K1 Fiancee Visa FAQ
New evidence requirement for cases when the couple met using the services of an International Marriage Broker (IMB): Note that starting September 17th 2013, there is a new evidence requement for cases where the U.S. citizen met his or her fiancée using the services of an International Marriage Broker (IMB). Look for a "New!" icon below for additional information. If you are contemplating using the services of an International Marriage Broker to initiate contact with a foreign national, read this information before selecting the International Marriage Broker.
DOMA and Same-Sex Couples: Note that on June 26th 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. Since that time, I have assisted many same-sex couples with their fiancée and marriage based immigration cases. Call my office for a free consultation if you are in a same-sex relationship and are interested in discussing a possible fiancée or spoual immigration case (916) 451-4992.
Q: How long does it take in order to obtain a K-1 fiancée visa?
A: No one can predict exactly how long the process will take, but the way to make the process as short as possible is to put together a well documented submission, avoid beginner mistakes which can lead to the issuance of a Request For Evidence (RFE), immediately take action to resolve mistakes made by the Service Center or U.S. Consulate, prepare the foreign fiancée to avoid common mistakes made at the consulate interview, and provide the foreign fiancée with the proper supporting evidence to present at the visa interview.
My practice is located in Sacramento, California and therefore I practice within the jurisdiction of the California Service Center: The California Service Center is much faster in the processing of I-129f petitions when compared to the slower Texas Service Center, and I've had great success in having my east coast and southern client's cases routed to the California Service Center for swift processing as compared to the processing that would have occurred at the slower USCIS Texas Service Center.
Based on current trends and through years of experience in handling hundreds of successful fiancée visa cases, I can calculate a reasonable estimate of how long the process should take from I-129f submission through visa issuance at a U.S. Consulate. Poor timing can ruin your wedding plans and the USCIS typically won’t expedite a case just to meet your wedding arrangements. I’m happy to discuss your fiancée visa case with you to determine when your case should be filed in order to meet your wedding plans. I typically do not ask for a consultation fee from a fiancée visa caller who is interested in hiring me to prepare and file his or her I-129f petition and act as his or her legal representative with the United States government throughout the fiancée visa process.
Q: What factors can influence the speed of a case?
A: There are 2 USCIS Service Centers that currently process K-1 fiancée petitions, each at a different rate depending on their workload and the backlog of other case types. The U.S. Consulates located abroad that issue K-1 fiancée visas also process them at different rates of speed depending on their workload, so the location of your fiancée is also a factor to be taken into consideration. There are other factors that can influence the processing time of a case that are outside of anyone's control; a “Name Hit” in the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS hits), the amount of time it takes the USCIS, National Visa Center or U.S. Consulate to run the required background checks, or the length of time it takes a case to make it through the customs agency for the country where the file will be shipped (by the National Visa Center) are all examples of things that can influence the speed in which your case is processed.
It is human nature to conclude that what happens in someone else's case will happen in your case, however estimating the speed of your particular case based on someone else's timeline is to potentially set yourself up to have unrealistic expectations. The way to get a case through the system as quickly as possible is to do the job correctly from the outset, avoid making beginner mistakes and quickly follow up with the USCIS and/or Consulate if they make mistakes during the processing of your case.
Q: Have you visited each USCIS Service Center?
A: Yes. Since I do these cases for petitioners all across the United States, I make it a point to travel to each of the Service Centers to tour the facilities and attend AILA liaison meetings whenever possible. I always come away from these events with behind the scenes information and contact information that comes in handy when working on my client's important cases. AILA also provides me with notes/minutes from their frequent teleconferences for each of the Service Centers, and I always study these reports as it helps me keep up to date about current events/problems/situations at each of the Service Centers.
Q: Which USCIS Service Centers currently process I-129f petitions?
A: The California Service Center and The Texas Service Center.
The California Service Center, Laguna Niguel, CA.
Photo Copyright 2001 Matthew Udall.
This Service Center is usually assigned to process I-129f petitions for petitioners residing in: 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.
The Texas Service Center, Mesquite, TX.
Photo Copyright 2002 Matthew Udall.
This Service Center is usually assigned to process I-129f petitions for petitioners residing in: 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.
The Vermont Service Center, St. Albans, VT.
Photo Copyright 2002 Matthew Udall.
Note that starting the week of July 29th 2013, the USCIS began redirecting all newly filed Fiancée Visa Petitions from the Vermont Service Center to the Texas Service Center.
Q: Is there anything you do at the Service Center stage in order to try to get the U.S. Consulate working on the case as quickly as possible?
A: Yes! For every I-129f petition I submit to the USCIS, I always include a request that the Service Center send cable notification to the U.S. Consulate alerting the Consulate that the I-129f has been approved and on its way. I do this in an effort to get the Service Center to provide notification to the Consulate well before the case file reaches the Consulate. Not all U.S. Consulates will act upon receipt of a cable from a Service Center, but it is worth trying this nonetheless as some U.S. Consulates will act upon the receipt of the cable.
Q: Where does the case file go once it has been approved at the Service Center?
A: The National Visa Center, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Once the I-129f fiancée visa petition is approved, the Service Center will ship the original fiancée case file to the National Visa Center. A fiancée case file will typically stay at the National Visa Center for a week to ten days before it is shipped to the U.S. Consulate. According to information given to me multiple times while at the National Visa Center, it can often take two to three months (more or less) for the fiancée case file to pass through the Customs Department of the foreign country in question before it reaches the U.S. Consulate, and there is no way to track the case file during this process. There is nothing the National Visa Center can do to speed up that process.
Q: Is there anything you do at the National Visa Center stage in order to try to get the U.S. Consulate working on the case as quickly as possible?
A: Yes! Even though there is nothing the National Visa Center can do to get the file to the Consulate any quicker, I do what I can in order to speed things up as much as possible. Upon the arrival of your I-129f approval notice I immediately create the first page of the on-line DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application form (This is a new procedure as of October 7th 2013 for all K-1 fiancée visa cases). I also scan and upload your fiancée's photo into that system to make sure it meets the department of state photo specifications. I provide the petitioner and the foreign fiancée with instructions to access the DS-160 form that I started for the foreign fiancée. I then review the foreign fiancée's DS-160 upon completion by the foreign fiancée (I typically find and correct a few errors each time I review a completed DS-160 for a client). Once that review is complete, I instruct the foreign fiancée to hit the sign and submit button thereby submitting the correctly completed nonimmigrant visa application to the U.S. Consulate prior to the actual case file reaching the U.S. Consulate. I also send to the petitioner and foreign fiancée instructions and relevant links to the specific Consular website pages so they can begin to familiarize themselves with the upcoming Consulate procedures. And of course, I am there to answer the petitioner’s and foreign fiancée’s questions throughout the Consular process.
Q: What is the validity period for a K-1 visa?
A: A K-1 visa is usually valid for 6 months. The foreign fiancée must use the K-1 visa to enter the United States sometime during those 6 months.
Q: How much time does the couple have in order to get married once the foreign fiancée has entered the U.S.?
A: Once the foreign fiancée enters the United States, the couple has 90 days in which to marry. If the couple cancels their engagement, the foreign fiancée must depart the United States.
Q: Must the foreign fiancée marry the person who filed the I-129f?
A: Yes. The K-1 visa is given to the foreign fiancée in order to enter the U.S. and marry the person who submitted the I-129f Petition For Alien Fiancée. Under normal circumstances, the foreign fiancée cannot marry somebody else, stay in the U.S. and apply for a greencard. However there is nothing preventing a different U.S. citizen from filing another I-129f on the foreign fiancée’s behalf, and the foreign fiancée could later reenter the U.S. and marry this new petitioner.
Q: I’m not 100% sure I want to marry my foreign fiancée. Can my fiancée get a K-1 visa to come to the U.S. for 90 days for us to make our final decision concerning marriage?
A: No. The fiancée visa is issued to a foreign fiancée who is “already engaged” to be married and who intends to marry the I-129f petitioner in the U.S. within 90 days of the foreign fiancée’s entry. The K-1 visa is not the proper visa to obtain and use if the couple has not yet made up their mind to marry, or if the couple does not plan to marry within 90 days of the foreign fiancée’s entry.
Q: Can greencard holders submit an I-129f to bring in their foreign fiancée?
A: No. An I-129f can only be filed by a U.S. citizen. Greencard holders must look to options other than the fiancée visa when determining how to help a loved one immigrate to the U.S.
Q: Can I file an I-129f petition for a foreign fiancée if I’ve not yet had an in-person meeting with my foreign fiancée?
A: Usually, no. The general rule is that both you and your fiancée must be legally free to marry and have met in person within two years before filing the I-129f Petition For Alien Fiancée. There are two limited exceptions to this general rule: a) If the requirement to meet your fiancée in person would violate strict and long established customs of your fiancée’s foreign culture or social practice, or b) It is established that the requirement to personally meet your fiancée would result in extreme hardship to the U.S. fiancée. Call me to discuss your case if you believe your situation fits either of these two exceptions to the general rule (916-451-4992).
Q: Is it OK if I met my fiancée via a chat room or via some other way on the internet?
A: Many of my clients meet their fiancée through internet chat-rooms, playing games on-line, etc. The ease of international communication and travel has increased the number of “long distance relationships” and has increased the demand for the K-1 fiancée visa.
Q: What if I met my fiancée through an on-line introduction service or other form of matchmaker? Is that OK?
A: It is OK to have initially met your fiancée through the use of this type of service. If the service matches the definition of an "International Marriage Broker (IMB)” then certain additional information about the service or business must be listed on the I-129f form and certain evidence must be collected from the International Marriage Broker. I have successfully represented many I-129f petitioners who met their fiancées through this type of service.
The term International Marriage Broker means a corporation, partnership, business, individual or other legal entity, whether or not organized under any law of the United States, that charges fees for providing dating, matrimonial, matchmaking services, or social referrals between United States citizens or nationals or aliens lawfully admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents and foreign national clients. International Marriage Brokers provide personal contact information or facilitate communications between individuals.
Q: Are there any new requirements pertaining to "International Marriage Brokers"(IMB) that I should be aware of?
A. Yes! As of September 17th 2013, the USCIS requires certain evidence the petitioner must gather from the International Marriage Broker (IMB).
From the I-129f Instructions: "In addition, you must provide the signed, written consent form that the IMB obtained from your beneficiary (your foreign fiancée) authorizing the release of his or her personal contact information to you. If the consent form is written in any language other than English, you must provide a certified English translation with the original form". This same sort of langage describing this requirement also appears on question 35.a on page 4 of the I-129f form.
Therefore, if you are contemplating using an International Marriage Broker to initiate contact with a foreign national, first make sure the International Marriage Broker complies with this new requirement and will provide to you the signed, written consent form from the foreign national. If the International Marriage Broker says this requirement does not apply to them, or if they say they cannot or will not provide the signed written consent form to you, then you would be wise to select a different International Marriage Broker who does comply with the new requirement.
Q: What if I’ve filed an I-129f petition in the past for a prior fiancée and that relationship didn’t last?
A: If you have filed two or more I-129f Fiancée Visa Petitions at any time in the past or previously had an I-129f Fiancée Visa Petition approved within two years prior to the filing of a new I-129f petition, you must apply for a waiver. I have successfully helped clients obtain waivers under these circumstances.
Please also note that if you have committed a violent offense against a person, USCIS may not grant such a waiver unless you can demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances exist. If you would like more information about this, see the I-129f instructions.
Q: My fiancée has a child. Can the child obtain a K-2 visa in order to come to the U.S.?
A: Usually, yes. If your fiancée has unmarried minor children (under the age of 21), they can usually accompany their parent to the U.S. on K-2 visas. Each child will have to satisfy all visa eligibility criteria, and custody issues relating to the child’s other biological parent might prevent a child from being able to move to the U.S.
Q: Why should I petition for a K-1 visa rather than having my fiancée apply for a tourist visa at the U.S. Consulate?
A: By entering the U.S. using a K-1 visa, your fiancée will avoid all of the potential issues of fraud and misrepresentation that may be present if he or she applies for a tourist visa in order to enter the U.S. for marriage.
For example, if your fiancée applies for a visitor visa at a U.S. Consulate, he or she will have to convince the Consul that it is his or her intention to depart the U.S. and return to the foreign country after a temporary visit. This is known as “non-immigrant intent”. If your fiancée mentions that he or she is coming to the U.S. in order to marry a U.S. citizen and file for permanent resident status, your fiancée will be found to have “immigrant intent” and will likely be denied his or her tourist visa. Also if your fiancée applies for a tourist visa, one of the forms he or she will have to fill out for the U.S. Consulate requires your fiancée to indicate if he or she has a fiancée in the United States. If your fiancée fails to list that he or she has a fiancée in the U.S., this could later be used by the USCIS during the application for permanent resident status process as documentary evidence of fraud or misrepresentation committed at the U.S. Consulate in order to obtain a visa.
It is an illegal act “committed at the Port Of Entry” for one to try to enter the U.S. (Immigrate to the U.S.) with a nonimmigrant option. Also, if your fiancée comes to the U.S. with a tourist visa or under the visa waiver program, upon arrival he or she may be questioned by a Customs and Border Protection officer (CBP) at the Port Of Entry and may have to state the purpose of his or her visit to the United States. When your fiancée tells the officer that he or she is entering to marry a U.S. citizen and file for permanent resident status, he or she will likely be denied entry and sent back to the country of origin for attempting to enter the United States under the wrong type of visa. If he or she is lucky, he or she will be given the opportunity to withdraw his or her application to enter the U.S. If he or she is not lucky, the illegal act of trying to enter the U.S. with a nonimmigrant option, but with immigrant intent will be noted on his or her record and he or she may be banned from entry into the United States for a period of time.
Even if your fiancée makes it into the United States for your marriage, both you and your fiancée will likely be interviewed at least once (maybe twice) by the USCIS during the 2nd phase process of applying for permanent resident status. Another final interview might also be required approximately 21 months after your spouse is awarded Conditional Permanent Resident status. If any material misrepresentations told to the officer at the Port Of Entry are discovered during this process, it may also jeopardize your spouse’s future in the United States. When the USCIS examiner sees that your fiancée applied for a tourist visa to enter the U.S. and then sees that he or she quickly married a U.S. citizen this could make the USCIS examiner suspect that your fiancée committed fraud at the U.S. Consulate in order to obtain the tourist visa, and/or that material misrepresentations may have been made upon entry into the United States.
The K-1 fiancée visa was created just for this situation and will avoid all of the fraud problems mentioned above. Your fiancée won’t have to commit fraud or lie to the Department of State (Consulate) and/or the Department of Homeland Security (CBP and/or USCIS), and thus won’t jeopardize your future together in the United States.
Q: I understand that my fiancée and I must be single when I file the I-129f, but once he or she gets the K-1 visa can I marry my fiancée in the foreign country and have him or her use the K-1 for entry into the USA?
A: No. A K-1 fiancée visa is permission for your “unmarried fiancée” to enter the United States in order for the two of you to marry. This naturally means that your fiancée must be single, divorced or widowed not only at the time you submit your I-129f Fiancée Visa Petition and on the date of your fiancée’s visa interview; but also on the date he or she enters the United States using a K-1 fiancée visa.
Your spouse (former fiancée) should not attempt to enter the United States using a K-1 fiancée visa if the United States citizen traveled to the foreign fiancée’s country to participate in a marriage ceremony recognized by the laws of your fiancée’s country. To determine if the ceremony is recognized by the laws of your fiancée’s country, the foreign laws will have to be evaluated. Do not leave this task up to your foreign fiancée as he or she may not be qualified to make this determination and he or she (or his or her family) might be anxious to have a ceremony abroad regardless of U.S. immigration law. Once a legally recognized marriage occurs prior to entry into the U.S., the K-1 fiancée visa is no longer the correct visa for your spouse (former fiancée) to use when entering the United States. Gaining entry under the wrong type of visa could jeopardize your spouse’s future in the United States when this is discovered at your spouse’s permanent resident interview.
Q: OK, we know we should not get married abroad before my fiancée enters the United States using a K-1 fiancée visa. Can we instead go through an engagement ceremony in the foreign country and then use the K-1 visa to enter the U.S.?
A: This is a very bad idea. While it is possible to go through some sort of engagement ceremony in the foreign country, it is a very bad idea to do so for a number of reasons. One does not have to read do-it-yourselfer horror stories on internet message boards very long to find stories of cases being delayed or denied at U.S. Consulates when the Consul catches wind of the ceremony. Submitting photos of the engagement ceremony along with the I-129f petition is a classic beginner’s mistake, and instead of showing how committed the couple are to one another, it instead could make the Consul suspect the beneficiary is lying about being single and free to marry. When asked about this by potential K-1 clients, I always advise them to skip any sort of engagement ceremony as it is not required and can only potentially hurt your case.
Q: Will my fiancée have to undergo any sort of medical exam before getting the K-1 visa?
A: Yes. During the consular stage of the process, your fiancée will need to submit the results of a medical exam. The U.S. Consulate will provide a list of local doctors who are authorized to perform the medical exam, and the doctor will charge a fee for performing his or her services. Also, due to fraud concerns, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) is now requiring that fiancée visa applicants supply 3 photos during the medical exam process.
Q: What about police certificates or police clearances? Will my fiancée need to obtain this?
A: Usually, yes. As part of the consular interview process, police certificates are usually required from every visa applicant aged 16 years or over for each locality of the country of the applicant's nationality or current residence where the applicant has resided for at least 6 months since turning 16. Police certificates are also usually required from all other countries where the applicant has resided for at lease one year. (An exception to the police certificate requirement is made for a list of countries where police certificates are not available). Generally, application for such certificates should be made directly to police authorities in the district in which your fiancée resides and police certificates should usually be obtained near the time of the visa interview.
Q: Will my fiancée be able to work in the United States after entering with a K-1 visa?
A: A person who is in the U.S. on a K-1 visa is authorized to work “incident to that status” however the problem is that the K-1 entrant must have proof of employment authorization to show an employer. Upon arrival at the United States port of entry, your fiancée might receive a stamp on his or her I-94 entry card or passport that would be evidence of temporary permission to work (90 days), however most ports of entry have abandoned this practice. Sometime after marriage, your spouse will be able to obtain his or her 1-year work authorization document in conjunction with the filing of his or her application for conditional permanent resident status. There has been talk by the USCIS of one day issuing work cards that will be valid for longer than 1 year (remaining valid during the time it takes the USCIS to process the application for permanent resident status) however this change has not been implemented yet.
Q: Do I need to show that I make a certain amount of income?
A: Yes. The U.S. petitioner will need to complete an I-134 affidavit of support and submit evidence showing his or her ability to meet the minimum income requirement for a family of his or her size. If the petitioner does not meet the minimum required income level for his or her size family, the petitioner will need a cosponsor. The cosponsor will need to complete his or her own affidavit of support in addition to the affidavit of support submitted by the petitioner. My attorney fee for the preparation of additional affidavit of support packages for cosponsors is $300.00 per cosponsor.
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Matthew Udall is an active member of the California State Bar Association and The American Immigration Lawyers Association, and licensed to practice law in California. The information given at this web site is intended as general information only and is not a substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in your specific case. Reading this webpage or website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Visa Earth – The Law Office Of Matthew Udall.
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