Loves knows no boundaries – unfortunately the INS and the Department of State do set boundaries. How do you get your fiancee* into the United States so that you can be joined in blissful wedlock?
I have received an increasing number of inquiries about fiancee visas. In this internet and e-mail intensive age, men and women are getting together across the globe in rapidly increasing numbers! So hopefully this article will shed some light on the fiancee visa process.
First of all, to get a fiancee visa, you must meet two important criteria:
- You must be a U.S. Citizen; and
- You must have met your foreign fiancee in a face to face meeting at least once within the last two years.
As you can see from the above, it is not possible to obtain a fiancee visa for a fiancee of a “green card” (permanent resident) holder in the United States. Only U.S. Citizens may apply for fiancee visas for their fiancees.
Also, it is necessary to have actually met your fiancee within the last two years. Failure to meet one’s fiancee can be excused only where it can be proven that religious beliefs or social customs would prohibit the meeting of the couple prior to the marriage.
The application for a fiancee visa is actually a two step process. First, the U.S. Citizen needs to apply to the INS in the United States for approval of the classification of the alien as a “fiancee.” Thereafter, the INS then transmits that approval to the U.S. Consulate in the country of the alien’s residence or nationality.
The INS processes the application for classification of the alien as a fiancee. That processing time takes anywhere from sixty to ninety days. Once the application moves to a U.S. Consulate overseas, processing times vary greatly. For very busy embassies, the processing time can range anywhere from eight months to even a year. For other consulates, the processing time can be as short as two to three months. Therefore, it is possible to have a fiancee enter the United States anywhere between four months to one year from the initial application with the INS. The Consulate will contact the alien with a long list of questions and documentation that needs to be provided. The documentation and the questions need to be provided and answered by both the U.S. citizen and by the alien fiancee. Once the documents are assembled, the Consulate must be notified. The Consulate will then set up an in-person interview and the alien fiancee would then proceed to the Consulate for that interview. The U.S. Citizen does not need to be present for this interview. (Save your money for the wedding!)
Based on the interview, the consular officer will then either grant or deny the fiancee visa. The fiancee visa is actually a document inserted in the alien’s passport which would permit the alien to travel to the United States as a fiancee. The fiancee visa has the visa symbol “K-1.” Children of the K-1 fiancee, if any, are designated as “K-2.”
Once the alien enters the United States, the alien has ninety days within which he or she must marry the U.S. Citizen. If the marriage is not held within ninety days of the alien fiancee’s entry, then the alien fiancee’s visa expires and he or she must leave the United States. This ninety day period cannot be extended for any reason. Once the 90 days are over, and the marriage has not taken place, the fiancee must leave the United States. The U.S. Citizen may reapply for the issuance of a fiancee visa if the marriage did not take place within any prior ninety day period.
Getting a fiancee visa, entering the United States and getting married is not the end of the road. Once the marriage is celebrated, the couple then has to once again apply to the INS, this time for a “green card” for the alien spouse.
Some key facts to keep in mind: INS filing fees have just gone up; effective October 13, 1998, the filing fee for Form I-129F, – the petition for alien fiancee – will go up to $95.00 (it was previously $75.00). The petition must be filed with one of the four INS Regional Service Centers which has jurisdiction over the state where the U.S. Citizen lives. There are four such service centers, located in Vermont, Nebraska, California and Texas.
The path to true love was never easy, and the INS does not make it any easier. Applying for a fiancee visa, getting one, and then getting a green card can be a long and frustrating process. But loves knows no boundaries, and you should not let the INS set those boundaries for you. It is well worth the effort if you are going to be united with the woman -or the man – of your dreams!
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*Note: In order to be gender neutral in these “politically-correct” times, the word “fiancee”, wherever used, means either the female fiancee or the male fiance, as appropriate!
Copy right Farhad Sethna 1998 All Rights Reserved