K Visas for Fiancés/Fiancées or Spouses Abroad
The K-1 visa is a short-term, technically nonimmigrant, visa valid for 90 days, for an alien who is coming to the U.S. solely to engage in a valid marriage with a U.S. citizen. In order to qualify for this visa, the alien’s fiancée (or fiancé) must first petition for classification by the USCIS, in the U.S., of this alien as his or her fiancé/fiancée.
Proof of an in-person meeting within two years prior to petitioning, as well as proof of a legitimate relationship, must be submitted along with the petition. Once the petition is approved, it is forwarded to the U.S. Consulate abroad where the alien applies for the K-1 visa. Any children of the K-1 visa holder will be given K-2 visas to accompany their parent to the U.S.
The alien and petitioner must marry within the 90-day period allowed by the K-1 visa. If they decide not to marry, the alien must depart the U.S. at the end of the 90-day period. The K visa does authorize employment during the 90-day period. Following the marriage, the newly married alien may submit an application for adjustment of status with the USCIS.
The K-3 visa allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen, who is waiting abroad for an immigrant visa, and the (K-4 Visa) spouse’s children to enter the United States as non-immigrants, re-unite with their family here, and then apply for immigrant status while in the country. It is one of several immigration benefit provisions created by the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act) enacted in December of 2001.
Under this new nonimmigrant visa classification, spouses of U.S. citizens may be granted K-3 nonimmigrant status, and the spouse’s unmarried children (under 21 years of age) may be granted K-4 nonimmigrant status. Obtaining a K-3/4 visa is not required, however. Spouses of U.S. citizens and their children may skip applying for a K visa and directly obtain their immigrant visa abroad from the Department of State.
One-Step Marriage Petition for Permanent Residence in the United States
When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national who is in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, the couple may submit what is often called a “one-step” petition to the BCIS. Basically, it is called this because it is a combination of several applications and petitions submitted at once, following a valid marriage within the U.S., including:
U.S. Citizen’s Petition for Classification of Alien as a Relative (Form I-130)
- Alien’s Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485
- Alien’s Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765)
- U.S. Citizen’s Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)
- Alien’s Application for Travel Authorization (Form I-131)
Several months, or even years, thereafter,the couple will be scheduled for a marriage interview at the USCIS and, pending a positive outcome, the alien will be granted conditional permanent residence. Approximately two years later, assuming the marriage is still considered by the USCIS to be valid, the alien will become eligible to remove the conditions of his or her permanent residence and will then receive lawful permanent residence. If the marriage petition is approved after the couple’s two-year anniversary, however, unconditional permanent status, rather than conditional, will be granted.
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