In our globalized modern world, love often strikes between foreign nationals and US citizens. When a US citizen becomes engaged to a foreign national residing outside the United States, the K1 visa can be used to bring the foreign national fiancé to the United States for the purpose of marriage. After the marriage occurs, the foreign national can apply for a green card and live their life in the US with their new spouse.
The Initial Process for the K1 Visa
The K1 fiancé visa process begins by filing form I-129F with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to obtain the K1 visa, the couple must prove that the petitioner is a U.S. citizen; that the petitioner intends to marry within 90 days of the fiancé entering the United States; both the petitioner and the fiancé(e) are free to marry (all prior marriages are legally dissolved); the couple has met in person at least once within two years of filing(unless an exception applies). If the 129F is approved, the foreign national fiance will go through consular processing which requires the submission of additional documentation and attendance of an interview at the consulate abroad. The consular process and the interview are discussed below
What Documents are filed with USCIS as the first stage of the K1 process?
The following documents are submitted as part of the initial phase of the K1 process:
Form G-28(If you are using a lawyer);
Passport-style photo for both the foreign national fiancé and the US citizen fiancé;
Proof of the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship;
Statement by the petitioner that he/she intends to marry within 90 days of the K-1 entrance;
Statement by the beneficiary that he/she intends to marry within 90 days of the K-1 entrance;
Proof that the relationship is “bona fide”;
Proof that the petitioner and beneficiary have met in person within two years of filing the petition
What are the exceptions to the in person meeting requirement of the K-Visa?
There are some unique circumstances that can make it difficult if not impossible for some couples to meet in person during the two years preceding the filing of the K1 Visa. Such couples can explore the possibility of obtaining a waiver of the in person meeting requirement. When a waiver of the meeting requirement is requested, the couple must submit a detailed explanation and evidence demonstrating that compliance with the in-person meeting requirement would result in extreme hardship to the petitioner or that compliance would violate strict and long established custom or practice of the beneficiary’s foreign culture. Given the difficult task of meeting the high standard that is required for a waiver, it is advisable to consult with an immigration lawyer for guidance.
What Supporting Documents are Submitted when Applying for the K1 Visa?
Proving that the K1 Visa Applicants are Involved in a Bona Fide Relationship and Intend to Marry Within 90 Days of Entry
The main goal during the initial phase for the K1 Visa is proving that the relationship is bona fide. There are number of pieces of evidence that can be submitted to prove this critical element. A heartfelt, nicely composed and detailed affidavit is one of the best pieces of evidence that a couple can submit in establishing the bona fide relationship and the intention to marry within the required time period. When, how and where they met are all essential to the narrative. However, the affidavit can do much more than provide background information; it can also serve to humanize the couple and demonstrate to an adjudicator(who may be in the process of reviewing hundreds of petitions) that the couple cares deeply about each other and deserves the opportunity to live together in the US.
Other evidence should be used to bolster the content of the affidavit and contribute to the conclusion that the relationship is bona fide. Such evidence may include photographs of the couple, phone records, text messages, travel itineraries and affidavits of friends. There is no limit to the types or amount of evidence that can be submitted to demonstrate the nature of the relationship. Therefore, it is wise to brainstorm with your immigration lawyer and think creatively about the evidence that can be gathered. When the petition is ultimately submitted, you will want to provide enough evidence to convince a hostile adjudicator that your relationship is sound.
Proving that the Petitioner and Beneficiary of a K1 Visa Application are Free to Marry
In addition to proving that the parties in a bona fide relationship plan to marry within 90 days, the couple must also demonstrate that they are free to marry. Obviously, this is not a problem for individuals who have never married. However, if either the petitioner or the beneficiary has been married before, they must include proof that the couple is free to marry by presenting either the divorce certificate or death certificate of the first spouse.
The Second Phase of the K1 Visa Process
Getting the I-129F approved is the first step of the process. The second phase which is usually more anxiety inducing, involves applying for the visa at the consular post. The K-1 applicant must submit the following at the consular processing stage:
Evidence that the applicant will not be a public charge;
Divorce or death certificates of any prior spouses;
Proof of the legitimacy of the relationship; and
A copy of the K Visa petition.
What to Expect at the Interview for the K1 Visa
It is important to expect the unexpected at the consular interview which is oftentimes the most stressful and difficult part of the process. The consular officer can and will probe into the bona fides of the marriage. Many interviewers are friendly and pleasant. However, everyone who is anticipating an interview should be ready in the event that the interviewer is hostile and should prepare as such. As part of the interview preparation process, the K1 visa applicant should anticipate to field questions about the petitioner’s family, important dates and about information the petitioner submitted as part of the K1 visa petition. If the consular officer believes the K-1 petition is fraudulent, the petition will be returned to USCIS for further investigation.
What happens after the visa is issued?
If all goes well at the interview and the K1 visa is issued, it is valid for a period of six months during which it can be used for one entry into the United States. This gives the applicant six months to get their affairs in order before moving to the United States. Once the K1 visa holder has entered the United States, there is impossible for him or her to return without advance parole, so it is important that all matters that require personal attention are concluded by the foreign national fiancé before they depart.
As noted earlier, after entering the United States, the beneficiary must marry within 90 days. This oftentimes requires careful planning depending on the type of wedding that is planned. Civil ceremonies are relatively straightforward and easy to arrange but more elaborate ceremonies will require advanced planning. After the K1 Fiancé(e) enters the United States and marries the US Citizen Fiance, they must then file a complete adjustment of status package. This package includes the I-485 and I-864, Affidavit of Support as well as supporting documentation.
Break-up of the Relationship Before Marriage
There are times in life when things don’t go as smoothly as we had planned. At times, couples who had every intention of getting married and spending their lives together break up before the wedding occurs. What can be done in these situations? Unfortunately, the regulations are rather harsh and don’t afford the foreign national fiancé any form of relief in this type of scenario. The regulations are clear that the beneficiary of a K visa can adjust status in the United States only after marriage within 90 days of admission. Sadly, if the petitioner and beneficiary break up, the K1 visa beneficiary must leave the United States.
The K1 visa is a great option for foreign national fiances who plan to their lives together in the United States. Unfortunately, the nature of long distance relationships oftentimes make it difficult to prove that the relationship is bona fide. The good news is that with careful planning, the right documentation and the guidance of a knowledgeable immigration lawyer, the process can go smoothly and the goal of receiving a K1 Visa can be accomplished with minimal stress.