HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT K1 VISA ATTORNEY
First off…congrats. If you are reading this, you are probably engaged(or close to getting engaged) and you are looking for information to help you find a K1 visa attorney.
The K1 visa is great because it allows a foreign national fiance to come to the US to get married then apply for a green card.
While the visa is a great option, finding the right K1 Visa attorney can be difficult. As you search for help, you are faced with an abundance of choices. This oftentimes leaves people feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
What characteristics should I focus on? Does the location of the K1 Visa attorney matter? How much should I budget for a lawyer?
In this post I address these issues and give you some tips for finding the right K1 visa attorney for you.
Is The K1 Visa Right For You?
Before you look for a K1 visa attorney it is important to understand the limitations of the K1 visa and compare it to alternatives.
The K1 Visa Limitations
The K1 visa is a popular immigration option since it has historically been seen as a faster way to bring your fiance to the US. While the K1 may be faster, there are some limitations that you should be aware of before you decide that the K1 path is right for you.
Limitation #1: US Citizens Only
Unlike marriage based green cards—which are available to green card holders and US citizens—the K1 visa is limited to fiances of US citizens.
Limitation #2: You Must Go Through Another Immigration Process After Marriage
After your fiance comes to the US you must get married within 90 days. After the marriage, you will then file for the green card. This process is time consuming and expensive. Even if you do not use a lawyer(which I don’t recommend) the government filing and service fees have a hefty price tag(currently $1760). When you add that to the filing fees and visa fees for the K1, you are looking at a pricey path to a green card.
Limitation #3: Work Authorization For The Foreign National Fiance
The K1 visa is not a great option for someone who wants to continuously work. For example, let’s say that the foreign national fiance has a successful career abroad. She is planning on leaving her current job and seeking new employment in the US upon arrival. As someone who thrives in a work setting, she wants to minimize the gap between her employment abroad and the employment that she hopes to find in the US. If she and her fiance pursue a K1 visa, she will not be able to work for a US employer upon her arrival. Instead, she will have to apply for work authorization(as part of the green card process) after she gets married. This request could be pending for 6-8 months which will be extremely frustrating for someone who is eager to start working in the US.
Should You Get Married & Apply For A Green Card Instead?
If you decide that the K1 visa limitations make it a poor fit, then you can consider the other option. The other option involves getting married, then applying for an immigrant visa. With an immigrant visa—instead of a K1 non immigrant visa— the foreign national spouse will obtain a green card shortly after arriving in the US. This reduces cost since there is only one process to go through. Additionally, the foreign national spouse will have the ability to work for a US employer instead of having to wait for work authorization.
Tips On Finding A K1 Visa Attorney
If you decide that the K1 visa is the right option for you, I advise you to find a knowledgeable lawyer.
Now…I know what you must be thinking. Of course you would say that I need an attorney because you are a K1 Visa Attorney.
I can assure you that the tips below are not intended to push you in my direction. In fact, I can tell you that I am not the right immigration lawyer for most people who are applying for a K1 visa for three reasons:
- Price: Most people want to pay less than I charge.
- Location: Even though you can(and should) conduct a global search for your immigration lawyer, many people will want to find a lawyer that practices in their community.
- Technology: My practice relies on modern technology. People who do not love using technology(like my mother-in-law) are not a good fit for my practice.
We are all unique in our preferences. Ideally, your choice of immigration lawyer will reflect these preferences. Below I list a few tips on finding on finding guidance that will reduce your stress and increase your odds of a successful process.
Tip #1: Conduct a Global Search
One of my favorite aspects of immigration law practice is that lawyers are not restricted to the area in which they operate.
This is unusual.
Most practice areas are state specific(ie. family law). This means lawyers need a license in the state in which they will operate.
Immigration law is different. Since it is federal in nature immigration lawyers can help clients nationwide.
This reality creates a huge opportunity for you. As someone who is looking for a K1 visa attorney, you can search far and wide for the right lawyer. For example, if you are in Charlotte, NC(where I live) you don’t need a Charlotte K1 visa attorney. You just need the ideal lawyer for you.
So, I recommend that you look everywhere for a lawyer. Search locally. Search globally. Set up multiple consultations. Then, after having several conversations someone will emerge as your top choice.
Tip #2: Find The Right Combination of Personality & Experience
Before you start your search, think about the characteristics of your ideal lawyer.
Here are some common factors that you may want to consider…
- Knowledge of the practice area
- Focus on the practice area
- Personality of the lawyer(will you enjoy working with them?)
- Communication methods and case management(will you be interacting with the attorney or an assistant?)
In general, I believe that there are a lot of lawyers who have the ability to help you achieve your goals. But, there is a vast difference in how you will be treated.
Some lawyers are hard to reach.
Others give you their cell phone number and promptly respond to emails.
Some are great listeners who take the time to learn about your background and understand your situation.
Others are blowhards who love to hear themselves talk.
Your job is to find the lawyer with the right combination of knowledge and personality who will make you feel comfortable during the K1 visa process.
Tip #3: Consider Price
So…what should you do if you have a modest budget or no budget? Should you give up on finding legal guidance?
Not necessarily. Thankfully, there are oftentimes pro bono and low cost options if you cannot afford any of the lawyers that you contact. For example, Catholic Charities offers pro bono immigration services in many major US cities. Reach out to charitable organizations in your city to see if they can help.
Of course, you can always file your own case. However, this is not typically recommended since doing it correctly will require a large time commitment. Filing your own case without learning all of the requirements could set the stage for a denial that will derail your wedding plans and keep you separated from your fiance.
There are thousands of amazing immigration lawyers across the US who can help you!
To summarize, as you search for a K1 visa attorney, I recommend that you…
- search far and wide
- consider your preferences
- consider price/contact pro bono organizations if you cannot find a lawyer that you can afford
Good luck on your K1 visa journey!
Benjamin Frear, Esq.
Immigration Lawyer For Families—Practicing Immigration Law Throughout The US