K1 Visa Process
Do you want to marry your Thai significant other? If you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level and want to get married in the United States, the K1 visa is the best way for an American to bring a Thai fiance back to the U.S.
A K1 visa allows a U.S. citizen to sponsor their Thai fiance for a U.S. visa so that they can marry in the U.S. The application is filed in the U.S. and usually takes 5 to 8 months to complete. Once the visa has been awarded, your fiance has six months to enter the United States. You then have 90 days from your fiance’s arrival to get married.
Once you are married, your new spouse can apply for permanent residency and receive a green card. If you do not get married within 90 days of your fiance’s arrival in the U.S., the visa expires and your fiance will have to leave or face deportation. If your fiance has unmarried children under 21, they may enter the United States with their parent using a K2 visa as long as they have permission from their other parent.
Only U.S. citizens can sponsor their fiance for a K1 visa. U.S. permanent residents are not eligible to sponsor their fiance using this visa. You will have to prove your U.S. citizenship using a passport, birth certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
Both you and your Thai fiance must be free to marry. If either of you have been married, you must show that you are eligible to remarry with official documents showing divorce or the death of any previous spouse.
Unless religious tradition prohibits you and your fiance from meeting before marriage, you must be able to show that you met face to face within the last two years. You can prove this using pictures of you together, airline receipts, or passport stamps.
Your fiance may be not be eligible for a K1 visa for a number of reasons. There may be a waiver available in some cases, but this will extend the process. In other cases, your fiance may never be allowed to enter the U.S. and you should consider living spending your life together somewhere else. Some common reasons your fiance may be ineligible for a visa are:
- Illegal presence in the U.S., including overstaying a previous U.S. visa,
- Submitting fraudulent documents on a U.S. visa application,
- Drug trafficking or other drug related crimes,
- Having a criminal history, including prostitution, and
- Having a serious communicable disease, not including HIV.
If you have already applied for two K1 visas or had a K1 visa granted in the past two years, you will need special permission to apply again, which will be denied if you have been convicted of a violent crime.
In order to ensure that your Thai spouse will not require government assistance to live in the United States, you must demonstrate that your annual household income is at least 100% of the poverty line. If you and your spouse-to-be will be living in the 48 contiguous states and your household will consist of only the two of you, the minimum annual income (as of 2011) is $14,710. The more members of your household, the higher the minimum requirement will be. If you and your fiance will live in Alaska or Hawaii, the required annual income is slightly higher.
If you make less than required, you can make up the income difference by demonstrating assets (such as real estate, stocks, bonds, and savings accounts) that are at least 5 times the difference between the income required and your annual income. If you have an annual income of $13,610, for example, you can satisfy a $14,710 income requirement by showing that you have $5,500 ($1,100 x 5) in the bank.
If you have no annual income, you can satisfy the income requirement by showing you have assets worth five times the required annual income.
Step 1: Filing an I-129F Petition
You start the K1 visa application process by filing a petition (Form I-129F) with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) in the U.S. It takes the USCIS two to three months on average to review the petition. If everything is in order and the petition is approved, your fiance’s visa application is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The National Visa Center then forwards the application to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. This takes about a month.
The application requires you to disclose whether or not you met your fiance through a marriage broker, but it will not disqualify your fiance from receiving a K1 visa. This is merely to determine whether or not the marriage broker followed legal procedures.
You will also have to disclose court and police records related to any convictions you may have for certain crimes, even if the records were sealed or you were told you no longer have a record. This information will be shared with your fiance at the Embassy, so make sure you don’t have any secrets!
Step 2: Gathering the Required Documentation
After about 4 months, when the US Embassy in Bangkok receives the K1 visa application they will send your fiance a list of required documents and application forms. At this point in the process there is about two months to go. The documents required include but are not limited to your fiance’s passport, birth certificate, and police records from any country where your fiance has lived. If either of you was previously married, you will have to produce a divorce decree or death certificate to show you are free to remarry.
The U.S. Embassy’s job is to detect fraudulent visa applications. You must submit enough proof of your relationship to convince the embassy that your marriage plans are legitimate. Telephone records, pictures, emails, and instant messages can all be submitted as proof of your ongoing relationship.
Step 3: Interview and Medical Examination
After you and your fiance assemble and submit the required documents, the embassy will schedule an interview with your fiance. Before the interview your fiance will be required to submit to a medical examination, which can be conducted at approved locations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Your fiance may be required to undergo additional vaccinations.
The final step in the K1 visa application process is an interview with a visa officer at the US Embassy in Thailand. This can take several hours. The visa officer will review your fiance’s documentation, make sure there is no reason your fiance is inadmissible to the U.S., and attempt to confirm that your relationship is sincere. If your fiance’s K1 visa is approved, it should be available about two business days after the interview.
After the Visa is Issued
Your fiance then has six months to travel to the United States. Because the visa approval process is discretionary, you should not make travel plans before receiving your fiance’s K1 visa. Once your fiance arrives in the U.S. on a K1 visa, you have 90 days to marry. After your wedding, your new spouse can apply for adjustment of status to get a green card.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Siam Legal is a full service law firm but it has an extensive range of immigration, corporate, and real estate experience accessible to clients both domestically and internationally. It has offices strategically located throughout the major cities in Thailand including Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Samui and Phuket along with international representative offices in Australia, London and Las Vegas.