For those who are seeking entry into the United States, the K-1 visa is one potential option in one very specific circumstance: marriage. If you are considering the K-1 visa as an option for entering the United States, you may be struggling to understand how to plan your time based on how long each step of the process might take.
In 2021, as the world continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, it is expected that processing times may vary from their standard averages for some time to come. However, K-1 visas are still being processed in a timely manner, and you can expect only slight changes to the standard processing times in 2021 and beyond.
What A K-1 Visa Does
A K-1 visa is a document that allows a foreign national to enter the United States expressly for the purpose of marrying a United States citizen. A K-1 visa does not provide permanent legal residence, although it does open up the ability to pursue such via an adjustment of status after marriage. Here is what you need to know about acquiring a K-1 visa and how long you can expect to wait during each step.
Processing The I-129F
The first step that must be taken in order to acquire a K-1 visa is filing a Form I-129F. The foreign partner is not responsible for this form; instead, their US citizen partner will sponsor them and file the I-129 with USCIS.
This form requires a variety of supporting documents that establish the authenticity and information about the relationship between the potential spouses, and moving through this process as quickly as possible means getting this supporting documentation correct the first time.
This is why many people choose to rely on an immigration attorney to help. As of 2021, Form I-129F forms are being processed slightly slower than average, at between 8 and 10 months.
Processing In The Hands Of The Department Of State
After the I-129F has been approved, it will be taken over by the DOS, which can take between 4 and 6 weeks. At this stage, the approved petition will be forwarded to the consulate or embassy in the country where the foreign partner lives, enabling them to submit forms there.
Expecting The Letter From The Embassy/Consulate
In general, approximately two weeks after receiving the information from the Department of State, the embassy or consulate will reach out with a letter with visa interview details. However, in 2021, this is taking between 6 to 8 weeks on average.
The K-1 Visa Interview
Once you receive information about the upcoming visa interview, you will be asked to attend at a scheduled time. Typically, you can expect to wait for 2 to 8 weeks between when your visa interview appointment is scheduled and the time that you can attend the interview.
K-1 Visa Entry And Marriage Requirements
If you succeeded in your visa interview and the immigration officer believes that you qualify for the visa, you will be granted a K-1. At this point, you have 6 months to enter the United States.
However, it is important to be aware that once you enter, you cannot leave and re-enter; the K-1 visa is only good for one entry. Be sure to plan your time carefully.
Sometime within this 6-month period, you must enter the United States or else your visa will expire. Once you have entered, you have only 90 days to marry the United States citizen spouse and move on to the next portion of the process to pursue legal permanent residence.
Is There A Premium Process?
Many types of visas offer the ability to pay extra for premium processing, which guarantees that a petition will be reviewed within a few weeks of its arrival. Unfortunately, K-1 visas are not eligible for premium processing. However, the overall timeline, even in 2021, is not typically extremely long. This means that getting the information correct the first time is the best way to ensure that your K-1 visa is granted quickly.
Work with An Immigration Attorney To Get Your Petition Right The First Time
Compiling a comprehensive and effective K-1 visa application that clearly demonstrates your eligibility is more complex than simply proving that two people know each other. In order to ensure that you can enter the United States as soon as possible to marry your US citizen partner, it is important that your petition is carefully crafted.
The immigration attorneys at Pride Immigration would be happy to help you navigate this process so that you have the best chance of success. Reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss your options and any information that should be included in your petition.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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