2017 K1 Visa Timeline for Approval
The K1 visa (also known as fiance visa) is a great option if you want to get married in the United States instead of abroad. Interestingly, the number one question I get about this visa is “what is the K1 visa timeline and how long will it take?”.
Everyone is so excited to finally end the long distance and all they want to know is the end date. I’ll try to explain the entire process as clearly as possible and give an estimate of how long it will take.
The K1 visa is what my husband and I decided to apply for and it worked out really well for us. We were approved within about 9 months and I was able to move to American in less than a year. Thinking back on the process now I can tell you that I stressed myself out for no reason. If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to relax and let the process unfold.
Some relationships won’t make it through the waiting period due to the stress. Don’t let that happen to you and your fiance(e). Always keep the lines of communication open and honest and talk about your fears together. This is what helped our relationship get through the waiting period without destroying us.
US Citizen I-129F and USCIS Reviews Initial Evidence
Length of time: 3-5 months
The process begins when you file the I-129F petition for your fiance(e). This tells USCIS that you are engaged to your partner that resides outside the United States and would like to bring them stateside to get married.
USCIS considers the K1 visa “non-immigrant” because it is a temporary visa that allows the beneficiary to adjust status after marriage. Remember, this is not a “get to know you” visa and you should really be considering marriage before applying for it. It’s not fair to the foreign national if you aren’t 100% sure you want to marry them and help them adjust their status.
After filing the I-129F petition, you’ll receive a notice of action (NOA) from USCIS confirming they have received your petition. This can be really exciting because of how quickly they respond but sit back and relax because it will be months before you hear from them again.
An initial review of your case is done before your check is deposited by USCIS to ensure that you have submitted all the required forms. An adjudicator will be assigned to your case that will review it in detail and may send you a request for evidence if something is missing.
Sadly, adjudicators have huge case loads which is the reason for the long delays in processing. Sometimes I think that USCIS is the only government agency that is understaffed because it’s not tax payer supported. Since we pay such high application fees, you would think they have enough money to hire more adjudicators!
It’s time for your background check. USCIS will run an FBI name search and criminal background check on the foreign beneficiary. Since 9/11, background checks are more in depth and take much longer to complete. Having a very common name can be troublesome due to the number of “hits” it will get that need to be reviewed carefully.
You are Approved!
Happy days are finally here. You have been approved for the I-129F petition allowing you to file for the K-1 visa. This is a multi-step process and you’re not quite done yet but it’s time to celebrate this victory.
The approved petition means that USCIS recognizes your engagement and intention to marry. Next, they will send the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). This approval doesn’t give your fiance(e) permission to travel to the US just yet but you are one step closer to this reality.
NVC Issues Case Number and Sends Case to US Consulate
Length of time: 2-4 months
Now things really begin to speed up! Department of State (DOS) will notify the petitioner when it’s time for the beneficiary to apply for the K1 visa. More background checks and fingerprint checks will be performed on the foreign fiance before an interview is scheduled.
Next, there will be a medical exam to make sure the intending immigrant isn’t suffering from a communicable disease such as TB or HIV. Don’t worry if you are infected, it won’t result in an automatic denial but instead, you will need to wait a few months until you have recovered before your K1 visa is issued.
The US consulate doesn’t actually schedule the medical exam for you so you must do this on your own. They provide a list of approved doctors that can perform the exam with the documents that are sent to the beneficiary.
I recommend doing the medical exam a few weeks before your interview to make sure you have the results. Once you’re ready for the interview, you may get the option to schedule it based on dates that are available.
Bring hard copies of all documents that you initially submitted with the I-129F petition. This includes the following:
- All I-129F case forms
- Photos, emails, chats transcripts
- Any documented wedding plans
- Foreign passport
- Cash (if you are paying at the consulate)
The day of the interview is here! Many foreign applicants attend the interview on their own but some US consulates do allow the U.S. citizen to be there. Having both of you attend the visa interview can be great support for each of you.
Visa interviews normally last about 20-30 minutes and the consular officer will ask questions related to your application. Be honest and answer all the questions they ask but don’t talk too much! So many people get in trouble when they provide information that wasn’t asked from them or they ramble on and on.
Note: review this list of K1 visa interview questions to prepare.
Some consular officers will tell you that you are approved right away but many will tell you that you will receive the final decision by mail. However, if there are any issues with your case you may be told that it’s under “administrative processing” and given the 221(g) letter.
Don’t panic if you are put into administrative processing. This is a catch-all phrase that can mean more background checks, simple review of documents or suspicion of fraud. Unfortunately, the consular officer will not tell you the reason you were put into administrative processing or how long it will take to complete.
Your passport will usually be kept by the consulate and you should see an update of your case on USCIS.gov.
K1 Visa Holder Travels to U.S. to Marry Petitioner
Length of time: 1 Day
This is probably the most exciting time for you both! All the hard work and waiting has finally paid off and you have the K1 visa stamped in your foreign passport. It’s time to fly to the United States and begin your life with your partner.
Remember, the K1 visa doesn’t guarantee you access to the United States. It simply allows you to request permission to enter the country for the purpose of marrying your U.S. citizen fiance(e). The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent can deny you for whatever reason they feel necessary.
The good news is that it’s rare that they will deny you entry because the background checks that were already done would have found something before you were approved.
CBP will then make a decision of your admissibility at the port of entry (POE). This process can take quite a while so make sure you give yourself enough time between flights. If you are admitted, CBP agent will stamp your visa with the I-94 which is valid for 90 days.
This 90 day time period is all you have to get married and meet the requirement for the K1 visa.
Now that you are living in the United States, don’t forget to apply for your social security number and driver’s license. Remember, both these documents will only be valid for 90 days but can be extended after you adjust your status and receive your temporary green card.
Final Thoughts on the K1 Visa Timeline
The K1 visa process is not only lengthy but expensive. You want to make sure that you submit as much supporting evidence and proof of ongoing relationship for a strong case. I personally applied for the K1 visa and believe it was the best option for us. It took us about 9 months to be approved and another 2 months for me to move.
I went through many different emotions from excitement to stress to joy. Remember, it may seem like a long time to wait but it’s a fraction of time compared to the rest of your life.
Good luck with the rest of your journey and let me know how it all goes. If you’d like to share your K1 visa story send me an email!