K-1 fiancée visa

What are the visa options to bring your significant other to the United States?

When seeking to legally bring a foreign fiancée to the US, one has several options:

  1. Nonimmigrant visa (visitor, student, or business) — Unfortunately many young, single, female visa applicants seeking to visit romantic friends in the US are denied visas by the US consulates. When applying for any nonimmigrant visa, it is vital for the visa applicant to show that her visit to the US will be temporary, and that she will return to her home country upon the end of her visit. Applicants need to show strong family (leaving a child behind is not enough), social, and employment ties, financial assets, and/or previous travel experience to Western countries, as well as a legitimate, compelling reason for travel. Those who obtain such visas often do so under false pretenses, and upon discovery, may be deported and subsequently barred from entering the US.

  2. Immigrant visa — It is possible to marry your fiancée in her country or a third country. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach:

    Advantages: No need to adjust your spouse’s status after arrival in the United States. He/She arrives as a full-fledged immigrant (condition or permanent resident, depending on arrival date after the marriage). To leave the United States, or to work in the United States, the spouse does not need advance parole (authorization) from USCIS (as is the case for the wife who entered on a fiancée visa and is adjusting her status in the US after the marriage). She obtains US citizenship faster because the adjustment of status stage is omitted.

    Disadvantages: Entering into marriage entails legal and financial obligations, whereas utilizing a fiancée visa does not require the actual execution of the marriage. The fiancée visa may serve as a “get to know each other better” visa (although the intent at the time of filing the application must be to enter into marriage), with 90 days to either enter into marriage or have your fiancée leave the U. S. Processing times for fiancée visas are usually significantly shorter. Marriage in third countries often require a waiting period of more than 30 days, with some exceptions. As you will be on the “home turf” of your fiancée, you are subject to the legal and documentation requirements of that country. A child of the foreign spouse who is 18 or older at the time of the marriage will not qualify as a “child” for purposes of immigration.

  3. K-3 visa — This visa requires marriage before submitting a petition. It was originally designed to expedite the arrival of the spouse/child, without having to wait for the longer immigrant visa process. However, because USCIS usually processes I-130 immediate relative and I-129 K-3 petitions within the same timeframe, the K-3 is no longer a possibility in such cases. The foreign spouse must pursue an immigrant visa.

Usually, the most suitable visa is the K-1 fiancée visa.

Who can qualify for a K-1 fiancée visa?

An American citizen can file a petition for a foreign fiancée. The couple must be free to marry and must intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancée’s entering the United States. In addition, the couple must have met at least once during the two years prior to filing the application (although this requirement can be waived in unusual circumstances).

What if she has children?

Any minor child (unmarried, under the age of 21) of your fiancée is automatically eligible for a K-2 visa. Because of foreign government requirements, the US government, with some exceptions, may attempt to require consent from the father of the child. This issue can be quite vexing, and should be considered before the commencement of the process.

What documents are needed?

Statutory documents (e.g., birth certificates, divorce decrees) and biographical information, along with evidence reflecting the legitimacy of your intentions, are needed. After these forms are gathered, the appropriate USCIS forms are completed and submitted together with the supporting documents to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

What happens next?

The USCIS Service Center will either approve the petition and notify the appropriate U. S. Embassy abroad, or will request additional information. Obviously, such requests are best avoided as they require additional time to complete. Once the Embassy is notified, the fiancée is invited to attend an interview. An additional package of application forms and supporting documentation must be prepared. As the sponsor, you must demonstrate sufficient annual income or sizable assets, and present documentation to this effect (tax return, bank statement, employer letter). Your fiancée must pass a medical exam at an authorized medical clinic. The exam encompasses tests for serious diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, venereal diseases and pregnancy.

What takes place at the interview?

The interview takes place in the immigrant visa section of the U. S. Embassy. The interview itself is usually fast, not more than 5–10 minutes. However, if there are more serious issues — e.g., your fiancée spent substantial time in the US, a former boyfriend or ex-spouse writing a “poison pen” letter to the Embassy — then the interview may last up to an hour. Visas usually are issued within five working days after the interview. Once issued, your fiancée may depart for the US at any time within six months.

What else should I know?

The fiancée is admitted to the US as a nonimmigrant. The marriage must take place within 90 days of arrival; no extensions are permitted. After the marriage ceremony, a petition is then submitted to the USCIS to adjust her status to that of a conditional permanent resident. Prior to the successful passing of the adjustment of status interview, if your wife wishes to travel outside the United States or work, it will be necessary to obtain permission from the USCIS. After the adjustment petition is filed, it is then necessary to attend an interview at the local USCIS office, at which time the bona fides (co-habitation, joint accounts, joint property, photographs, bills) of the marriage are examined. Upon the successful passing of the interview, your wife becomes a conditional permanent resident (with her green card sent in the mail within a few months). If the marriage is preserved, the condition is removed at the end of two years of attainment of immigration status. If the marriage is terminated before that time, the ex-spouse would need to show that the marriage was entered into in good faith or qualify under another exception to receive a permanent green card.

What are some of the problems associated with the K-1 visa?

The problems and issues associated with the K-1 visa are numerous:

  • Overzealous consular officers questioning the legitimacy of the relationship and referring the approved petition back for revocation. These questions arise frequently when there is a substantial age difference between the parties; the fiancée does not speak English well and the US citizen does not speak her language; or the parties have spent limited time together;
  • If the US citizen has filed K-1 visa petitions in the past;
  • If the US citizen has had any incidents of a criminal nature;
  • Obtaining consent of ex-spouse for minor child to immigrate;
  • If the fiancée’s jealous ex-boyfriend writes a “poison-pen” letter to the Embassy to thwart her move to the US;
  • If the parties became acquainted through an international marriage broker, additional information must be provided.
  • If the parties have not met in person during the two years prior, a waiver must be sought.

How does White & Associates help?

White & Associates has helped scores of foreign fiancées immigrate to the United States — from the K-1 process all the way through naturalization. We have assisted in dealing with these problem issues — helping secure consent from an ex-spouse; applying for waivers of the meeting requirement; dealing with “poison pen” letters; preparing waiver applications if the fiancée has had visa overstay or criminal problems in her past; formulating legal opinions on such issues as financial charge (e.g., the US citizen does not have income, but assets). While the process is not usually complex, improperly preparing the documentation can lead to substantial delays. Sometimes a consultation may help to put a fiancée at ease — after all, she is moving to a foreign country and wants to understand what her rights and obligations will be. She may wish to have someone prepare her for the visa interview and what kinds of questions to expect; what documents to take to the interview, etc. We can provide a consultation or comprehensive representation encompassing the K-1 visa, adjustment of status, and condition removal.