Last Updated: 22nd October, 2001
Welcome, my name is Andrew Carey, originally from London, UK, but now living in California, in the United States.
If you or your partner are thinking of, or have applied for a K-1 Fiance Visa for entry into the USA, I hope this page is of use to you. In addition to covering the whole K1 Visa process this page also looks at the process of applying for permanent residency once the K1 visa is granted and the American and alien are married.
This page is pretty much finalized now. Our epic saga into American immigration is done now, so I doubt I will have much more to add. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to e-mail me at the address shown below. I'll try my very best to respond with any information that might be helpful, although with work commitments I'm afraid I can't make any promises.
Please bear in mind, I am not a legal expert, just some poor guy who has gone through the process!! Also, please note that as our K1 Visa application went through well over two years ago, some information on this Web site may be out of date!
I hope all this information is of some help to you and your partner in your K1 Visa quest.
The best of luck to you!!
WHAT IS A K1 VISA?
A K1 Visa is one of many immigration visas. The K1 Visa is granted to the foreign national fiance(e)s of Americans, allowing them to enter the United States and marry their American partners within 90 days of the Visa being granted.
The process can take anywhere from a month to more than a year, although for many applicants entering from Western European countries the process takes between four and six months. This time frame depends on many variables:
1) The speed with which both the recipient and the American return the necessary paperwork to the INS;
2) The fullness of the required information on this paperwork;
3) The speed with which paperwork Alien's country;
4) The State that is processing the application;
5) various other specific variables relative to individual cases.
K1 VISA CRITERIA
There are several criteria that must be proved before a K1 Visa is granted:
Once the Alien has been Granted the Visa, the K1 gives the Alien entering the USA three months in which to marry their American fiancee and apply for a Change of Status. They must apply for the Change of Status, or when the Visa expires they will become an illegal alien and subject to deportation. When you finally get your K1 Visa, it is actually valid for six months, but the second 3 months is presumably just to give the United States INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) a bit of time to officially file your Change of Status.
- Both the Alien and the US Citizen MUST be legally eligiable to marry and of the age of consent (18 years old).
- Either the American or the K1 Sponsor (a friend or relative of the American) must sign an Affidavit of Support stating that they will support the Alien for 3 years after the Visa is GRANTED. THIS IS COMPULSORY!
- Both the US Citizen and the Alien must prove that the relationship is genuine to both the INS and to the Consulate/Embassy in the Alien's country. This is done primarily through evidence prooving the two of you have met, and also through letters, phone bills (that show the number of the recipient), passport stamps, flight stubs, and/or photos of the two of you together (they especially like dated photos).
- The Alien must pass a medical, proving that they do not have Syphalis or HIV/AIDS, and that their Tetinus, Rubela and Diptheria vacinations are up to date. The medical can only be taken at a doctor approved by the US Embassy/Consulate in the Alien's country. The Alien will be contacted by their local US Consulate after the K1 has been approved by the INS in America. The Consulate will then inform them of what is required for the medical, and in many countries will make an appointment on the Alien's behalf once the Alien has confirmed they have all the correct paperwork needed for the interview. In Britain, the US Consulate will organize the medical to take place the same day as the interview, so it will be an all-day affair.
- The Alien should prove that he/she does not have a criminal record, or that if he/she does the offenses have been settled with the judiciary in the country where the offense(s) took place. If either of the couple has a criminal record, I understand it is still possible to get the K1, but it is harder. Proof of no criminal record is made by obtaining a Police Certificate from the Alien's local Regional Police Authority (except in a handful of mainly Third World countries, where the US Consulate will get the Police Certificate themselves). In the UK, this certificate is a "Convictions History" or "Convictions Record". Go to your local Police Station and ask at the Enquiries desk and you will be given a form. It should cost around 10 Pounds Sterling.
Alien applicants with a criminal record should get some paperwork from their county court offices or from the administration department of the court in which they appeared, proving that their convictions have been spent. I'm affraid I'm not too sure on exactly what the process is: I recommend posting any questions you may have on the "alt.visa.us.marriage-based" news group. Someone there is sure to know more information. If you don't have a POP3 email account to hand try signing up for a Web-based one such as Deja.com.
NOTE: If either person has spent more than ONE YEAR in another country in the 5 years before they apply, they will need to get Police Certificates from that country. This can be very difficult in some cases, and may require you to return on a visit to that country, so look into getting these Certificates AS SOON as the American applies!!
I've heard from several reliable sources that it is illegal to enter the US with the intention of marrying a US Citizen, unless you have a valid Visa (e.g. a K1 Visa) or permanent Residency. This is worth remembering, because if you get caught doing this, you will be deported and not be allowed back for several years! So to be safe make sure you go the long, arduous and LEGAL way.
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF OUR CASE
In 1996/97, I was in Canada on a work exchange, having just graduated from University in England. In May 1997, I decided to make the most of my location, and travelled to California to meet Erma, my pen-pal of six and a half years. We had started writing in high school through one of those pen pal programs they always seem to arrange. Fate had the two of us matched together, which we are both very grateful for now! We hit it off right away, and by the beginning of September I had visited her twice, we were officially engaged, and we had started to plan our future together.
In mid-November, 1997, Erma sent off an application for a K-1 Fiance Visa for me. On May 2nd, 1998 - just under a year from when we first met in person - we got married. It took a total of five and a half months for the Visa to be granted, and was an extremely stressful, confusing and none too pleasant experience that would have been made a lot easier if we'd had more information. So there is a clear lesson to be learnt from our experience - plan well ahead!
THE PROCESS I
(Up until Visa is Granted)
Below is a time-line showing how long our K1 took from initial application to finally being granted.
Plese bear in mind that the time between each stage has almost certainly lengthened a little by
now, so don't worry if your application doesn't fit this time-line exactly. Each case
is different.However, if you're applying from Britain, give yourself AT LEAST SIX MONTHS just to
For the purpose of simplicity, I will refer hereafter to the American 'beneficiary' of the Visa
as "Yank", and the foriegn 'Recipient' as "Alien".
- November 3rd, 1997: Yank applies for Visa. Fills in one G325-A and one I-129F forms, and gets Alien to fill in another G325-A. Includes sum of $75 (made payable to "Immigration and Naturalization Service" - NOTE: The fee for the I-129F form has since increased to $95); photos (one of Yank, one of Alien taken from approximately 30 degree angle, showing right ear, and about 1 inch from top of head to chin); their own birth certificate (original, which will be returned to them); and passport (original).
- November 23rd, 1997 (About 3 weeks later): Yank gets letter stating that application has been forwarded on to INS. Letter says it should take 29-30 days.
- January 31st, 1998 (Nine weeks later): Yank gets letter asking for more proof that she & Alien have met prior to application. Yank sends back photocopies of Alien's flight stubbs to see Yank, and photocopies of passport stamps showing US port-of-entry. Could also have sent dated photos (photos that have dates stamped on each picture by camera).
- March 9th, 1998 (Five weeks later): Yank gets letter stating that Visa has been approved. It doesn't say that it must still be GRANTED by Consulate in London!!
- March 26th, 1998 (3 weeks later): Alien gets package from London Consulate with several forms to fill in and instructions on other things he must get. These include: Police Certificate (which can take up to 40 days), photos (1 inch head to chin, turning to show right ear), Yanks tax returns, letter from yanks employers (stating length of time employed, salary, position), letter from Yank's bank (this may not be asolutely tax returns forms included but we wanted to be safe), letter from Alien's bank (stating balance, time acocunt been open, when opened and how bank rates Alien), and an affidavit of support form that Yank must sign. Alien and Yank must fill this in!! Alien must also pay 30 pounds Sterling into bank for cost of Visa.
- Alien returns forms to US Consulate IMMEDIATELY. Also returns paper advising that he has all the relevant paperwork necessary for the interview (Police Certificate, Birth Certificate (long form), Affidavit of Support fully filled out, Passport, 2 Photos in the specific way the INS like, Receipt of Visa interview payment (30 Pounds Sterling), Personal Medical Record). Note: Alien only had to confirm he had these, but didn't have to send them to Consulate.
- April 2nd, 1998 (One week later): Alien receives letter advising that Medical and Interview will be in exactly three weeks.
- April 21st, 1998 (Three weeks later): At medical, doctor asks Alien for vaccination record. Alien doesn't have it, so has to pay another 45 pounds Sterling for BCG, Tettenis and Rubella vaccinations. At Interview (the same day) Alien asked questions about how he and Yank met, proof of their meeting (a photo with her & her family and airplane flight stubs were fine), what his occupation was, how long he and Yank had known each other, Yank's occupation and Yank's salary.
Visa is granted that same day and stamped in his passport. Alien is also given a brown A4 envelope to be opened by INS Officer on entry to the US. He dares not open it and leaves it for the INS officer to open!
THE PROCESS II
(After Visa is Granted)
Below is a time-line showing the process after my K1 Visa was Granted. Plese bear in mind that
the time taken will be very different depending on which part of the United States you are applying to reside in. There are four main INS processing centers in the United States. I understand that the busiest of these two are Vermont (dealing with North Eastern applications) and California (dealing with the South West). It goes without saying however that the other two (I believe Texas and Montana) are also very busy.
Please NOTE: This is an on-going process. I will be updating this section as new events occur.
For the purpose of simplicity, I will refer hereafter to the American 'beneficiary' of the Visa as
"Yank", and the foriegn 'Recipient' as "Alien".
- April 24th, 1998: Alien arrives in USA and INS Officer
opens and keeps envelopes contents (photos, forms, etc.). They are forwarded on to Local INS
Office (in this case, San Diego, CA). Alien is told he can not get Employment Authorization at
the port of entry, but must go to Local INS Office (in this case, San Diego).
- May 2nd, 1998: Alien and Yank marry in Utah, having got a
Marriage License two days before wedding from local County Government Office, which cost $40.
- May 8th, 1998: Alien goes to local INS Office and gets
necessary paperwork for change of status.
- May 11th, 1998: Alien and Yank return to INS Office with
forms filled in, photos and charges and file for permanent residency. Costs a total of $225
(for I-485 change of status form, one year employment authorization, and compulsory finger
print registration). Yank and Alien are advised it will take approximately 18 months before
permanent residency is finalized, and that Alien should not leave the USA in the meantime
(unless he has a specific clearance form that costs about $100 completed & authorized).
- May 19th, 1998: Alien receives letter with appointment
time and place for Employment Authorization to be granted. Must bring Passport, the appointment
letter and a certified copy (from Notary) of birth certificate.
- May 29th, 1998: Alien goes to appointment and gets
Employment Authorization. This takes about two hours, and involves handing in documents for
review (originals are then returned to Alien), filling in a couple of small forms, having a
photo taken (yes, yet another photo!) and having a couple of finger prints taken).
NOTE: Right after Employment Authorization is granted, go to Social Security Admin building
and apply for a Social Security number. This is separate from INS, but they don't necessarily
tell you this, so you could end up waiting indefinitely if you don't apply yourself!!
- June 11th, 1998: Alien goes to INS sub-office and has
- June 23rd, 1998: Alien receives Social Security Number, with
instructions on card stating that it must be used in conjunction with valid employment authorization.
- June 24th, 1998: Alien starts job.
- April 14th, 1999:Alien requests forms for Employment Authorization from the INS on-line 'Service Forms by Mail' site (see links).
- April 23rd, 1999:Alien receives I-789 Employment Authorization forms from INS.
- April 26th, 1999:Alien returns form I-789 for Employment Authorization renewal.
- May 2nd, 1999:Yank & Alien celebrate their one year wedding anniversary - HOORAH!! :-)
- May 6th, 1999:Alien informed that Employment Authorization renewal process will take about 42 days (this is specific for Southern California processing - this time frame may change from State to State).
- August 4th, 1999: 94 days later employment authorization renewal is granted. Wait time about 3 and a half hours.
- March 26th, 2000: Yank & Alien go down to INS office to apply for a new Employment Authorization card WELL IN ADVANCE!! INS officer advises that it will be scheduled for closer to the current Employment Authorization's expiration. While there they learn that permanent residency applications from mid-September are currently in the stages of final processing, so it looks like there's a while to go yet.
- May 2nd, 2000: Yank & Alien celebrate their second wedding anniversary.
- June, 2000: Alien applies for Advanced Parole so that he and American can travel to the UK. Alien is careful to ensure he applies for this well before the prospective journey.
- August 6th, 2000: New Employment Authorization is granted. Due to the introduction of some impressive automated systems and computer integration it requires only a 20 MINUTE wait!! Hopefully this is a good omen for all applicants and their American spouses.
- September, 2000: Advanced Parole paperwork arrives. Took approximately three months.
- November, 2000: Alien and American travel to the UK for two weeks. Alien has no problem re-entering the US because of Advanced Parole.
- February 8th, 2001: No word yet on a resolution to Alien's permanent residency. When Alien and American hear that people who applied AFTER them have received their permanent residency they enquire with INS, fearful that notice of an interview may have been sent to an old address, even though Alien and American always notified INS of new addresses! NOTE: Do not move once you have applied for permanent residency. INS are not the best at keeping your contact information up to date, so don't risk it!!
- February 15th, 2001: INS reply to enquiry stating that Alien's case is being requested from National Archive, and upon arrival will be reviewed.
- April 20th, 2001: Alien receives appointment to have fingerprints taken again. This is a VERY GOOD SIGN. Apparently when INS ask for a second set of fingerprints this means that your case is nearing completion.
- May 2nd, 2001: Alien and American celebrate their third wedding anniversary!
- May 4th, 2001: Alien goes and has fingerprints taken at an INS support office.
- May 10th, 2001: Alien receives appointment for permanent residency interview. Alien is informaed that American (sponsor) MUST attend, and they must provide tax return information for the last three years and proof that their marriage is bona fide.
- May 22nd, 2001: Alien and American have 'the interview'. It is noting like the one from the film "Green Card"!! Because Alien arrived via a K1 Fiance visa much of the huge amount of evidence they bring is not necessary. INS are more suspicious of couples who bypass the fiance visa, which is a good sign that all that K1 visa hassle was worth it. Stamp entitled "temporary evidence of permanent residency" is placed in Alien's passport. INS tell Alien and American that official green card should arrive within the next three to six months.
- October 20th, 2001: Alien's green card arrives in mail! HOORAH!! The saga is over and we can settle down to a life together that involves INS only once every 10 years (for Alien's green card renewals). The promptness of the card's arrival was a big surprise. While INS had told us it would take up to six months, several other people who have also gone through the process advised that it takes around one year. As it turned out it took just over five months. Note that you should NOT move between having permanent residency granted and receiving your card. INS don't seem to be the best at updating applicant's addresses, so to move while waiting to receive the card can really complicate things. Also note: the card is not green anymore!
- Send in proof of your meeting in person (photocopies of flight stubbs, passport stamps, dated photos) when the American sends in the initial application. It will speed up the process by a aproximately 1 month at least.
- Alien; don't book your flight to the States or arrange the wedding until your Visa has been granted (not approved), or at least until you know your interview date.
- If you do arrange your flight or the wedding before your interview, then give yourselves at least TWO months within which the Alien can get his/her K1 Visa.
- Remember to get the Affidavit of Support signed BEFORE the Alien's Interview. The American will need to include with it a letter from his/her bank showing length of time their account has been opened, and other account details; AND a letter from his/her employer showing salary and time with company. The American will then need to get it notarised (there are numerous companies in the USA for this; it should cost about $10). The Alien will also need a letter from bank or employer (both is good), and will need to take all this to the interview. Note: The Affidavit can also be signed by a friend or relative of the American if the American is a student, etc. The person who signs it must know the American well and promise to help the Alien out of they need financial help.
- Alien; apply for you Police Certificate between two and three months after your Yank partner has FIRST applied for the Visa (the first step). The Police certificate should be a 'Convictions History' or 'Convictions Record' (name depends upon your region within the UK). It can take up to 40 days (for the London metropolitan one), so prepare in advanced!
- Be polite and answer all questions truthfully, or you will make things REALLY difficult for yourselves!!
- Fill in and return all the forms fully and promptly. Don't send in originals of your Birth Certificate, Police Forms, etc. unless they ask for them. Send in Certified copies. Alien: keep the original documents (birth certificate, Police Certificate, etc.) for the interview - you will need them there.
- Don't panic when you receive a new letter from INS or from an American Consulate with instructions on what to do next. Just sit down, calm down, and read through the instructions slowly and carefully. You might need to read through the instructions a few times before you understand exactly what they are asking for. If you are still at a loss after this, speak to your attorney, or (if you aren't using an attorney) look up one of the many good K1 Web pages on the Internet/post a message on the alt.visa.us.marriage-based newsgroup.
- At the interview, don't panic if you are not called up when other people applying are being called. These other people are applying for different Visas, and are required to pay their Permanent Residency charges then and there. K1 Visa applicants pay these fees later upon entering and applying in the USA.
- As I mentioned, apply for your Social Security Number (SSN) right after your Employment Authorization has been granted! This application is separate to INS, so the longer you leave it, the longer it will be before you can start working!
- If English is not your native language you will need to have certified translations of all your documents (Birth Certificates, etc.) with your applications and for interviews.
- You don't need the services of an attorney to get your K1 Visa granted (we didn't use an attorney), although their advice and help can offer peace-of-mind.
- Be prepared for expenses running into several hundred dollars in total, lots of paperwork and LOTS of passport photos that need to be done in a certain way (1 inch from top of head to chin, matt finish, head turned approx. 30 degrees to the left so right ear is showing).
- Apply for your Employment Authorization renewal a good two / two and a half months before the existing one is going to expire. You will need $100 (US) and copies of your existing Employment Authorization Alien card and your Social Security Card. You can apply either directly at an INS office, or you can mail in the forms to the regional processing office.
- Recently, some US regions and counties (including Charlotte, NC) have refused to authorize an American-Alien marriage until the Alien has a Social Security Number. In such circumstances you can either A) travel to a county that does, or B) wait until your Employment Authorization comes through. Please note that this restriction is due to become Federal Law (a antional law) within 2 years. So it may be worth choosing option B. If you do choose Option B make sure you apply for your Employment Authorization as soon as you arrive in the US as this process can take up to 90 days.
- If you have previously had a US Visa of any kind you will need to include all relevant information with their UK85 documentation, otherwise the application process will be much slower. Remember, sending too much information is better than not sending enough!
- Give yourself plenty of time when applying for employment authorization renewals if you live in the South West United States. Applying for the renewal at least three months before the present one expires, just to be safe.
- Make sure you get a receipt when you file your I-485 (application for permanent residency). It makes life a lot easier in the future when requesting for employment authorization and paperwork allowing you to leave the United States. At the very least ensure that the INS officer receiving the initial Permanent Residency application writes an acknowledgement in your passport.
- If at all possible, hand in paperwork directly to a local INS office. From personal experience, applications seem to get processed significantly faster when handed in at a local office compared to when mailed in to the regional office.
As anyone who has gone through the K1 Visa process can testify, it is a very unsettling and
emotional time. Not only are you away from your partner and struggling to plan ahead for the
changes you will be making, but you must also navigate a complex and confusing legal procedure.
The points below are straight-forward, and often very obvious actions that you can take to keep
your relationship alive and kicking while you are trapped in different countries, waiting for the
paperwork to be finalized. Hopefully these points are useful and not too corny!
They are the sum of my wife and my own experiences. As a result of the K1 Visa process we have
become even closer together, and realised just how important we are to each other. If you are
determined, organized and love each other you will succeed!
- Stay in regular contact via telephone as well as letters and/or emails. Writing to your loved
one frequently is good, but hearing their voice can very often be even better. My wife and I found
immense comfort from hearing each other's voices - especially at really stressful times. Search
around and find a reliable, cheap long-distance carrier, and be flexible in when you are available.
Because of the time difference, you may find that you have to call at very strange hours just to talk,
but (money permitting) do it at least once a week for a decent length of time where possible!
- Don't be affraid to tell each other your frustrations and concerns where ever possible. Try not to hide
your feelings because this creates misunderstandings, which can be VERY hard to resolve in long-
distance relationships! Just remember, your partner is feeling as frustrated as you are!
- When ever possible, visit your partner. Just as talking on the telephone can be very theraputic,
so can meetings, only more so. Obviously, how often you see each other during the application process
depends on finance. However Alien, don't be deceived into thinking that you can't enter the US during
the application process. You can, as long as you don't intend on getting married during the visit.
- Be prepared for a tricky and frustrating time. However, stay positive whenever possible, for
both your sake and for your partner's.
K1 VISA LINKS
Sam's K1 Visa Q and A Site
US Immigration and Naturalization Service Forms By Mail
Web Crawler "K1 Visa" search results
Yahoo "K1 Visa" search results
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Graphics by Alleycat
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My thanks to the following for their information and contributions to this page:
Sarah Parkin, Paul, and many others.