Wedding Guide

What Is a K-1 Visa? ’90 Day Fiance’ Myths and Facts

posted: 10/14/14
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Episode 2 Sneak Peek

While "90 Day Fiance" is all about international love stories and the awkward acclimations that come along with them, there's a lot more to being a "90 Day Fiance" than simply getting on a plane and walking down the wedding aisle. The show derives its title from the 90-day period for which these "fiance visas" are valid, and there are more than a few hoops that the fianc?s have to jump through before that deadline arrives. The 90-day visa is actually a K-1 visa issued through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and it gives them a small, roughly three-month window in which to get married. If they're not married at the end of the 90 days, they must leave the country. As if pre-wedding jitters weren't enough!

So what is a K-1 visa and how does it help or hinder the men and women of "90 Day Fiance" in getting to the U.S.? Read on to get all the details about the visas you hear about on the show.

FACT: K-1 visas are only for foreign-born fiances

K-1 visas permit a foreign-born fiance to travel to the U.S. in order to marry his or her "sponsor" (the Bureau of Consular Affairs' chilly term for "United States-based fiance") within 90 days of arriving. If the couple hasn't married by the end of that time period, the foreign-born fiance must leave the country.

MYTH: A K-1 visa = citizenship

Though a K-1 visa is definitely a huge step in the path to citizenship, there is a process in place, even after you get married. After the wedding, a K-1 visa allows the holder to receive a green card with conditions. After two years, the couple can renew the green card without those conditions, according to Katie Tichacek Kaplan, a public affairs officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

MYTH: The process is short and sweet

Besides several forms, a fiance applying for a K-1 visa must have a passport, a divorce or death certificate (of their prior spouse, if previously married), police certificates from your country of residence, medical examination records, evidence of financial support (or the ability to provide for yourself), and evidence of their relationship with your U.S. fiance, including proof you've met at least once within two years of filing your petition. Though each case is different, the entire process usually takes a minimum of several months to process.

FACT: An interview is required - and the questions are pretty specific!

Yes, after a visa petition has been approved, the foreign-born fiance must go to his or her Embassy for an interview. Often, the fiance will have to prove the legitimacy of his or her relationship with photos, correspondence, etc (easy for our "90 Day Fiance" lovebirds!). The consular officer will also ask questions about the foreign-born fiance's background, the United States fiance and your relationship and wedding plans. Though the questions are not made available by the government sites, plenty of lawyers and people who have been through the process have shared them online. They can range from "Have you ever been arrested?" to "What do you love about your fiance?" to "How many times have you met in person - where and when?"

MYTH: The number of K-1 visas granted is rising

The number of K-1 visas has actually declined over the past five years -- by 25 percent. In 2013, there were approximately 30,000 K-1 visas granted (Report of the Visa Office 2013).

FACT: Most K-1 visa applications are approved

In the past five years (2009-2013), the average percentage of K-1 visas that were refused was just 3.3 percent, with the number declining over the past five years (Report of the Visa Office 2013).

FACT: Most K-1 visas recipients come from the Philippines.

The top 5 countries sending people over on K-1 visas include (Report of the Visa Office 2013):

  • The Philippines 20.9%
  • China 4.7%
  • Mexico 4.7%
  • Colombia 4.3%
  • Dominican Republic 3.81%

UNDETERMINED: How many K-1 visa marriages withstand the test of time

On the show, the couples constantly face criticisms about their love story, with accusations that the international fiance doesn't have pure intentions. Though the couples on season 1 all got married and are still together today, we wondered if they were the exception, or the rule.

Unfortunately, Kaplan informed us that statistics about how many K-1 visa recipients go on to get married and get green cards aren't readily available: "Because the applications for green cards are paper-based, not electronic, some of the requested data just isn't available. In this case, current status (aka what type of visa a person holds when they apply for a green card) are not always reported in our data systems, so we can't get a complete picture of how many green card holders started off as K-1 visa holders."

For more information on K-1 visas, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State. For information about green cards, visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

90 Day Fiance airs Sundays at 10/9c on TLC.

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