When Can K1 Visa Holder Apply For Citizenship?
Have you recently arrive in the US on a K1 visa? I’m sure you’re wondering “when can K1 visa holder apply for citizenship?”
Okay, the answer isn’t so simple. But, I’ll do my best to explain the process as easily as I can.
Basically, the most important thing to know about going from K1 visa holder to citizenship is eligibility. It’s important to know when you become eligible to naturalize.
This timeframe can change based on when you became a permanent resident. It can also depend on whether you stay married to the original petitioner.
Why does this matter? Keep reading to find out! 😉
In my own case, the process between arriving in the US on a K1 visa and applying for US citizenship took about 5 years. But, this can really depend on when you get married, when you get your green card and when you become eligible for naturalization.
How The K1 to Citizenship Process Works
Ruby arrived in the United States on a K1 fiancé visa to marry her love Jaden. After getting married, they quickly applied for adjustment of status which took almost 7 months to approve. She then became a lawful permanent resident and received her conditional 2 year green card.
90 days before her two year anniversary of her permanent residence, she applied to remove the conditions on her green card. This process took much longer than the initial green card application.
In the case above, Ruby can apply for naturalization after three years of being a permanent resident. Why three years? I’m glad you asked!
The reason there is a waiting period to naturalize is because an immigrant needs to be married for 3 years to the original petitioner before being eligible to naturalize early.
However, if you happen to divorce your spouse, you will need to wait 5 years (from permanent residence) to be eligible to naturalize. 😖
We’ll go into more detail about these rules below.
Why Should You Become A US Citizen?
Becoming a US citizen has some really nice perks… not only can you apply for government jobs but you can also vote and get a US passport!
There really aren’t too many downsides to becoming a US citizen… if you can think of some, please do share.
Additionally, based on the graph below, it looks like becoming a US citizen can help you earn more money too! Pretty neat huh?
K1 Visa and 3 Year Rule For Citizenship
So there are two ways to naturalize in the United States. The first is if you are currently married to a US citizen and the second is if you are divorced or no longer married.
Let’s talk about each scenario so you understand the difference between them.
Scenario 1: Still Married to US Petitioner
If you’re happily still married, congrats! This will definitely make applying for citizenship a lot easier and quicker. 🙌
Being married to a US citizen gives you a few rights than someone who isn’t married to a US citizen. One of them being that you are allowed to apply for naturalization after being a green card holder for 3 years.
So, if you want to become a US citizen as fast as possible, staying married definitely helps your case! 😏
But, remember, you will need to show proof that you are still married and that you married in good faith. This is only required if you are taking advantage of the 3 year rule.
Scenario 2: Divorced or Not Married to US Petitioner
Divorcing the original petitioner means you’re no longer eligible to file for citizenship under the 3 year rule. But, the good news is that you can still file for citizenship using the 5 year rule. 👍
Of course, I’m not saying you should stay married simply to apply for citizenship sooner. I totally understand that some marriages need to end because of abuse or serious differences.
Thankfully, you can still become a US citizen without actually being married to one. You do however need to prove you married in good faith to keep your green card. 🤔
Additionally, if you submit the naturalization form N-400 using the 5 year rule, you don’t necessarily need to include evidence of a good faith marriage if you are divorced. This is great news for those of you who didn’t have a lot of documents in both names.
K1 Visa and 5 Year Rule For Citizenship
So, we’ve briefly looked at both the 3 year and 5 year rule above. But, are there any situations that require a K1 visa holder to wait the full 5 years before applying for US citizenship?
As previously mentioned, a divorce can definitely mean you have to wait the full 5 years. This doesn’t begin when you get married, but instead, begins when you first become a US permanent resident.
Another factor that might make someone wait 5 years is the cost to apply for citizenship. 😬
The filing fee to submit form N-400 can get pretty expensive! I know because I paid it when I filed and it was painful. The good news is that if you’re income is low enough, you may qualify for a waiver of the N-400 filing fee.
Otherwise, if you make more than minimum wage and have a smallish family, don’t count on it! 😔
Another reason someone may want to wait to file for US citizenship is if they have a minor criminal conviction. Crimes involving moral turpitude can really get you in trouble with USCIS.
The longer it’s been since the crime, usually the better.
How To Apply for Naturalization Form N-400
Applying for naturalization using form N-400 is straightforward. Unless, of course, you have an extensive criminal record or committed immigration fraud in the past.
For everyone else, it’s just a matter of completing the right form, submitting the right documents and waiting for the interview.
Here’s a brief overview of the naturalization process:
Step 1: Complete form N-400.
What do you think the first step would be? Yup, you guessed it… it’s filling out that darn N-400 form. 😠
I don’t know about you but I personally hate completing long boring immigration forms. It’s tedious and a little intimidating because you don’t want to make a mistake, right?
Well, the N-400 form is required to apply for US citizenship. So go ahead and download it from USCIS.gov and start filling it out. I recommend reviewing your answers (or better yet, have someone else review it) before sending it in.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen a number of people submit the N-400 with incorrect answers and they later paid for those mistakes by being denied citizenship.🤬
Step 2: Gather evidence to include.
Next, it’s time to gather evidence to include with your citizenship application.
The type of documents you’ll include will depend on whether you are still married to the petitioner or going solo. So, for those of you who are still married, make sure to include a copy of your marriage certificate as well as evidence that you live together and share finances.
On the other hand, if you are divorced, make sure to include your divorce decree and any other documents to show that you were in a good faith marriage. Even though this isn’t required for the 5 year rule, I recommend including it anyway.
Step 3: Submit application and filing fee.
After completing the forms and gathering the evidence, it’s time to submit your application and pay the filing fee. Yes, I know it’s not fun to write a check to USCIS but it’s necessary.
Here’s the good news, if you make less than the poverty guideline then you may be able to file for waiver of the filing fee. Definitely look into this if you truly can’t afford the N-400 filing fee.
Step 4: Complete biometrics.
The next step in the naturalization process is to go to your biometrics appointment. This appointment is used to gather biographical information about you.
This can include your photo and fingerprints. It’s pretty simple and the process is quick so don’t worry you it too much. Just be sure to get there on time but if you have to reschedule the appointment, that’s okay too.
Step 5: Attend interview/pass civics test.
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! You’ve studied long and hard for the civics test and now the day has come.
Are you nervous? Excited? Maybe a little bit of both? 😧
I don’t blame you! It’s definitely nerve wrecking after waiting this long for the interview. Not to mention the scary civics test that you must pass to actually become a US citizen.
Here’s the good news though… if you’ve studied (like I tell you to do!) and have submitted a solid naturalization application, you should be okay. No, better than okay!
The interview is normally about an hour long and you will be asked 10 out of a possible 100 civics questions. I recommend learning how to answer all 100 just in case the 10 that are asked were not the ones you focused on.
Once you pass the civics test, you will be scheduled for the oath ceremony!
Step 6: Attend oath ceremony.
Finally, the oath ceremony is like the icing on the cake. You’ve worked this hard and waited this long, here is your prize my darling! 😍
The oath ceremony is something like a graduation from USCIS university. You get to be honored for making through to the other side with your sanity (ha-ha) 😂
You will attend this ceremony with a bunch of other immigrants who are also becoming US citizens. They’ll take pictures and give speeches and then you will receive your very own certificate of naturalization. Congrats!!!! 🎉🥳👏
If Citizenship/Naturalization Is Approved
OMG congrats!!! You’ve crossed the finish line for US immigration. How does it feel? 😅
After your naturalization is approved, you will get your certificate proving you are now a US citizen. Say goodbye to USCIS forever! No more case status checks, no more immigration interviews, NO MORE FILING FEES! 😝
If Citizenship/Naturalization Is Denied
Oh no! Your naturalization has been denied. 😱
First of all, I’m truly sorry if this happens to you. This is a terrible type of rejection for someone who wanted to be a US citizen so badly.
But, it’s no the end of the road for you. You can overcome the denial by putting together an even stronger US citizenship application. Yes, I said it! You need to apply again if you are truly serious about US citizenship.
Don’t give up hope! 😌
However, did you notice that I said reapply and not appeal the denial? This is because from past experience with clients, appeals rarely are approved and it costs the same amount to appeal as to reapply.
Plus, reapplying for citizenship allows a fresh pair of USCIS eyes to take a look at your case again. This is a lot easier to convince a new person than to overturn a previous denial.
Conclusion: When Can K1 Visa Holder Apply For Citizenship
Now that you know the process of going from K1 visa holder to US citizenship, what do you think? Seems simple, no?
Okay, maybe US immigration shouldn’t be labeled as simple but I’m hoping that I answered some questions that you had before reading this blog post. If not, hit the contact me link above and ask me anything.
The K1 visa process was hard enough but your journey doesn’t end there! Oh no… there is so much more between K1 visa issuance and US citizenship. So much that one blog post doesn’t do it justice. Take a look at the rest of the blog posts on this topic by using the search box to get more answers.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.