Your fiance’s K1 visa is valid for 6 month from the date it was issued. If your fiance traveled to the US soon after receiving the visa, it is probably still valid for a few months now that you are married. However, the K1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning it will not allow your fiance to remain in the US permanently. To do this, your fiance will have to apply for “adjustment of status.” Adjustment of status is the term used in immigration law to describe changing from nonimmigrant status (K1, B2, U, asylee, etc.) to immigrant status (green card).
How to apply for adjustment of status from a K1?
Applying for adjustment of status from a K1 requires correctly filing several USCIS forms. Every case is different and it is very important to meet with an experienced immigration lawyer to assess your situation.
A K1 adjustment application has two main parts. The actual adjustment application (form I-485 – Application to Adjust Status) and a the adjustment interview. In addition to the I-485 form, you may need to file some or all of the following:
How much does adjustment of status cost?
The filing fee for form I-485 is $1,225 (including $85 for biometrics [digital fingerprints and photo]) for applicants between the ages of 14 and 78. If you are filing for someone older than 78 or younger than 14, make sure to check the special instructions. The other forms (I-864, I-765, etc.) are free as long as you are concurrently filing your I-485. Pay all fees with a personal check or money order to US Department of Homeland Security. USCIS will reject forms filed without the correct fees.
What supporting documentation do I need to send along with the forms?
The supporting documentation needed for an adjustment application is different in every case. However, here is a general checklist and some guidelines when filing a one-step adjustment for a K1 visa holder. In addition to the correct forms you will probably need the following:
- Your marriage certificate. This is the document on which the entire application is based. Do not forget it. Make sure to copy both the front and back.
- Provide solid proof of your bona fide marriage. Remember, the USCIS officer who interviews your spouse will probably not have copies of the proof you submitted with your I-129f (K1 visa) petition. Nor will the officer have the proof you submitted to the consulate before the K1 visa interview. Thus, it is very important you provide comprehensive proof that your marriage is real and you and your spouse intend to create a life together. Such proof should include:
- Rental agreement, lease, mortgage, or deed with both your names;
- Photos from your engagement, marriage, and time you have spent together in the US. Write the name of each person in the photo along with the date and place the photo was taken on the back;
- Bills with both your names listed at the same address;
- Letters addressed to both of you;
- Other documentation of your life together (car loans, bank accounts, letters from friends and family, etc.).
- Provide proof that all previous marriages were terminated. You most likely had to provide this documentation with your K1 visa petition. Send it to them again.
- Show that you can financially support your spouse. USCIS will use the I-864 Affidavit of Support form to determine whether you meet the required minimum income and/or assets under the Federal Poverty Guidelines. You need to support the form with income tax returns, bank statements, and proof of any assets you choose to use in place of income.
- Passport Pictures. How many passport pictures you send depends on which forms you are filing along with your one-step adjustment application. Most likely, you will need to send 2 passport pictures of you and 4 of your spouse. Write the person’s name and date of birth on the back of each photo.
- Copy of your US birth certificate. If you were not born in the United States, you will need a copy of your US citizenship certificate or passport.
- Copy of your spouse’s birth certificate. If the birth certificate (or any other document) is not in English, you will need a certified English translation. Tip: “certified translation” does not mean the translator must have some sort of professional certification. It only means the person who translates the document must certify that he or she is A) fluent in both the original language and the English language and B) that the translator translated all pertinent information contained in the document. Translated documents do not have to be notarized for submission to USCIS with an adjustment application. Do not pay extra for anyone to “notarize” documents you submit to USCIS!
- Copy of the biographical page of your spouse’s passport. The biographical page is the page with your spouse’s picture, the passport issue date, the expiration date, and the place of issue. The passport does not need to be translated because it should already have all the information in English.
- Copy of your spouse’s I-94 and travel history.
Where do I send the adjustment application packet?
Once you have your one-step adjustment packet prepared, you need to file it with USCIS by mailing to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the following addresses, depending on your method of delivery (I recommend double checking the official USCIS site prior to mailing):
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 805887
Chicago, IL 60680-4120
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
How long will the one-step adjustment application take to process?
If you filed everything correctly and USCIS does not send you a Request for Evidence (RFE), processing time for an adjustment of status from a K1 visa is usually 4-6 months. If USCIS sends you an RFE, this could delay processing for 30-90 days after you respond to the RFE.
What happens at the adjustment interview?
The adjustment interview is one of the most stressful parts of the entire immigration process. We see unrealistic depictions of the process in film. We read horror stories online. Here are a few common misconceptions about the adjustment interview:
- The officer will put you and your spouse in separate rooms. Although this can happen later if the officer suspects fraud after the first interview, adjustment interviews begin with everyone together in the same office. Prepare for the interview with your lawyer, bring strong supporting evidence, and answer questions honestly. Chances are, you will only have one adjustment interview and it will be conducted with both of you together.
- The officers are there to trick you. USCIS officers have the difficult job of deciding what is a “bona fide” marriage and what is a “fraudulent” marriage. They have to do this with only documentary evidence and a 10-20 minute interview. Although the officer’s questions may seem rude, sneaky, or insensitive, the goal is not to catch you in a tiny contradiction and deny your spouse’s application. Of course, there are bad officers (just like there are bad professionals in every line of work) but most of them are just trying to do their best in a tough position. Make it easy on them by providing comprehensive evidence, preparing ahead of time, and answering questions honestly.
- Your spouse must do the interview in English. Although doing the interview in English may be a good strategic decision if that is your primary language of communication (and your spouse’s level of fluency is appropriate), it is not required. That said, the USCIS officer will conduct the interview in English. This means you are responsible for arranging for an interpreter to be present at the interview to help your spouse understand and answer questions. Even if your spouse speaks English well, an interpreter may be important to understand all the officer’s questions completely.
- You cannot submit additional evidence at the interview. You definitely can (and should) provide additional evidence of your bona fide marriage at the adjustment interview. This should include pictures, bills, letters, etc. gathered since the time of filing the one-step application.
How do we prepare for the adjustment interview?
During the interview, the officer will review the information you provided on the various forms. The officer will collect any additional evidence you want to submit to prove your marriage is bona fide, along with your spouse’s I-693 sealed medical report if you have not already provided it. The officer will then place both you and your spouse under oath. If you have a lawyer who is accompanying you to your adjustment interview, your lawyer will be in the room with you and your spouse.
Here are some standard adjustment interview questions:
- How did you meet?
- When did you know you wanted to get married?
- What is your favorite thing about your spouse?
- Can you tell me a story from your time together?
- Who proposed?
- Where did (s)he propose?
- Did you say “yes” right away? (If the answer is “no,” why not?)
- Where was the wedding?
- Who attended the wedding?
- Does your family support the marriage?
- Who does what around the house?
- What is his/her mother’s/father’s/sister’s/brother’s name?
- Where was the last place you went on vacation together?
- What is his/her favorite food?
- Who cooks?
- Where does (s)he work?
This is not a comprehensive list of interview questions. Every relationship is different and every interview is different. Use this list as a starting point and try to come up with other questions for each other. Quiz your spouse and let him/her quiz you a little each day. Preparing for the adjustment interview is a great opportunity to get to know each other. If you have a lawyer, ask your lawyer to do a practice interview pretending to be the USCIS officer.
If any of the following apply to your situation, be prepared to answer more specific questions:
- A big age difference. If there is a big age difference between you and your spouse, the USCIS officer will probably ask questions about this.
- A significant language barrier. If you and your spouse do not speak a common language, be prepared to explain to the officer how you communicate. Many people are happily (perhaps more so) married without being able to speak to one another. It is your responsibility to convince the officer this is possible in your case.
- Previous marriages to foreign nationals. If you were previously married to an individual from another country and helped that person adjust status, the officer may be more skeptical of this current marriage. Be prepared to carefully explain the decline of that previous marriage, meeting your current spouse, and the decision to marry again.
- You got your citizenship through marriage to US citizen. USCIS is very skeptical of individuals who got their US citizenship through marriage to a US citizen, divorced that person, and then filed a K1 petition on behalf of a fiance. Officers often suspect the original marriage was fraudulent–just a scheme to get citizenship and petition for the foreign fiance. Be prepared to rebut this presumption.
- Living separately. Sometimes circumstances require you and your spouse to live separately. This is often the case for military service members, defense contractors, and international executives. If you and your spouse are not living together, be prepared with documentation of the reasons and how you plan to maintain a bona fide marriage despite the distance.
What should we suspect after the interview?
At the end of the interview, the officer should tell you whether your case was approved, denied, or if the officer needs more evidence to make a decision. If your case was approved, congratulations! Your spouse should receive a green card in the mail within a few weeks. If your case was denied, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately to see if there is anything that can be done. If the USCIS officer requested additional evidence of your relationship, make sure to provide lots of evidence within the required timeframe.
Remember, until your spouse naturalizes and becomes a US citizen, you must keep USCIS informed of any address changes. Also, because you and your spouse have been married less than two years, USCIS will only grant your spouse “conditional permanent residence.” This means the first green card is only valid for 2 years. 90 days before that conditional green card expires, your spouse must file form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. One year after removing the conditions on permanent residence (3 years after receiving conditional permanent residence based on marriage to a US citizen), your spouse could be eligible to apply for US citizenship!