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The K1 Journey

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So, you have met this terrific gal in Russia or Ukraine and you just know you want to marry this special gal and spend your life with her.  What can you do?   

There are basically two kinds of visa’s that allow a US citizen living in the US to bring a woman he loves to America in the hopes of a life of wedded bliss.   They are known as a K-1 visa and a K-3 visa.   The K-1 visa is also known as a Fiancée visa.   You bring her to the USA and marry her here.   The K-3 is a spousal visa.   You marry her in her country and bring her to America.   We are going to be talking about the K-1 visa and will be giving you both advice and all the knowledge you need to do a visa application.   We will tell you where to get forms and give you step by step instructions for every step of the process.


The most common visa is the K-1 fiancée visa.   There are many reasons for its popularity.  It is usually faster to get a K-1 visa than a K-3 visa.   She has a chance to see how she likes your home and your country before you are both committed to a marriage.  It allows you to spend time in the environment in which you will be living before locking you both into a marriage.

The advantages to a K-3 are that she can be married in front of her family and friends and that is important to some women.   Some of the paperwork is incorporated into the process saving you time later.  There are advantages to both but the most common choice is to use the K-1 visa. 


The K-1 visa is called a fiancée visa.  They call it that for a reason.  It is intended to allow two people who plan to get married 90 days to plan and carry out their wedding ceremony.   It is not to bring a guest to the country for a vacation and to see if you are compatible.   If you both are not ready to make a lifetime commitment to each other you should not use the K-1 visa as a tool to decide that issue.   With the new IMBRA laws that we will talk about here this can be a very foolish mistake.   


Reading the ad’s for the immigration lawyers makes a pretty compelling reason to “let a pro do it”   They will tell you they have a 100% success rate and that your visa will be issued faster and easier.   Typically the fee to have a lawyer do a K-1 for you will run between $ 1000.00 – 2000.00.

The real truth is that the K-1 visa process is pretty straightforward and easy.  For someone who is reasonably careful and has no complicated issues they are far better off doing it themselves.   When you really talk to people pursuing the K-1 route what you will find is that using a lawyer is slower, more apt to have problems, and that you are out of the loop in communications and only find out what the lawyer chooses to tell you.   Why is it slower?   Using a lawyer adds a link to the chain.  Anytime you add a link to the chain you have to end up with a longer chain than you had.   Think of it this way.  Without a lawyer, you fill out the forms and mail them in.   With a lawyer you fill out the forms and send them to him where they sit on his desk until he gets around to sending them in.   If there is a problem (called an RFE) then that notice goes to the lawyer, he contacts you and you send the information, when he gets to it he sends it to the USCIS.  Everything is slower.   The updates about how things are going will go to your lawyer.  With luck he may pass the information along to you and he may not.   Lawyers do so many applications they tend to get careless.   There are far more problems and delays using a lawyer.   Unless there is a good reason most are better off applying for K-1 visa on their own.


You must be a US Citizen.  Both parties must be of legal age to marry.   Both must be free to marry.  The couple must have met within the past two years.   The petitioner must have an income of 125% of the poverty level or more. If your income does not meet 125% of poverty guidelines, you must show proof of assets to show you can afford to do this.


The K-1 process consists of several steps.   Step one is assembling the K-1 Fiancée visa application and sending it to your regional service center along with the payment.   The initial filing fee is currently $455.00.

Paragraph above updated November 2008 on the advice of Greyscales. - Manny

Once you have mailed your packet the first thing you will receive is called an NOA-1  (Notice of Action-1) which will have a receipt number. All it actually means is that your application has been received and that you can use the receipt number to check on your case if you need to. 

Now there is something you can receive that you don’t want to get.  It is called an RFE which is short for “Request for evidence”   What it means is that there is a problem with your application and it will spell out what you need.  It could be a missing form or document.  It could be some area they want more information on.   I would estimate that 90% of the applications are approved without an RFE.   If you carefully follow all the instructions here your odds will be better than that.

Next in line is the NOA-2.   Most people are jumping up and down with joy when this arrives.  It means the regional center has approved your visa application and forwarded it to the NVC (National Visa Center)

The stay in NVC is usually pretty short.   They do a name check for criminal records, DV charges and the like.  They assign it a case number and then forward it to the appropriate Embassy.
Ok, your file is sent to Moscow.   The Moscow embassy puts the interview dates online and can be checked with the MOS number that was assigned to your file at NVC.  Usually your fiancée receives her packet before they get around to updating their website.    Some embassies do what is called a packet 3 and a packet 4.   Moscow combines them.  Your fiancée will get a packet with forms to fill out and instructions of what she needs to do to be ready.  She will also get an assigned time for her interview.   In Ukraine she will get a packet (3) with a checklist.  When she returns that packet indicating she has everything ready they will assign an interview date.

Prior to the interview she will need to get a police report for everyplace she has lived and she will need a medical exam at one of the approved clinics.   She will need some documentation and some information from you.   I will discuss this more later.  She will need to fill out the forms they send her. 

For the interview she needs to be at the embassy at the assigned time.  Being late is the same as not going.  They won’t let her in.   You are not allowed to attend.  She will go through security, get a number and wait until she is called to a window for her interview.  They will keep her passport and if all goes well send it in a few days with her visa inserted.   She has 180 days to come to America and must marry within 90 days or return to her country.

Now, if she has a child the child if under age 21 may accompany her on her visa.  His is called a K-2 visa.   If the child is under 16 the child will need the permission from his father.   Sometimes this can be the difficult part of it all and often a bribe is required to get permission from the father.

So how long does all this take? Usually it takes anywhere from six to nine months.  There are two service centers for the USCIS that process K1 applications; Vermont and California.

Last paragraph above edited by Manny due to rule change on advice of Freebird.


Good sources of additional information are.

USCIS website

Moscow Embassy website
Kiev Embassy website

An internet forum devoted to all phases of the visa process.

Commercial site with source of visa information, translations and affordable help with a visa application


The fastest way to obtain the forms is the visit the USCIS website at

Forms may be downloaded and you can print them yourself or
You can order them and have them sent by mail.

The forms you need for your initial filing for a K-1 visa are

I-129-F   Application for a fiancée visa.
G-325-A    Two copies!  You need one for you and one for your fiancée.  I would like to mention that if you print your own forms you need 4 copies for each of you.  You should sign each page and use blue ink so it does not look like a photo copy.  If you use the USCIS printed forms press hard as it is going through all 4 pages.

You will need an I-134 (Affidavit of support) for the interview and if you are ordering the forms by mail, it may be easier to get it at the same time.

The following is what you should send in your packet.  These are explained in more detail later.

1.   Payment, check or money order made payable to “Department of Homeland Security” in the amount of $ 170.00
2.   Cover letter stating what you are filing for and including a list of enclosed documents
3.   Form 129-F, petition for Alien Fiancée
4.   Form G-325-A filled out buy the US petitioner (4 pages signed and dated)
5.   One passport style photo of petitioner with full name on back (in pencil) Attach a plastic bag to a sheet of paper and enclose in packet.
6.   Form G-335-A filled out by the foreign beneficiary (4 pages signed and dated)
7.   One passport style photo of fiancée with full name on back (in pencil)
8.   Original statements (from both the US Citizen and foreign fiancée) certifying an intent to marry within 90 days of entering the US.
9.   Copy of birth certificate (front and back) for U.S. Citizen.
10.    Copy of final Divorce Decree for the US Citizen and foreign fiancée if either has been previously married
11.    One letter of intent to marry for the petitioner addressed to the service center.
12.    One letter of intent to marry for the beneficiary (fiancée) addressed to the service center.
13.    Proof of meeting within the last 2 years.    At least 4 photos of the couple together, boarding passes, hotel receipts, etc.
14.   Copies of any documents required for IMBRA if there are convictions for Domestic abuse, substance abuse or if a waver is required for previous K-1 fileings.

Packet should be assembled using two hole acco fasteners at the top of the page.

If you live in one of these States, mail your petition to the Vermont Service Center:
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware,Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden St.
Saint Albans, Vermont 05479

If you live in one of these states, mail your petition to the California Service Center: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
P.O. Box 10130
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1013

*Note: 2008 update - The Nebraska and Texas centers have been closed - topic edited accordingly*

Once you have mailed your packet the first thing you will receive is the  NOA-1  (Notice of Action-1) which we talked about before.  It will have a receipt number and lets you know your application has been received.   With the receipt number you can check your case if you need to. 

With the consolidation of service centers, the processing time to receive an NOA-1 has increased.  Vermont typically processes your packet and issues the NOA-1 a few days faster than California.  For timing purposes, expect your packed to take anywhere from a few days to a week to arrive at the service center.  Once at the service center, processing and issuance of your NOA-1 could be 2 or 3 weeks.  Once processed, anticipate about a weeks before you receive your NOA-1 in the mail.

The NOA-1 has 2 dates listed on it: The date your packed was received by the service center, followed by the date they created the NOA-1 and shipped the paperwork to you.  There is also a spot listing the amount of money they received from you.  It is recommended that you verify this is the amount you sent – no sense sending the service center an amount only to have them record a different amount.

If you discover any mistakes on the information contained on the NOA-1, it is important that you notify the service center in writing immediately.  Reference your receipt number(found in the upper left corner of your NOA-1) in your correspondence so the service center can correct any errors.

If you receive a RFE which is short for “Request for evidence”, don’t panic.   It will tell you what you need to send them and usually the problem is quickly resolved.

The NOA-2 is next.  Processing times vary between the two processing centers, but are currently running between 120 and 150 days.  Receipt of an NOA-2 means the regional center has approved your visa application and forwarded it to the NVC (National Visa Center)

At NVC you are assigned a case number.   Your case number may be something like MOS-2007529013.  Those numbers have a meaning and it is not that important but the MOS means it will be sent to the Moscow Embassy.  The next 4 digits are the year it was processed.   The next 3 numbers are the chronological date + 500.   In other words,  January 29th would be the 29th day of the year.  December 31st would be the 365th day of the year.  Add that number to 500 and that is where those numbers come from.  The last three digits are the order the case was worked on that day.  In my example it would have been the 13th case worked on for January 29th of 2007.  Those using the Kiev Embassy will have a number starting with KEV.

The stay at NVC can be as short as a few days and usually is not much more than a few weeks.   You will get a letter saying that your file has been sent to the embassy and giving you your new case number.


Once your file arrives in Moscow (or Kiev),  You need to be making your final preparations.   The Police report that is required sometimes takes a while to get.  It is good for one year from the date it is issued so getting it early is a good idea.

The procedure is different for each Embassy.   Many Embassies have a packet 3 and a packet 4.  Kiev does it that way but Moscow combines them.  Those using the Kiev embassy will receive a packet 3 and a check list.  Once she returns the KEV-1 form notifying them she is ready they will set an interview date usually in 4-5 weeks.   Moscow will send a packet with the date already assigned.  Note: The staff in the Embassy in Moscow are indicating it is possible packets sent in Russia will not arrive in time for the interview.  Provided your lady is on the list, the Embassy staff indicate she will be interviewed.  The Fiance(e) Visa page for Moscow, located at states she must have her invitation letter.  As of January 2009, both the Consulate and the Embassy staff indicate an interviewee will not be turned away - again, provided they are on the list. (Edited by GreyScales January 2009)

For Moscow the online K-1 Visa Schedule is at (English)
* Above edited to reflect current web locations for the Moscow Schedule.

Ukraine does not post he schedules online but more information can be obtained at

She will need to provide the following at the interview.

1. A valid International Passport with a photocopy of the first page.  They will keep this and return it with the visa fixed inside.

2.  An original birth certificate with along with a photocopy and an English translation.

3.  A police report in all names as well as all dates of birth ever used. Police certificate must contain references to each place in which the applicant lives or has lived for more than six months since attaining the age of 16.
4.  Evidence of termination of prior marriage (if applicable), original, photocopy and translation into English.

5.  Accompanying child requires a valid passport (or may be included in the parent's passport), a birth certificate and a medical examination. If a child is 16 years of age or over, police certificates are required. Translations of the indicated documents are required as well.

6.  (3) black-and-white or color photos taken against a white or off - white background (5 x 5 sm) for visa which are basically passport style photos.

7.  (3) photos of passport size for medical exam.
8.  Visa application fee of $100 (or the ruble equivalent) per person, payable at the Embassy on the day of interview.  Must be in cash. Moscow now asks for $131 (or the ruble equivalent)

9.  A new letter of intent to marry from both addressed to the Embassy.

10.  Documents confirming relationship: photos of Petitioner and Beneficiary together, letters to each other, phone bills, airplane tickets, emails, etc.

11.  Results of Medical Examination in a sealed envelope.   (clinic info following)

12.  A prepaid DHL mailer.  (There is a DHL office on the lower level of the building to the right of the north entrance of the US Embassy in Moscow.   Ukraine applicants need a FedEx mailer and it can be purchased at the Embassy at the time of the interview.

There is information that she will need from you at the time of the interview.  They include:

1.   A letter from your employer stating position, salary, likelihood of your continued employment.
2.   A letter from your bank stating your balance, your average balance, how long you have had your account  (or the last 12 months bank statements)
3.   A copy of the last year’s tax return if you are an employee or the last three years returns if you are self employed.
4.   W-2’s for the last year.
5.   Three consecutive recent pay stubs.
6.   I-134 Affidavit of Support, signed and notarized.
7.   A new letter of intent to marry addressed to the Moscow embassy.

American Embassy Moscow
Consular Section
21 Novinskiy Bulvar
123242 Moscow

U.S. Embassy Consular Section
Immigrant Visa Section
6 Pimonenko Street
01901 Kiev

This topic was updated November 2008. Our thanks to Greyscales for the edits.


She should receive her visa in about one week following the interview.  The embassy always will tell you not to buy any airline tickets until after the visa is in hand.   That is very good advice.  Problems and delays can happen.


1.  Visa denial!   With K-1 visa applications denials are not common.   It can happen but usually only when they believe visa fraud is probable.

2.   221-G  (also called intent to deny)  This is a blue slip when something is lacking in the interview.  It may be a form that is missing or that they are not convinced you have proven a continuing relationship.   Usually the 221-G will spell out what they want or what they want more proof of.   You have 60 days to produce the evidence and it can be dropped of at the 221-G box at the north gate of the Moscow embassy from 2-4 pm any working day or mailed to the embassy.   If you fail to provide proof it becomes a denial and the file is returned to NVC where you may appeal.  Instructions for Kiev are printed on the 221-G

3.  Administrative processing / Administrative Review.   Something that has been happening more frequently since the IMBRA laws have been passed has been a long delay between the interview and mailing the visa which is caused by FBI security checks not being completed.   This delay can be weeks or months.   It can also occur at the NVC level if either name gets a hit on any of the data bases the check.   Delays at the NVC level can be much longer.  Currently there are 235,000 cases in A/R with 65 % lasting more than 90 days and 38% taking more than one year.


The clinics approved for K-1 visa applications from Russia are

International Organization for Migration, telephone (7-095) 797-8723,
AO Meditsina, telephone (7-095) 250-9186 or 250-8899. 
Children's Hospital no. 1, Vladivostok.  Tel. (4232) 40-13-35 or (4232) 45-24-26.

IOM has results the same day and is $ 75.00.  AOM has results the following morning and is $ 100.00.  The reports are that people are treated much better at AOM

The clinic approved for K-1 visa applications from Ukraine are:

Clinic for Oil-Refining Industry of Ukraine
8, Mykoly Amosova St.
Kyiv, Ukraine
Telephone: 044-270-2709, 044-275-4181
E-mail address:

2008 update to clinic detail - credit to Cisco

Per-person fee for a medical exam is no more then $75 for adults and children. The Clinic performs medical examinations any

Working day (Monday through Friday), between 8.00am and 12.00pm.

TIP,  Have her ask for a copy of her vaccination records.   It will save you time and money in the USA later.

Once the visa is approved she has 180 days to come to the United States and 90 days to either get married or return to her country.    She can not leave the country during this time.   Do not plan a marriage or honeymoon in the Bahamas or Mexico or make any plans to leave the country. 

About 2-3 weeks after she arrives you should apply for a social security number for her.   Once you are married you must apply for AOS  (adjustment of Status)


As part of the Violence against women act the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBRA) went into effect on March 6th of 2006

The parts of the law that affect the K-1 visa include new disclosure regulations that require K-1 visa petitions to provide information on his criminal convictions for specified crimes, including violent offenses, domestic abuse and sexual assault.

At the interview the fiancée is given a pamphlet on domestic abuse and any criminal background in your record is discussed with her.  Her being unaware of episodes in your life is grounds for denial of the visa application.

For the first time there are now limitations placed on the filing of K Visa petitions. There are two types of limits. 

You are allowed only two K-1 visas in your lifetime.

You can not apply for a K-1 visa for a different fiancée within two years of the filing of a previously approved K-1 visa. 

The option to apply for a third visa or for a visa within 2 years of the previous application is to petition homeland security for a visa waver.   This is done with the K-1 visa application and is basically a letter giving all the statistical information and providing a reason you should be granted a waver.   The examples provided by the USCIS are rather harsh.

Until spring 2007 visa wavers seemed to be automatic.  Now there are starting to be denials of K-1 visa applications with wavers included.   Obtaining an approval with a waver may become much more difficult as time passes and the guidelines for the new laws are implemented.   It is far better to be sure when doing a K-1 visa.

Here are some links with more information:

Here is a blog with a lot of good information about IMBRA

Here is a link to the actual law.

I have just updated this topic with some suggested edits and factual corrections from the original author Turboguy and other information and edits have been supplied by our members Greyscales and Cisco.

If anyone spots anything else that needs updating on this topic, please add it.


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