A K-1 visa is technically classified as a non-immigrant visa, and this is the visa issued to fiancés who are planning on marrying a U.S. citizen when they arrive in the United States. While there are separate guides that focus on how to first obtain a K-1 Visa (which is needed in order to board a flight to the United States), this guide will be dedicated to understanding, and providing some suggestions for what fiancés need to accomplish when they arrive in the United States on that K-1 Visa.

Time Limit

The first thing to note about this type of visa is that it expires quickly, so applicants who are planning on obtaining a K-1 and marrying a U.S. citizen need to be strategic. Once the K-1 holder enters the United States and has their final “check” with a CBP officer, they have 90 days before the visa expires, meaning they are only authorized to stay in the U.S. for 90 days before filing an adjustment of status application (I-485). But in order to file an adjustment of status as a marriage green card applicant you (the principal applicant need a marriage certificate), so it’s best to get married as soon as you can, and not to waste time.

If K-1 visa holders decide to ultimately put off their marriage, they will be in violation of U.S. immigration law, and could be put into removal proceedings for deportation. That would happen regardless of the whether the government is more left or right leaning.  

If the K-1 visa holder decides they want to get married after the 90 days (limit), they will need to file another I-130 application, which means the couple will need to spend an additional 535 dollars.

Should you get a work permit?

Fiancés who have a working background might feel the inclination to immediately want to get an EAD—Employee Authorization Document, or work permit, when they arrive in the U.S. It’s the not the best decision. This is because it takes roughly 45 to 90 days to process an I-765 application. That means it would basically be a counterproductive task if the applicant in question is getting married and filing an I-485 for a green card, which would allow them to work anyways in the United States. In addition, K-1 visa holders need to think about unnecessary fees. If the K-1 visa holder is thinking about obtaining a work permit, in addition to the green card fees they will eventually need to pay, they will also need to pay the 410 dollar fee associated with the USCIS employee authorization form.

What about dependents?

Essentially, children (unmarried and under 21) have the same rights that their K-1 parent has in the 90 day period they arrive in the United States. They cannot leave the United States after their initial entrance, they would need to apply for a work permit in that 90 period if they wanted to work, and they will also need to file their own separate adjustment of status applications (they cannot be included in the parents). Children are usually allowed to attend school when they arrive in the United States as well, under K-3 status.

Overall, the K visa type is a temporary one, but holders are still responsible for maintaining a good status, not committing any crimes, and not being otherwise inadmissible by the time they file their I-485 applications. They should treat this 90 day period as a cautionary one where they are setting up their lives to become legal permanent residents (LPRs)

Note: Obtaining a marriage certificate can take up to three months to produce the final version of the certificate. Prior green card applications have noted that bringing a hard copy of the documents they receive at their ceremony to their local county office (instead of using mail) could shave off weeks of processing time.

K-1 Visa Fiance Visa Marriage Green Card