A K-1 Visa is a travel document that allows a foreign fiance of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for the sole purpose of getting married.
There are two major steps to obtaining a K1 Visa for a fiance: The first step involves the filing of a Petition for the foreign fiance by the U.S. citizen (also known as the “petitioner”). The Petition is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and must be sent to the appropriate USCIS Service Center which is based upon the geographic residency of the U.S. citizen. Once USCIS approves the petition, the application is sent to the National Visa Center to perform security checks. The National Visa Center will forward it to the U.S. embassy consulate of your fiance. The consular officer will notify you when the approved petition is received and provide you the necessary forms and instructions to apply for a K-1 visa.
The fiance is free to enter the United States once a valid K1-Visa is issued. Once the fiance enters the United States, the marriage between the petitioner and the fiance must take place within 90 days, or if the fiance marries someone other than the petitioner, the fiance must leave the United States after 90 days.
U.S. citizens who will marry a foreign national in the United States may file a petition. The U.S. citizen and fiance must be free to marry. This means that they are both unmarried, or that any previous marriages have ended in divorce, death or annulment. The couple must also have met in person (at least once) within the last two years prior to the filing of the Petition. There are extraordinary circumstances in which the couple will not be required to have met, including religious and extreme hardship cases.
No. The fiance must leave the country if he/she does not marry after the 90 day period. They may not re-enter the U.S. again under the same visa. They may, however, re-enter the U.S. after approval of a completely new K1 Visa by starting the entire process again with the same petitioner or new petitioner.
The problem is that a main condition of both a tourist visa and the visa waiver program is your fiance's sworn promise that they only plan to visit the U.S., not immigrate here. The Department of State ("DOS") and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") assume that intent to marry a U.S. citizen is the same as intent to immigrate. If your fiance enters the U.S. as a tourist, without disclosing that they are your fiance and intend to marry you, they have committed visa fraud. If the USCIS later decides that this is the case, they could be removed (i.e., deported) and it will be almost impossible for them to come back, even though they are married to you.
In theory, it is possible for someone to obtain a tourist visa for the express purpose of coming to the U.S. to marry. The problem is, to do this safely, they must disclose their intention when they apply for their tourist visa, and convince the consular interviewer that they truly intend to return to their home country after your marriage. For obvious reasons, this can be difficult to do, because the Consulates know that the K-1 fiance visa is available as an alternative. Even if the tourist visa is given, there is also a possibility that your fiance could be "turned back at the border" when they try to enter into the U.S. if the inspecting officer does not believe your fiance really intends to return home after your wedding. Finally, if you use this option, your fiance will have to return home after your wedding, and you will need to apply for a K-3 spouse visa or other appropriate immigration visa for them to be able to return to the U.S. a process that is just as complicated and lengthy as obtaining a K1 fiance visa in the first place.
Using the K1 fiance visa avoids all of the problems noted above, and is the only appropriate way for a foreign fiance to come to the U.S. to marry.