How Fiancés of U.S. Citizens Can Bring Children Along on K-2 Visas

Steps to obtaining K-2 visas for children of someone entering the U.S. on a K-1 fiancé visa to marry a U.S. citizen.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

If you receive a K-1 fiancé visa with which to enter the U.S. and get married to a U.S. citizen, your unmarried children under the age of 21, whether or not they are the biological children of your U.S. citizen fiancé, might be eligible to accompany you on "K-2" visas. Let's look at the details of the application process here, including:

  • the definition of a K-2 visa
  • the definition of "children" for K-2 visa purposes
  • why biological children of the U.S. citizen might already be U.S. citizens themselves and won't need K-2 visas
  • steps in the K-2 visa application process, and
  • the need for speed if any of your children might turn 21 before not only getting a K-2 visa but using it to enter the United States.

What Is a K-2 Visa and Who Is Eligible for One?

A K-2 visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) U.S. visa, and not one that a foreign national can apply for separately, but rather is a derivative visa option available to the minor (under 21) unmarried children of a K-1 visa applicant. It's based on the fact that the K-1 applicant has a direct relationship to the U.S. citizen, due to their engagement; while the child or children presumably do not, but will be legally considered "stepchildren" after the marriage. (For the U.S. citizen to actually adopt these children will require a separate legal procedure.)

In other words, the K-2 visa attempts to ensure that a foreign national who is engaged to a U.S. citizen and is applying for a K-1 visa doesn't have to leave children behind.

Who Are Considered "Children" for K-2 Visa Purposes?

The term "children" includes not only natural children, but adopted children and any born out of wedlock, if the foreign national's home country legally recognizes them as such. (See U.S. immigration regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(3).)

Don't be confused by the fact that already-married applicants for U.S. green cards need to prove that their children fit the definition of "stepchildren," by showing that the parents' marriage took place before the children turned 18. You, as a fiancé visa applicant, don't need to fit those criteria. The only reason we even mention it is that U.S. immigration officials themselves sometimes get confused and try to deny K-2 fiancé visas to children who are over 18 but still under age 21. If this happens to you, understand that the official has gotten the laws mixed up, and point them to the regulations mentioned above.

Do Out-of-Wedlock Children of the U.S. Citizen Need K-2 Visas?

If we're talking about a situation where the overseas child is the biological offspring of a U.S. citizen parent (most likely the father), then the child might already be a U.S. citizen. This happens automatically, by a legal concept known as "acquisition." Such a child would not need a K-2 visa. Other legal conditions must be met, however; in sum, that the U.S. citizen parent have lived in the United States for a certain time period and, if it's the father, that he legitimated the child before it turned 18.

Also see U.S. Citizenship by Birth or Through Parents.

How Do Children Apply for K-2 Visas?

Your children will have to go through the same (or a very similar) visa application process as you, as described next.

K-2 Visa Step One: U.S. Citizen Includes Names on Parent's Form I-129F

At the beginning of the application process, all the U.S. citizen sponsor needs to do is to include the children's names in Part 2 of the Petition for Alien Fiancé (Form I-129F) that they file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After USCIS approves this petition, the case file will be transferred to the U.S. Department of State for handling.

K-2 Visa Step Two: Apply to U.S. Consulate for Visa

K visas are handled by U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. The consular officials that will ultimately handle the visa case should send extra sets of the various required forms for the K-1 applicant's children to fill out, or give instructions for them to fill out forms online.

For young children, it's okay for a parent to fill out a form and even sign on their behalf. (Just sign your name, then write Parent of [name of your child].)

The consulate will also send instructions for medical exams and needed documentation (described below). They will need to pay individual visa fees.

K-2 Step Three: Enter the United States

Like the K-1 visa, a K-2 is valid for U.S. entry for only 90 days. In most cases, K-2 holders choose to enter on the same day as the K-1 parent, but it's not legally required. For example, the K-1 parent might want to arrive earlier to finalize wedding plans, while the children finish school and then catch up.

K-2 Step Four: Apply for U.S. Residence (Optional)

After the adult foreign national and U.S. citizen petitioner get married and apply for a green card (to "adjust status" to lawful permanent residence), each K-2 child may apply as well (assuming they continue to qualify; that is, they haven't gotten married or become inadmissible, and didn't turn 21 before U.S. entry).

Each child will need to submit (by mail) a separate application for adjustment of status to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); most likely along with the parent, as outlined in Applying to Adjust Status After Entry on K-1 Visa: Forms and Procedures.

Documents Required for a K-2 Visa

Each child will need to show proof of their relationship to the immigrating K-1 parent, such as a birth certificate or adoption certificate (possibly with English-language translation).

The children will also, like the K-1 applicant parent, have to submit documentation proving that they are not inadmissible to the U.S. and that they will be financially supported along with the immigrating fiancé. Additionally, they will to supply their own medical exam reports, photos, and passports.

Act Quickly If Any of Your Children Will Turn 21 Soon

For planning purposes, note that the children must remain unmarried and under age 21 right up to the day they enter the United States on their K-2 visas. Fortunately, if you alert U.S. immigration authorities to an upcoming 21st birthday, they can usually speed up the processing for you.

(Unfortunately, a law you might have heard of called the Child Status Protection Act does not protect children on fiancé visas from the loss of visa rights caused by turning 21.)

For further explanation, see Timing Issues When K-2 Child of Fiance Visa Holder Will Turn 21 Before Adjusting Status.



Check your own country's law on removing your children if their other parent is staying behind. If you are planning to bring children to the United States who are not the biological children of your fiancé, it will be up to you to comply with your country's custody requirements. Even if the children are legally in your custody, you might need to get written consent from the other parent for you to take the children out of your country.

How Much Will a K-2 Visa Cost?

During the first step of the process, when the U.S. citizen petitions for the foreign national fiancé on Form I-129F, there is no added cost to include children. After that, however, separate costs and fees will need to be paid for each child individually. They will be treated almost as individual applicants, who must file their own set of forms, have their own medical exams done, and so on. For a breakdown of these various costs, see What's Better for Low-Income Couples: K-1 Fiancé Visa or Marriage-Based Immigrant Visa?.

How Long Does a K-2 Visa Last?

There are two issues with how long this (or any) nonimmigrant visa lasts:

  • how long it will be valid for U.S. entry, and
  • how long a stay in the United States it will allow.

The expiration date of the K-2 visa will be shown on the visa itself. Normally it is six months. In other words, the K-1 and K-2 visa holders can enter the United States any time during that six-month period.

Also like the K-1, a K-2 visa allows a U.S. stay of only 90 days. No renewals or extensions are possible.

A K-2 visa holder who applies to adjust status (get a green card) can then stay longer, and possibly permanently. Applying to adjust status is not required. Some children might prefer to return to their home country (for example, to live with the other parent). That's alright, but they must return within those 90 days or find some other immigration status to apply for.

Getting Legal Help

If you have more questions, or would like help analyzing your eligibility or preparing the paperwork, it could be well worth the cost to consult an experienced immigration attorney.

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