K Visas – Marriage of a United States Citizen to a Foreign National
Love knows no borders the U.S. has visas that are designed to enable the marriage of U.S. citizens to foreign nationals, specifically, the K-1 visa for fiancés of U.S. citizens and their unmarried children under the age of 21(K-2). Likewise, the K visa program also allows a spouse of a U.S. citizen and that spouse’s children under the age of 21, to obtain a K-3(K-4) visa to immigrate to the United States.
Despite falling within the same category of K visas, the K-1 and K-3 visa processes are remarkably different. Therefore, it is vital that the couple understand their options and follow the path that will best meet their needs.
K-1 Fiancé Visa
In order to qualify for this visa, the U.S. citizen and the foreign national must prove: (1) that they have met in person within the two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and (2) the U.S. citizen and foreigner are legally able to marry within 90 days after the beneficiary enters the United States.
The couple must also submit evidence, such as, affidavits from both individuals and/or other persons with personal knowledge of their relationship, photographs of the couple together, letters, e-mails, telephone bills, documentation of wedding plans, etc. The supporting evidence should be sufficient to enable the USCIS to make a decision that a bona fide relationship exists.
If the K-1 visa is approved, immigration will notify the Consulate designated on the form where the Beneficiary intends to apply for their visa. Each Consulate’s policy and procedures differ, but generally, the Consulate will send a letter to the Beneficiary describing what needs to be submitted to the Consulate to finalize the processing. The Consulates’ processing times can fluctuate based on the time of year during which the application is submitted, as well as the required security clearances. The final step of the process is for the Consular Officer to interview the Beneficiary in order to make the final determination of eligibility for a K visa.
If the Consulate issues a K-1 visa, the Petitioner and Beneficiary must marry within 90 days of the time that the Beneficiary enters the United States. Further, the K-1 visa issued by the Consulate is only valid for a single entry.
Once in the United States the K-1/K-2 Beneficiary is authorized to work only after applying for and obtaining work authorization from CIS.
K-3 Spouse Visa
The purpose for providing K-3/K-4 visas is to allow families to be together while the visa petition submitted by the U.S. Citizen is pending. However, a K-3 visa will only be issued if an immigrant visa is unavailable to the Beneficiary.
It is also vital to understand that only a U.S. Citizens’ spouse and the spouse’s unmarried children under the age of 21 can qualify for K-3 and K-4 nonimmigrant visas. Unlike the K-1 Fiancé visa, in order to qualify for the K-3 visa, the Beneficiary must already be married to a U.S. citizen.
Different than the 90-day admission period granted for K-1 visa entries, the K-3 visa beneficiary should be granted a two year period of admission upon entry to the United States. If the Beneficiary can show that they are taking steps to progress their immigrant visa process, they can file an extension of their K-3 status by submitting a form I-539 no more than 120 days before their status expires. K-3 and K-4 visas issued by the Consulate allow for multiple entries into the United States and can be valid for up to 10 years.
Similar to the K-1/K-2 visa status, once in the United States the K-3/K-4 Beneficiary can obtain work authorization while the person is awaiting approval.
Which Visa is best for you?
If you are not currently married, the major factor that will determine whether a K-1 or K-3 is best for you is where you want to get married; abroad or in the U.S.? Clearly, the decision of where to get married is a personal decision for each couple and takes into account various factors. If you plan on getting married outside the United States it would most likely be more advantageous to pursue a K-3 visa. However, if you plan on getting married in the United States, it generally makes more sense to pursue the K-1 visa.