U.S. citizens in California may sponsor their foreign fiancé(e)s to come to the U.S. on a fiancé/ fiancée visa. These visas are also called K-1 visas.
In this article, our California immigration lawyers answer frequently-asked-questions about fiancé(e) visas in California, including eligibility, application processes, time frames, and fees. Click on a topic to jump directly to that section:
- 1. Can I get a K-1 visa in California?
- 2. How do I apply for a K-1 visa?
- 3. How long does it take to get a K-1 visa?
- 4. When do I have to get married on a K-1 visa in California?
- 5. How much does it cost to get a K-1 visa?
- 6. Can children of a foreign fiancé(e)s come to the U.S.?
Foreigners engaged to U.S. citizens may be able to come to the U.S. on a K-1 visa to get married. The three requirements for getting a K-1 visa are:
- The U.S citizen and the K-1 visa applicant must have been legally permitted to wed when they submitted the K-1 visa petition (and remained eligible to marry since).1
- The marriage must be legal according to the relevant state law. In California, a valid marriage is between two consensual adults 18-year-old or older. (Younger people may only marry with parental consent and a court order.)2
- Finally, the couple must have met in person within the prior two (2) years. (There are exceptions, such as if their culture requires that they not meet prior to the wedding.)
Note that same-sex couples are equally as eligible for K-1 visas as opposite-sex fiancé(e)s.3
The application process for a fiancé(e) visa includes the following steps:
- The U.S. citizen fiancé(e)—also called the sponsor—submits an I-129f petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS).
- The USCIS does a background check of the foreign fiancé(e). If he/she is approved, the USCIS transfers the case to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- The NVC sends a letter to the foreign fiancé(e) about whether he/she is approved to file a K-1 visa application. If approved, the foreigner may submit the K-1 visa application to his/her U.S. embassy or consulate.
- The Department of State conducts a background check to make sure the relationship is not a sham.
- The foreign fiancé(e) takes a medical exam and goes to an interview at his/her U.S. consulate or embassy.
- The sponsor fiancé(e) produces evidence to USCIS that he/she is financially able to support the foreign fiancé(e).
- If the Department of State grants the K-1 visa, the foreign fiancé(e) has the next six (6) months to come to the U.S. and request admission at a U.S. port of entry. If the foreign fiancé(e) is flying into Los Angeles, the port of entry will be the LAX Airport.
Note that even having a K-1 visa still does not guarantee entry into the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) conducts a final background check at the port of entry. The foreigner should be prepared to show his/her passport and other supporting documentation.
The Visa Interview
Foreign fiancé(e)s are given instructions in advance about what to bring to his/her visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Typically, the non-citizen fiancé(e) needs to bring the following documentation:
- Evidence of engagement with the U.S. citizen
- Medical reports
If the non-citizen fiancé(e) was divorced or widowed, he/she should also bring divorce or death certificates as proof.4
The time frame takes about six (6) to nine (9) months from beginning to end.5
After a non-citizen fiancé(e) enters the U.S. on a K-1 visa, the couple has 90 days to marry. Then if the foreign spouse wishes to remain in the U.S., he/she is required to apply for a green card using a I-485 form.6
Every stage of the fiancé(e) visa procedure has an associated fee. The current costs are:
- $535 for filing the I-129F form with the USCIS.
- $265 for filing the K-1 visa application with the applicant’s U.S. consulate.
- $1,225 for filing the I-485 form for adjustment of status with the USCIS (this fee includes fingerprints/biometrics).
The total cost for a K-1 visa is $2,025.7
Generally yes. Children of K-1 visa-holders may enter the U.S. on a K-2 visa. However, only unmarried kids under age 21 may qualify for a K-2 visa.
In order for children to get K-2 visas, the U.S. sponsor needs to include their names on the I-129F petition.8
Call a California immigration attorney…
If you are engaged to a foreigner, contact our Los Angeles K-1 visa attorneys. We will calculate your eligibility for a fiancé(e) visa and help you through the application process. Call us for a free consultation.
Go to our California visa main page.
See our article on K-1 visas in Nevada.