If you’re in a long-distance relationship with an American (who lives in America and who doesn’t want to leave America), then the K1 visa (Fiancé Visa) is probably one of the fastest ways to be together. To give you an idea of the K1 visa timeline, Andy and I applied for our K-1 visa back in February 2019. I had my interview in Manila in August, flew to Minneapolis in September, and got married in October of the same year. At the time of writing, we’re just waiting for my green card interview. If you want to see my K-1 visa and AOS timelines, click here.
The whole K-1 visa process was a stressful one for me (my husband didn’t seem fazed at all!). This is why I created this guide to give you a sort of a one-stop-shop for what you need to know about the K1 visa application. Take note though that I’m from the Philippines so the processing I’m sharing is if you live in the Philippines.
What is the K-1 (Fiancée) Visa?
In a nutshell, the K-1 (fiancé) visa application is for couples who are engaged and have met at least once within two years of filing. Once your K1 visa gets approved and you arrive in the USA, you have 90 days to get married (this is why a famous reality show on TLC is called 90 day fiancé). If you don’t get married within the 90 days, you have to pack your bags and go home.
When you arrive in the US, you are basically out of status until you file for the AOS and receive your green card. Something you should note when thinking of applying for the K-1 visa is because you’re out of status, you are not allowed to work while waiting for your green card or your work permit. You also can’t leave the USA without a green card or a temporary travel permit.
How is the K1 Visa application different from the CR-1 (Spousal) Visa?
As mentioned earlier, the K-1 visa is typically faster than the spousal visa. The spousal visa takes longer than a year to process while the fiancé visa only takes 6 to 12 months to process. For the spousal visa, you have to get married first before you file for the application. If you end up getting married in the US, you have to go back to your home country while waiting for your application results.
While the upside of going the K-1 route is its faster processing time, perhaps the best advantage of the spousal (CR-1) visa is once you get the approved, you are automatically a green cardholder. This means you can work right away once you get to the US, unlike with the Fiancé visa where you have to wait for four months to a year before you get a green card. The Spousal visa is also cheaper. For the CR-1 visa, the total government costs is around 1200 USD (excluding medical exams which vary for every country). As for the K-1 visa, the application for the green card alone after you get married is 1,225 USD. So if you think about it, you’re paying almost double. For a breakdown of our K-1 visa fees, click here.
Should you go for the K-1 (Fiance) visa route or the CR-1 (Spousal) Visa route?
The answer really depends on your situation. Like I said earlier, we went the K-1 route because it’s faster and Andy and I could be together sooner. For us, it was the better decision, but the case might be different for you.
Go the K-1 visa route if you:
- are not married
- want to be together sooner
- don’t mind paying more
- don’t mind that the beneficiary won’t be able to work while waiting for the green card
- have a pretty straightforward case as there are criminal cases that may harm your application (some people still get approved even with criminal cases, but in my opinion, the Spousal visa will be the safer bet if your background is complicated)
Go the CR-1/Spousal visa route if you:
- are married
- don’t mind waiting longer, thus being apart longer
- want to be able to work right away when you get to the USA
- want to save on the filing fees (however, if you want to visit your fiancee while waiting, that’ll cost more)
- are short on funds so you need your beneficiary to help you financially and work right away
- have a pretty complicated case and a higher risk of denial if you go for the K-1 route
Applying for the K-1 Visa: The Step by Step Process
In this part, I’ll give you a walkthrough of the K-1 visa process that we went through. Just to give you an idea, Andy and I were both never married and have no kids when we applied for the K-1 visa. We also didn’t have any criminal records to declare so our case was pretty straightforward. So if you were divorced, have kids, or have a pretty complicated case, you might need to go through some steps or get more documents than we did.
- Make sure you’ve met at least once within the past two years.
- Submit your K-1 (Fiance) visa application.
- Download the updated form I-129F petition form from the USCIS website.
- For a checklist of all the documents and attachments that you need to submit with your application, click here. If you want to see how we packaged our application, watch my video here.
- Filing fee: 535 USD. This can be paid through check, cashier’s check, money order, or credit card. I won’t recommend the credit card route though because if they encounter a problem charging your card, they’ll return the petition right away. There are also times where some applicants had a problem with their credit card while waiting for the USCIS to charge the filing fee and this caused problems.
- The check should be payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Read more USCIS payment details here.
- Wait for your NOA 1 (First Notice of Action) or also known as the Form I-797.
- If you filled out the G-1145 e-notification, you will receive a text message once USCIS receives your K-1 visa application.
- Once you receive the text message or NOA 1, take note of the receipt number. It typically starts with WAC and you can use this receipt number to check your case status online.
- The NOA1 for the K-1 Visa may take a week or two to arrive.
- If they need additional documents or evidence from you, you will receive an RFE notification or the Request for Evidence.
- You will get details on the RFE in the mail, but you will also see online if you got an RFE.
- Double check the boxes and signatures needed in the form I-129F!
- In our case, we forgot to tick ONE box, and that caused our RFE.
- For other’s cases, USCIS may request additional evidence of your relationship’s authenticity or plans of getting married within the 90 days.
- For those who got an RFE, submit the RFE requested the soonest possible.
- Wait for the NOA 2 (Second Notice of Action, Form I-797).
- If your case is approved, USCIS will send you the NOA2.
- You will get a hard copy of this one from the mail. Do not lose this!
- Your online status may also change. In our case, it did not update since our RFE notice.
- Wait until your status says “Case is Ready” or get your NVC number while waiting. NVC stands for National Visa Center.
- Once your K-1 petition is approved, expect the following changes on your online status:
- Case Created
- At NVC: Your application has reached their office
- In Transit: NVC already sent your K-1 visa petition files to your local US Embassy)
- Case Ready: Your files are already at the local US Embassy and can be scheduled for an interview
- Your US citizen petitioner will receive an email from the NVC stating that they forwarded your application to the US Embassy where you will have your interview. Print a copy of this.
- Using Google Hangouts, I called NVC to get my NVC number that I can use to check my status online. Since our US Embassy is in Manila, our NVC number started with MNL. You can find their contacts here.
- The files might take a month or two to arrive to your local US Embassy.
- You will also receive a hard copy of the NVC letter that was emailed to your American petitioner.
- Once your K-1 petition is approved, expect the following changes on your online status:
- Once your case is ready, pay for your Visa Application Fee.
- In the Philippines, it is called MRV Fee.
- This costs 265 USD or its equivalent in Philippine peso.
- Click here to print your MRV Slip which you need to take with you to BPI when paying for the visa fee in cash. Choose the 265 USD MRV Fee.
- Wait from four hours to a day for them to validate your payment.
- You can schedule your K1 visa interview here.
- Even if the interview slots available are far ahead, just choose one. If you find ian earlier date after you have already scheduled your K1 visa interview, you are allowed to reschedule the interview once. More slots will open up since some people who have the medical exam and find out they have to undergo sputum have to cancel their appointment.
- Accomplish your DS-160 before your K1 visa interview. You can do it here.
- Once you already have your interview schedule, you can now schedule your medical exam. This is done at St. Luke’s in Ermita, Manila and not the one in BGC.
- You can complete their form here. The K1 Visa medical exam (SLEC fee) costs 17,025PHP or around 340USD.
- In my case, I did my medical exam in advance so I can reschedule to an earlier interview. I wrote about my K1 visa medical exam experience in detail here.
- Prepare the documents you might need for your K1 visa interview and simulate the interview with your fiance! For a complete list of what you need to prepare for your K1 visa interview, download my checklist here.
- If you want me to practice and coach your fiancee for the interview, you can email me at email@example.com
- Once you have passed the interview, schedule your CFO (Commission on Filipinos Overseas) guidance and counseling seminar.Bring your passport with you because you need the sticker from the CFO seminar to be able to leave the Philippines.
- The CFO seminar fee costs 400 PHP.
K1 Visa Interview Questions
My K1 visa interview was a breeze! The officer at the US embassy was nice and funny. To give you an idea of what questions are asked, here’s what the officer asked me during the K1 visa interview:
- Where was your fiance born? The US or the Philippines? (It was a trick question because he was born in South Korea).
- How did you meet? What did you do in Japan? And in Prague? (My husband and I met when we were teaching in Japan)
- What countries have you visited?
- What does your fiance do?
- Do you know his company?
- Did you like living in Prague?
- Are you a Yankees fan? (He asked this after seeing our photo together at a Yankees game in New York. I answered I have to support Minnesota Twins since I’m moving there and he joked about denying my K1 visa if I were a Yankees fan!)
While mine was fun and light (we were even joking during the interview), the questions for other K1 visa applicants were not as straightforward as mine. We can hear the interview questions while waiting because the consuls’ windows were in front of our line. Here are some of the questions that I overheard during my K1 visa interview:
- Did he send you an affidavit of support?
- How old is your husband? Does he have kids? How old are they? And it’s not awkward that you’re younger than his kids?
- What do you have in common?
- How did you meet?
- Do you have the tax return for 2018?
- Does your husband have a prior marriage?
- What caused the divorce of his previous marriage?
- What are the names of his ex-wives?
- Did you know he’s been arrested? Do you still wish to continue despite the charges against him?
K1 Visa Fees: A Breakdown
Here’s a breakdown of how much you have to prepare if you want to apply for the fiance visa. This does not include other fees such as lawyer fees (we didn’t hire one), police certifications, food, accommodation, etc.
- 535 USD: Application Fee
- 265 USD: K1 Visa Fee (to be paid before scheduling your interview)
- 335 USD: SLEC Fee (Medical exam fee in Manila, Philippines)
- 130 PHP: NBI Clearance
- 210 PHP: Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR)
- 155 PHP: Original Birth Certificate
- 400 PHP: CFO seminar fee
- Total in USD: 1,155 USD
- AOS Application Fee: 1,225 USD
My K1 Visa Timeline
- February 4th, 2019: Sent the I-129F packet for our K1 visa application
- February 10th: 1st Notice of Action (NOA 1)
- May 13th: We found out we have an RFE
- May 16th: Received the hard copy of our RFE (my husband missed ONE tiny box, so make sure you double check!)
- May 21st: Mailed the RFE
- May 31st: RFE received
- June 10th: 2nd Notice of Action (NOA 2, which means our application was approved)
- June 16th: Received the hard copy of 2nd Notice of Action (NOA 2)
- July 3rd: Case was created
- July 12th: At NVC. I called NVC to get my case number which starts with MNL)
- July 23rd: In Transit
- July 25th: Case Ready
- July 27th: Paid for the MRV fee at BPI and I was able to schedule my K1 visa interview the next day
- July 30th to 31st: SLEC Medical Exam
- August 8th: CFO Seminar (I took the seminar in advance just because)
- Sept 10th: Original schedule of interview, but after I passed my medical exam, I was able to reschedule to an earlier K1 visa interview date
- August 22nd: Schedule of K1 visa interview (approved)
- August 23rd: Issued
- August 28th: Received an email from the US Embassy saying that my passport has been picked up by the courier (2GO)
- August 29th: Visa on Hand!
Wow. Just writing my K1 visa timeline brings back all the nerves I felt throughout this visa application process. My heart is literally beating fast right now as I am reminded of how nerve-wracking it was to wait for your medical exam results and get ready for the interview. I’m here in the US now though and we’re married. Now I can’t wait to finally get my green card! The Covid-19 has delayed our interviews and applications, but we’re still thankful that we’re quarantining together and not 8,000 miles apart.
If you have any questions regarding the process, don’t hesitate to comment them down below.