A fiancé(e) of an United States citizen can apply for a special visa which will permit him/her to travel to the U.S. for the purpose of marrying within ninety days of entering the United States and residing permanently there. The U.S. citizen is called the petitioner. The foreign fiancé(e) is called the beneficiary.
Applying for a fiancé(e) visa takes place in two steps lasting several months. The first step is for the U.S. citizen – the petitioner – to file an I-129F fiancé(e) visa petition in the United States. I-129F visa petitions can be approved only by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States. The fee for filing an I-129F visa petition is USD $340.
The second stage of the fiancé(e) visa process will begin when the consulate in Johannesburg receives the approved I-129F petition from the U.S. At that time, the foreign applicant – the beneficiary – will be sent a detailed list of the supporting documents needed to apply for the visa.
After the beneficiary informs the Consulate that all the documents are ready, a visa interview will be scheduled. There is a USD $350 visa application fee for the fiancé(e) visa itself, but there are additional fees charged for the mandatory medical examination and for some of the required documents.
Once the visa is issued, the non-American beneficiary must enter the U.S. within six months. The couple must marry within three months of that entry date and report this marriage to the nearest USCIS office so that the beneficiary may obtain a resident alien card (a.k.a. “Green Card”). The alien fiancé(e)/spouse must NOT leave the United States until the USCIS process has been finalized and residency has been granted, otherwise your adjustment request will be considered abandoned and you will have to reinitiate the immigration process at the Embassy abroad.
What Is a K-1 Visa?
The fiancé(e) K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a United States (U.S.) citizen. The K-1 visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. The foreign-citizen will then apply for adjustment of status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because a fiancé(e) visa permits the holder to immigrate to the U.S. and marry a U.S. citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé(e) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa. Eligible children of K-1 visa applicants receive K-2 visas.
What Is a “Fiancé(e)”?
Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen is the recipient of an approved Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F, who has been issued a nonimmigrant K-1 visa for travel to the United States in order to marry his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e). Both the U.S. citizen and the K-1 visa applicant must have been legally free to marry at the time the petition was filed and must have remained so thereafter. The marriage must be legally possible according to laws of the U.S. state in which the marriage will take place.
In general, the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) and U.S. citizen sponsor must have met in person within the past two years. USCIS may grant an exception to this requirement, based on extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen sponsor to personally meet the foreign-citizen fiancé(e), or, for example, if it is contrary in the U.S. citizen sponsor’s or foreign-citizen fiancé(e)’s culture for a man and woman to meet before marriage.