Below you will find a very painstakingly and carefully compiled list of the Top 10 things you need to know to be successful with a fiance visa application process. As a licensed and fully insured immigration office with almost 25 years of experience in filing hundreds of successful fiance visa cases, or K-1 visas, we assure you that this informative post was written with a sincere intention to help you attempt filing on your own.
While there is nothing wrong with self-filing, it would be irresponsible for us not to point out the risks related to self filing. The simplest of mistakes with an application can result in disastrous delays that can prolong your Fiance Visa application by several years. Even worse, your case can be denied altogether.
If you absolutely do not want to take any chances with the Fiance Visa process or are not convinced about self application after reading this informative guide, we welcome you to call our immigration attorney office at 888-801-6558 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonus Tips: Read our Top 10 reasons why Fiance Visas are denied, at the end of this post!
Please understand that this article is general in nature and does not substitute for legal advice on your particular case.
1. You are required to be a United States Citizen. You, as the one filing the petition with USCIS , must be a US Citizen. A person who is only a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) only cannot successfully file a Fiancé Visa Petition. Therefore, if you only have a green card and you are eligible to apply for Citizenship you should seriously consider applying to become a U.S. Citizen.
However, keep in mind, that a green card holder who applies for citizenship does put his or her green card on the line. This means that you can lose your green card if your citizenship case does not go well. The most likely reason is that the US Citizenship applicant has criminal issues which have come up since he or she obtained a green card.
Many times USCIS is not aware of any criminal issues you have had since obtaining your green card until you apply for Naturalization. Once they find out about these problems they may take your green card from you. Not all past criminal problems would cause you problems if you were to apply for U.S. Citizenship. We can let you know if you will have a problem applying for U.S. Citizenship.
You will prove that you are a U.S. Citizen by supplying USCIS a copy of your U.S. birth certificate (this is the preferred method). If this is not available you may supply a copy of your U.S. Passport of your Certificate of Naturalization.
2. You must intend to marry each other. In order to obtain a K1 visa you must be able to show USCIS that you and your fiancé intend to marry each other. If this is not your intent then this is not the right type of non-immigrant visa to use.
USCIS will require both you and your fiance to sign affidavits under oath. These affidavits will state that you intend to marry each other within 90 days of your fiancé entering the United States. In addition, you will also be explaining how you met each other and how your relationship has developed over the time you have known each other.
You will also need to prove that you have a bona fide fiancé relationship with each other. (This is generally shown through email correspondence, evidence of gifts, receipts and photos of the engagement ring(s), evidence of trips you have taken together, affidavits from family members and friends etc.)
In addition, you can help prove the bona fides of your relationship by showing Facebook posts from friends and family congratulating you on your engagement. (Yes, USCIS does know how to use Facebook and they do use it, and other social media sites and other sites (think Google, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) at times, when investigating cases.) Therefore, as an aside, be very careful about what you post on Facebook and other social media sites.
USCIS can use these sites to help make a determination in your case (without you being aware that they are doing this). USCIS believes that these sites give it an excellent vantage point to observe your marital relationship.
You must also show USCIS that you are treating your engagement like a typical engagement in your fiancée’s home country. If, for example, in your fiancée’s home country it is typical to have a formal engagement party then you should have one. You need to make sure you comply with the cultural customs of your fiancé’s home country. If this is not done then your case can be denied at the fiancé visa interview level.
3. Meeting Requirement. You must have met your fiancée face to face (not via Skype or over the computer) and also in person within the last two years. If you were childhood friends but have not seen each other in the past 2 years then you will not meet this requirement.
In certain instances waivers to this requirement may be available. However, these are not easy to obtain. For example, you may be able to get a waiver to this face-to- face requirement based on medical or religious reasons. Not being able to afford to visit your fiancé in person is not an acceptable reason for a waiver to this requirement to be granted by USCIS.
You can prove to USCIS that you have met in person by showing: date stamped photos of the two of you together; photocopies of dated plane tickets, restaurant receipts, hotel receipts; passport pages showing entry stamps to the foreign country where the 2 of you met; and signed affidavits by family and friends attesting, under oath, that you have met each other. Have an immigration attorney review your evidence to make sure it will be strong enough for you to obtain your fiancé visa.
If your evidence is not strong enough it can and should be made stronger prior to filing the case. It is much better to wait an extra 30 days, obtain more evidence and file a much stronger case then it is to file a weaker case early.
If you want more information about the financial requirements for a U.S. Citizen in a fiance visa case please read our article: “ Fiance Visa Income Requirements“.
4. The U.S. Citizen will have to show that he has sufficient income to support his fiance when she arrives in the United States. The poverty guidelines are put out by the federal government and they change every
year. It is a rare case when our office cannot figure out a way for you to meet this requirement so you can obtain your k1 visa. Simply call us, free of charge about this issue. We are very likely able to help you in this area.
The income requirement is not very high and it varies based on the size of your household. Your income must be at least 100% of the federal poverty line for your new household size. (At the fiancé visa stage your income will need to be at least 100% of the federal poverty line. However, after you marry your fiancé and apply for the green card in the United States, your income will need to be at least 125% of the federal poverty line for your new household size.)
You can check the federal poverty guidelines for your new household size (county yourself, your fiance and any dependents–your dependents (look at your tax return) and your fiance’s dependents) to determine the amount of income you need in order to meet the income requirement for the fiance visa case. If you have have signed another affidavit of support to help someone else, and you are still liable under the affidavit, this also needs to be factored into the calculation. This can get confusing so do not be afraid to consult with an experienced immigration attorney (shameful plug I know) to get help in this area.
If you do not meet the income requirement you may be able to use assets which you own to meet the requirements.
If you are unable to meet the income requirement you may, but not always, it depends on the foreign embassy or consulate, get a co-sponsor to help you. Usually co-sponsors consist of close relatives and very good friends but a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident can help.
Near the end of the case you will be filing Form I-134 and sending it to your fiance to submit when required. You will also supply: a bank letter (showing the amount you have on deposit with the bank, the date the account was opened and the total amount that was deposited in the past year); an employer letter on company letterhead which states that you currently work there, how long you have worked there, how much you make, what your job is, and whether the job is temporary or permanent); statements from your investment accounts and your last 3 years worth of federal tax returns. Every consulate or embassy can have their own requirements.
5. Previous Fiance Visa Cases Can be a Problem. You must not have filed more than two fiancée visas in the past nor had an approved fiancée petition in the last two years. Once again, a waiver is available but there is no guarantee that it will be granted.
USCIS will notify the person receiving the fiancé visa if the U.S. Citizen fiancé has had 2 previous fiancé visas or marriage visas approved in the past 10 years. If this is your case then you should notify your fiancé of your prior petitions. She needs to be completely aware of your past attempts to bring other fiancés or spouses into the United States. If she is not aware of these past k1 visa petitions and learns of them at the interview the case can be denied.
6. You must both be Free to Marry. You and your fiancée must both be free to get married (meaning that you are both eligible to get married) at the time you file your petition. Do not file a fiancé visa petition with USCIS if you or your fiancé has a pending divorce. This will not save you any time. On the contrary it will make your case take longer.
My advice would be to review any previous annulments or divorces with a family law attorney to ensure that you and your fiancé are, in fact free to marry each other. (Believe it or not some people believe that their divorce has been finalized when in fact it hasn’t been finalized. Surprise! As a result they are still married to their “previous” spouse.)
Also, sometimes U.S. Citizens will send in documents, which they believe to be divorce decrees, which are actually a different document from their divorce case (e.g. a settlement agreement). Be absolutely sure that the ” divorce decree” you send in is the actual divorce decree in your case. Otherwise, you will simply be delaying the case–likely by months.
It is much better to wait until you know, for sure, that your divorce is final, then to file your k1 visa case prematurely and have it denied. If your case is denied do not expect to appeal the decision. Rather, you will need to start the whole process all over again.
7. You cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. USCIS will be looking at the criminal background of the US citizen. The US Citizen must not have been convicted of a variety of crimes such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, dating violence, stalking, controlled substance violations and homicide.
Just to be safe, if you have had any crime in your past then an immigration attorney should review the matter prior to you filing your fiance visa case. It is better to take the time in the beginning to clear up any criminal issues then to have them come up during the case. You should never lie to USCIS and you should expect them to know about your criminal history.
Also, your fiancé should be told about your criminal past. It will really hurt your k1 visa case if, at the interview, your fiancé has no idea that you were convicted of the crime in question. It will really make your relationship seem less bona fide and can lead to your case being denied.
8. There is a 90 day Rule Concerning Marriage. Within 90 days of your fiancé entering the United States you will need to get married. You do not need to wait the entire 90 days. You just have to get married within 90 days. Your fiancée will only be able to marry you. She or he will not be able to marry someone else on the fiancé visa if someone else comes along.
If she enters the United States on a fiancée visa and does not marry you within 90 days then she will need to return to her home country. Make sure to marry your fiance within the 90 day period so your fiancé remains in legal status. If you did not get married within the 90 day period then you should consult with a fiance visa attorney immediately.
Once you get married you can then file for adjustment of status so that she may get her green card. At the same time she can apply for work authorization. At the present time it takes approximately 3 to 6 months to for most applicants to receive the work authorization card/ work authorization card (although this time period can be shorter or longer). Therefore, if you are sure you are going to get married don’t wait until the last minute. Get married and start the green card process so that you can obtain the work authorization/ travel card as soon as possible.
9. Your fiancé will also have other requirements with USCIS . Your fiancé cannot be any of the following: a person who is likely to go on welfare; a person with a communicable disease, or a person with a dangerous physical or mental disorder. In addition, he or she cannot have committed very serious criminal acts (including prostitution or drug trafficking).
These are things you likely want to know before you get married. If your fiance has any type of criminal past you should speak to an immigration attorney to make sure it will not cause problems in your case or your fiance visa case to be denied.
10. Past Immigration Violations. Your fiancée must not have violated U.S. immigration laws. He or she cannot have used fraud or any other illegal means to enter US in the past. He or she cannot have used fraud or other illegal means to enter the United States. In addition past immigration violations by the non citizen fiancé can put the K1 fiancé visa process in jeopardy.
These would include: violating student visa rules; entering the U.S. without a visa; overstaying a visa; working in the United States without work authorization. You can have our firm review the Immigration history of your fiancé to make sure there will not be any issues in your fiancé visa case. It is much better to deal with these issues prior to filing the fiancé visa.
(Please note that there are specific requirements in order to bring your fiance’s minor children into the United States. If they are eligible your fiance’s children can enter the United States with K-2 visas. Please call us and we can make sure that there are no problems in this area.)
(Bonus thing you should know: In early 2019 only about 50% of the fiance visa cases being filed are making it all the way through the fiance visa process. This means that you could file your case, get initial approval, wait 9 months for your fiance visa to be approved, and then be disappointed. Thankfully, close to 100% of our fiance visa cases were approved in 2018 and 2019.) If you would like more information about the approval rates in 2018 and 2019 please read our blog article on that subject. If you would like the above in video form please click here.
IF you can overcome these TOP 10 issues/challenges then a fiancée visa (K1 visa) can be approved. How did you do with the top 10 checklist to successfully file a fiance visa? If you are not sure, not confident or need clarifications or advice, give us a call for a FREE consultation. Call us at 888-801-6558. We handle cases throughout the United States and the World.
Here are the Top 10 Reasons a Fiance Visa Case will be denied.
Bonus tip: another reason fiance visa cases are denied is due to non-compliance with the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). This act was enacted in 2005 but was really not enforced by USCIS until fairly recently. You must comply with this act or your case will be denied. Please see the attached information about the IMBRA if you are pursuing a fiance visa case.
If you met your fiance via a dating website you will need to make sure that the site is not considered an “international marriage broker” as defined by the IMBRA. If the site is an international marriage broker it will need to provide background information concerning the U.S. Citizen to the foreign fiance pursuant to the IMBRA. If you met your fiance on any sort of dating website please consult with an immigration attorney prior to filing your case.
Another Bonus tip: Fiance Visa Interview does not go well-Your fiancé has a bad interview. Long story short your fiancé should know a lot about you in order to have a good interview. It may be embarrassing to you but tell her all about yourself, your past relationships and any criminal history. This way she will have a better chance of success.
Another way a fiance visa interview may not go well is if your fiance does not bring enough evidence to the interview. This includes not bringing evidence showing your ongoing relationship (pictures, texts, emails etc) since the fiance visa case was filed. If you have seen each other since the case was filed make sure to bring pictures and other evidence showing your time together. This is especially true for couples who did not spend a lot of time together prior to filing their fiance visa case. The more time spent together the better. It shows the immigration officer that your relationship is real, it is ongoing and it is growing stronger. Bring this evidence to your interview.
1. Filing of the Fiance Visa with USCIS
2. The petition is received by USCIS and a Notice of Action (NOA 1) is sent to you.
3. USCIS evaluates the case and , if all goes well, an approval notice (NOA 2) is sent to you. Currently this is taking between 5 and 7 months. However, this amount of time can change. This wait had been quite a bit shorter prior to this year.
4. The File is sent from USCIS to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. Documents may need to be filed with the NVC.
5. The File is sent from the National Visa Center to the embassy or consulate in your fiance’s home country which will be handling your case
6. The Embassy will contact you with instructions on the case. You will need to schedule your interview and submit the documents that are required. Every embassy or consulate has its own requirements. You need to make sure all of the requirements are met.
7 Obtain Medical Exam and other documents. The medical exam should cost between $100 and $300 to obtain. It varies by the country.
8. Fiance Visa Interview at Embassy. We will prepare you for this interview. Here are some sample fiance visa questions to review.
9. Fiance Visa Granted. Congratulations! You should receive the actual fiance visa within one week of the interview. However, sometimes this wait can be longer.
10. Once you come to the United States you will have 90 days to get married to the U.S. Citizen. After marriage you should apply for your green card via the adjustment of status process.
For more information about how long this type of case should take please read our article: Fiance Visa Processing Time.
About the Author
Lawrence Gruner is an immigration attorney with over 25 years of experience handling immigration cases. His office is located in downtown Sacramento and we handle cases Worldwide. His office handles: fiance visa cases, marriage green card cases and U.S. Citizenship cases. No attorney-client relationship is established at this point. (However, simply contact our office at 888-801-6558 or 916-760-7270. You can also email us at email@example.com. We would be happy to talk to you, free of charge, about the best way to handle your potential fiance visa case.
You should not file a fiance visa case or any other immigration case without at least consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration laws can and do change and the information above can become outdated. Do not rely on well meaning friends, immigration consultants , notarios or other immigration “helpers”. There are too many possible things that could cause you problems in your case. Problems can lead to delays or worse a denial of your case.
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