in its letter to me:

    We are unable to issue a visa because we have found the applicant ineligible under section 221(g) of the immigration ACT, and INA, this section prohibit the issuance of a visa to anyone whose application doesn’t comply with the INA or regulations issued pursuant thereto.

    Unless revalidated, I-129F petitions are only valid for 4 months from the last action by the USCIS or consular office. We are not able to re validate the above case and will return to the NVC which will then transfer the case to the USCIS office that originally processed the subject petitions. USCIS will not reopen the case. Please do not contact this embassy or the NVC regarding this case.

    Please, what is the next step my fiance and I should take?

    Terrymoore Kevwe Ezekiel

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      As mentioned above, an approved K-1 petition is valid for a period of 4 months, but “may” be revalidated by a USCIS or a consular officer thereafter any number of times for another 4-month period if the officer finds that the parties are free to marry and intend to marry within 90 days after the fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States. So there is a risk that an officer who thinks that the applicant has not pursued the visa timely or who is not convinced of the validity of the marriage may effectively deny the K-1 visa application simply by allowing the petition to expire and refusing as a matter of discretion to revalidate it.

      Your next step may be to consult with our law firm or another competent immigration attorney to analyze the likely reasons for why the officer refused to revalidate the petition (and maybe ask the officer). The next steps in the case will depend on that analysis.

  3. Stefania Avatar

    Does a K-1 fiancé visa applicant need to meet any educational requirement?

      1. Amy Kirk Avatar
        Amy Kirk

        I got divorced, and my state has a six-month waiting period to remarry. An i file the K-1 because by the time it gets approved my time will be over?

        1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

          Any divorce must be final under the laws that granted the divorce before you are legally free to marry again, which is a requirement to file a Form I-129F.

  4. Brad Avatar

    I am an American citizen and my fiancee is a Russian national. We currently live together in Guangzhou, China. I am planning on returning to the United States to enroll in a Graduate degree program, and I plan to bring my fiancee with me.

    We plan on applying for a K-1 visa, but I would like to know if my fiancee will be allowed to enter the United States on her valid B-2 Visitor’s visa during the ~5 month processing time for the I-129F petition approval so that we are not separated for such a long time. If so, will she also be able to apply for her K-1 visa inside the United States, or will she need to return to her home country to apply for the visa (after successful I-129F petition approval)?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      The purpose of a K-1 visa is to enter the U.S. to marry and file a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status (i.e., a green card). A K-1 visa cannot be issued in the U.S., only at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

      If a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancee, has been filed on a person’s behalf, a B-2 visa may still be issued to that person and that person may be permitted to enter the U.S. in B-2 status. However, a B-2 visa may only be used for purposes of visiting the U.S., not for purposes of moving to the U.S. A consular officer who suspects a B-2 visa applicant may move to the U.S. will deny the visa, and a CBP officer who believes a B-2 visa holder intends to move to the U.S. will deny admission. For more on this topic, see here.

      While I can’t give advice about your specific case without learning all the facts through a consultation, the bottom line is that a person with a pending Form I-129F filed on her behalf cannot short circuit the K-1 visa process by moving to the U.S. with the B-2 visa.

  5. Vicky Avatar

    I have an approved I-129F and applying for a K-1 visa.

    As part of the visa application, I will need a police certificate from Shanghai. For 4-5 years, I’ve held business (M) visas in China, not a residence permit. The company I work for is not in China, so I don’t pay taxes in China.

    When I applied for a police certificate, the notary officer (gong zheng yuan) told me that they can’t me a police Certificate because it will only be issued to foreigners who are either students in China or working for a company in China (and paying taxes). What do you think the likelihood is of getting this k1 visa, provided I can obtain an official letter from the notarial office in Shanghai to explain the reasons that they can’t give me this police clearance? Is there another way for me to meet this requirement?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      The odds of getting from the Shanghai notary office a written description of why they refused you are low. Also, the odds of them giving you a written document stating that you can only get a police certificate for periods you held a residence permit are low. I’ll give you a prize if you get either one.

      However, we often help applicants apply for police certificates in Shanghai. If they are denied for reasons which cannot be overcome, then we collect and provide evidence to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy as part of the visa application. For more about the service we provide, see China police certificates.

  6. Joe Avatar


    My fiancée is currently in the US on OPT, which is set to expire around early 2022. I was wondering if it is possible to start the fiancée visa process while she’s still in the US? She will need to go back to her country for a couple of months but if we could get the process started earlier I was thinking we could shave off a few months being separated. I guess then that would be two questions – is it possible? and if it is, is it generally advisable. Thanks.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Hi Joe: It is certainly an option to begin the K-1 fiancée visa process by filing the Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancée, while your fiancée is physically present in the U.S. Another option to consider is getting married and filing with USCIS a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. The interim benefits of applying for adjustment include the right to be in the U.S., to work, and to travel abroad and return with advance parole. For more see:

      Guide to Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status
      Choosing Between U.S. and Chinese Citizenship: Pros and Cons

  7. Layla Saad Avatar
    Layla Saad

    I met my Egyptian fiancé online in October 2020. We haven’t met in person because of COVID-19. I was wondering if I can file now and request a waiver of the in-person meeting requirement.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Layla: Currently, foreigners are allowed to visit the U.S., and Americans appear eligible to visit Egypt. Under these circumstances, it may be difficult to prove that meeting in person would be an “extreme hardship,” which is required to waive the in-person meeting requirement.

      1. Layla Saad Avatar
        Layla Saad

        Thank you for the quick response. Is it possible to file the I-129F before we meet in person?

        1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

          The requirement to meet in person within the 2 years prior to filing the I-129F can be waived only for “extreme hardship” (and under other grounds discussed in the above article).

          1. Layla Saad Avatar
            Layla Saad

            Thank you very much for your help and guidance. It is much appreciated.

  8. Camille Avatar

    My fiancé drinks alcohol smokes marijuana occasionally. He also used to consume other drugs but stopped years ago. The last time that he smoked marijuana was about a month ago. Do you think that this would affect the medical exam and visa approval? His interview is in June and he is trying to abstain from marijuana.

    Do you know what happens during the interview if he admits to drug use? Would it be better if he abstains until his interview and doesn’t admit use?

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