Preparing the Form I-129F Fiancé Visa Petition

How a U.S. citizen should start the process of bringing a foreign-born person to the U.S. on a K-1 visa for purposes of getting married.

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

To begin the process of applying for a K-1 fiancé visa (allowing a foreign citizen to enter the U.S and spend 90 days, with the purpose of marrying a U.S. citizen), the first person the U.S. government wants to hear from is the U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen will be responsible for preparing what's called a fiancé visa petition, on Form I-129F, basically requesting the U.S. government to invite the foreign-born person to continue the visa application process. It's available as a free download on the Form I-129F page of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website (though you will need to pay a fee to submit it).

Make sure to get the most recent version of this form—USCIS will not accept out-of-date versions. This discussion refers to the version of the form issued 04/01/24.

The immigrant plays a minor role at this step, but should help the petitioning U.S. citizen fiancé gather information and documents.

Line-by-Line Instructions for I-129F Visa Petition

CAUTION: Don't confuse your forms. Form I-129F is the proper one to use for a fiancé visa petition. There is another USCIS form called simply I-129, without the letter F. It is completely different, being used to petition for foreign workers (and much longer).

Form I-129F asks first for information about the U.S. citizen half of the couple (the "petitioner") then asks for information about the immigrating fiancé.

Part 1. Information About You

Question 1: The Alien Registration Number or A-Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following the letter "A" (for "Alien") that USCIS (or the former INS) assigns to people who applied for permanent or in some cases temporary residence, or have been in deportation/removal proceedings. It is odd for USCIS to ask this of the U.S. citizen petitioner, because even if that person once held a green card, after becoming a citizen, that number becomes irrelevant. Nevertheless, USCIS might want to check your immigration file, so you should fill this in with your old A number.

Question 2: See above answer; a U.S. citizen might not have any relevant USCIS online account numbers unless they naturalized, in which case do provide the number.

Question 3: The U.S. citizen will most likely have a Social Security Number, and should enter it here.

Questions 4-5: If you are not yet married, choose 4.a. If you are married, but wish to use the K-3 visa in hopes of achieving faster entry into the U.S. before filing for a green card, choose 4.b and make sure you can also answer "yes" to Question 5. (This article does not discuss K-3 visas; for more information on them, see Chart: What to Expect When Sponsoring a Fiancé or Spouse for a Green Card.)

Question 6: The U.S. citizen must enter their last name (surname) first, then other name(s). Always spell out the entire middle name.

Question 7: This question is so that USCIS won't become confused if any other names you've used also appear in your paperwork. If you have had other names by previous marriages, include these here, as well as any legal name changes.

Questions 8-12: The U.S. citizen must enter address information and history.

Questions 13-20: The U.S. citizen must enter employment information and history.

Questions 21-36: Largely self-explanatory biographical information about the U.S. citizen and parents. For Question 23, check only one box, and make sure it is not the one that says "married." A couple can't be already married and use a K-1 fiancé visa.

Questions 37-39. These questions about previous marriages are important. USCIS wants to ascertain whether you can legally marry again. Make sure that under Date Marriage Ended you give the date the divorce became final, not the date you two split up housekeeping. USCIS will accept only a final divorce as proof that the marriage ended.

Questions 40-42: Indicate the basis upon which you have U.S. citizenship. If it was obtained through naturalization, the number can be found on the certificate. The date and place issued are also shown there.

Questions 43-49: If you have tried to or succeeded in sponsoring other non-citizen fiancés, USCIS will surely take a look at those files to make sure there was no fraud involved. The agency knows that it is possible for a U.S. citizen to fall in love with more than one foreign-born person, and for the first marriage to end. But there are U.S. citizens who charge money to marry and sponsor noncitizens, and USCIS is on the lookout for them.

Questions 50-51: USCIS wants to know where, outside your current state of residence, it might find records on you.

Part 2. Information About Your Beneficiary

Now the form turns to questions about the foreign-born fiancé.

Questions 1-9: Largely self-explanatory. For Question 3, the immigrant won't have a Social Security number unless they've lived in the United States. For Question 6, check only one box, and make sure it is not the one that says "married."

Question 10: If the foreign-born fiancé has had other names by previous marriages, include these here, as well as any legal name changes or even nicknames.

Questions 11-15: These require mailing and address history for the immigrating fiancé.

Questions 16-33: These questions cover the immigrant's address and employment history and identity of parents (all possibly to be used by the U.S. government for background checks.)

Question 34-36: These questions relate to the eligibility requirement that previous marriages must have ended through valid means such as divorce or death.

Questions 37-38: You likely do not need to fill out this question, assuming that the immigrant is currently not in the United States. (If the immigrant is visiting, remember that they will need to return home in order to complete the K-1 fiancé visa application process—and must do so in a timely manner, without overstaying.)

Questions 39-44: These ask about all the immigrant's children, whether born of this current relationship or a previous one. See Bringing Children Along on a K-1 Fiancé Visa (K-2 Visas) for more on this.

Questions 45-46: Hopefully the intended address in the United States is the same as that of the U.S. citizen fiancé, or USCIS will raise questions. Even if the two of you will spend some time apart, such as for school or work, the married home should be the immigrant's permanent address. If there is a compelling reason that the immigrant will have a completely separate residence, attach documents to explain why, or consult with a lawyer.

Questions 47-48: This covers the immigrating fiancé's current overseas address and phone number.

Questions 49-50: If the visa applicant's native language uses a non-Roman script (for example, Russian, Chinese, or Arabic) write the name and address in that script.

Questions 51-52: If you and your fiancé are related by blood, you will need to make sure that marriage between you is legally permissible in the U.S. state where it will take place.

Questions 53-54: There's not enough space in which to fully answer what's requested in Question 54, so you will want to check yes for Question 53 and use Part 8 (for "additional information") to describe your meeting. Or, if you have to check no to Question 53, Part 8 is where you would need to explain why you qualify for a waiver of the personal meeting requirement. Although the main purpose is to show that you have fulfilled the personal meeting requirement, this answer presents a fine opportunity to include extra detail about your life with your fiancé. The idea is to show USCIS that this is a real relationship. Give enough personal detail that USCIS sees that you are for real, not just making empty statements.

Questions 55-61: These questions result from a relatively recent focus of Congressional concern regarding so-called "mail-order" spouses (who meet through the services of an international matchmaking agency). This group of immigrant has been shown to be especially susceptible to domestic violence and abuse by the U.S. citizen petitioners. In response, Congress passed the International Marriage Brokers Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA). IMBRA requires a statement as whether the two of you met through an international marriage broker. If so, you must give information about the broker.

Question 62: Enter the name of the U.S. embassy or consulate with a visa processing office in the K-1 visa applicant's country; or if none exists, the one with power to handle visa requests from that country. (Don't fret too much about getting it wrong; USCIS will redirect your application for you when it approves the petition.)

Part 3. Other Information

Now the questions once again refer to the U.S. citizen petitioner.

Questions 1-4: A U.S. citizen petitioner who has a history of violent crime, crime relating to alcohol, or controlled substance abuse might be required to reveal this to USCIS. The petitioner should see an attorney if there is any question about whether this section applies. The K-1 fiancé visa applicant will also be told of any relevant history.

Question 5: This needs to be filled out only if the U.S. petitioner is requesting a waiver of the bar raised by having filed multiple petitions for immigrants or having relevant criminal convictions. Definitely get a lawyer's help if this is the case.

Part 4. Biographic Information

This still concerns the U.S. citizen, who must enter ethnicity, race, and other identifying information.

Part 5: Petitioner's Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature

The U.S. citizen needs to fill out, sign, and date the form, including assurances that the citizen understands it. Also add contact information.

Part 6: Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

If you got help translating from another language to English for purposes of filling out this form, the interpreter must fill this section out and sign it.

Part 7: Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Petition, If Other Than the Petitioner

This need not be filled in if you just got a little help from a friend. This line is mainly for lawyers or agencies who fill out these forms on others' behalf. They will know what to do here.

Part 8: Additional Information

Use this for materials that didn't fit in previous sections. You can make copies of this page if you need even more space.

When you're done, be sure to see Preparing Documents to Accompany Form I-129F Fiancé Visa Petition.

What Is the Filing Fee for Form I-129F?

As of mid-2024, the fee to file this form with USCIS is $675. Accepted payment methods include a money order, personal check, cashier's check, or credit or debit card, using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If paying by check, make it out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

How Long It Takes USCIS to Process Form I-129F Visa Petition

Expect delays. After you've submitted Form I-129F, USCIS will, normally within approximately a few weeks, send a receipt notice on Form I-797. The receipt notice will contain your name and in the top left-hand corner, a case receipt number This both confirms that your case is in processing and allows you to track it through USCIS Case Status Online.

You can also get a more general sense of how your case will take to process by using the USCIS Processing Times Information website. Typical turnaround times ranged from 7 months to 2 years in mid-2024.

Getting Legal Help

Every immigration process can be handled more smoothly and easily by an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney can analyze the facts of your case and spot any potential problems, prepare the I-129F and other paperwork, draft a cover letter to USCIS, and monitor the progress toward approval of a K-1 visa.

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