My Thai fiancée is trying to get US citizenship. Is the K-1 visa the best option?
You are on the right track about selecting a K-1 visa, as this visa is known as a fiancé/fiancée visa.
If you use this visa for US entry, you probably are planning to live in the US after you are married. This visa, which is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department (USCIS), permits you to enter the US as a Thai national.
You must meet one very important stipulation when you receive the visa. You must marry within 90 days after entering the US. Also, before filing for this visa, you and your partner should have been a couple for at least two years.
If you haven’t married your partner, you can apply for the K-1 visa. However, if you have married your partner, you cannot apply for the K-1 visa. In this case, you need to apply for a marriage green card. The marriage green card permits the foreign spouse of a US citizen to reside and work in the US. Therefore, your green card permits you to enjoy permanent resident status until you decide to apply for US citizenship.
The K-1 visa or fiancé/fiancée visa gives the alien partner of a US citizen the ability to marry in the US before applying for a green card. If you are already married, your US spouse can sponsor you for a green card. This process is known as an I-130 petition for either a CR-1 or IR-1 visa. Couples who have been married for under two years apply for a CR-1 visa while couples who have been married over two years apply for the IR-1 visa.
The Criteria Established for a K-1 Visa
To apply for a K-1 visa, you and your partner must meet the following criteria:
- You must both be single and can marry under US law.
- If you or your spouse have been previously married, you need to present a death or divorce certificate to show that the marriage ended.
- The sponsor of the foreign partner must be a US citizen. (You cannot apply for a K-1 visa if you already hold a green card).
- You and your partner must show that your relationship is genuine. Include evidence, such as photos, written statements, and correspondence from people who know you as a couple.
- To obtain the K-1 visa, it is best to already have wedding plans set in the US. You can demonstrate this through proof of a venue reservation and copies of your guest list and wedding invitations.
- While you should have known each other for the last two years, this rule can be waived for people who adhere to certain religious practices or for US citizen partners who have undergone extreme hardship.
- The US partner of the couple must meet certain earnings requirements and should have earned 100% of the US federal poverty guidelines established for the application.
According to the USCIS, you can file Form I-485 after you have entered the US and gotten married, per the K-1 visa. This I-485 form permits you to adjust your status for a green card. However, be forewarned, don’t wait until the last minute to get married. Doing so can jeopardize your chances of getting a green card. Couples, for example, who married one hour past the time limit, will get denied green card status.
Adjusting Your Status After Entering the US
To go from a non-immigrant status to immigrant status, you will need to, again, apply for an adjustment of status. During this process, you will need to schedule a medical exam. The process takes about eight to ten months to complete before you receive a green card.
During the green card process, you will need to attend an interview as a couple. After the interview, expect to receive a combo card after about two months. This card is a combined work permit, which is known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a travel permit. The permit is referred to as an advance parole card. The combo card, when you receive it, is sized like a driver’s license. Therefore, you can easily carry it and display it in your wallet or billfold. After you get the combo card, you should receive your green card in about six months.
By using the combo card, you can travel and work while you are waiting to become a permanent resident. The EAD is necessary if you want to legally work in the US. You can also apply for a social security number and card so you can record your taxes on what you earn.
While most K-1 visas are approved, some do get denied. To make sure this does not happen to you, check your status and the requirements with a US immigration attorney or US immigration specialist. Doing so will ensure that you and your partner can marry, settle and work in the US. Get the legal support you need to make your journey to the US easier and trouble-free.
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.