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Is the K1 Visa Obsolete?

Updated on July 5, 2018

It is a product of the Vietnam war and the K visa status went into law in April 1970, after hundreds of Vietnamese women who had married American soldiers there, were unable to obtain a visa within the time limits before the U.S. soldier was shipped home. Today, it allows an American citizen to petition for a foreign loved one to immigrate to the USA.

The K1 visa is the fiancee visa and over 35,000 were issued in 2014. The general sequence is that an American citizen falls in love with a foreigner. Usually, the USC is in the foreign country or they met online and the USC travels to the foreign country. The couple is together for a small period of time and at some point, the USC files the I-129F paperwork and other required documents, pays a high fee, and if all is fine, the visa is approved within 4-6 months. The foreigner must provide a variety of documentation, pass a medical exam, and be interviewed at the U.S. embassy. The couple has to prove that in a short period of time, love has blossomed and is real, not some type of fraud so the foreigner can get to the USA. This interview is in English and if the foreigner is not understanding the questions asked, they will fail and no visa will be issued.

Once the visa is approved, upon arrival in the USA, the 90-day clock activates for the couple, meaning, they must get married. If this does not happen, in theory, the foreigner must go back to their home country. But, there are no consequences if there is no marriage within three months and there is nothing immigration can do if the couple breaks up and the foreigner just "vanishes" in America. There is no tracking. The only repercussions occur if the foreigner tries to legally obtain work and is caught, or ICE discovers them during a raid on foreigners working "under the table", or while driving without a license, apprehended in crime, etc.

If the couple does get married, then, the USC files an Adjustment of Status form, I-485, and with additional high fees. The current wait is just about a year from filing before another interview occurs, again, to determine if the marriage is real or not. Once successful, the non-USC spouse is granted a 2-3 year conditional Green card. By this time, this person has an SSN, work permit, and hopefully is employed. The conditional Green card now allows them to get a driver's license. It also allows them, for the first time since arriving, to leave and return to the USA. Prior to this, unless there is an exception, the foreigner cannot leave the USA until a Green card is received. This is usually 1.5 years. If they leave without approval, they cannot return legally.

At the end of the conditional Green card period, another costly Adjustment of Status occurs again for a 10-year Green card. The process is similar. If the couple has separated or divorced, the foreigner must return to their home country unless they managed to remarry another USC.

Is it time to simply stop the K1 visa? For those truly in love, this "faster" visa method is way better, but it has many loopholes should the marriage fail after 90 days. Three months is not very realistic and it forces a couple to get married. It forces one's motives. If the foreigner intentions are fraudulent after 90 days and a marriage, they will just vanish, especially, if another is taking care of them.

The processing times for the K1, while faster, are still dreadfully slow. They are almost the last to be processed perhaps to test the resolve and patience of the couple in love and to discourage others from trying. What is the failure rate of the K1 visa? All we know is how many were issued, meaning, this allows the foreigner to come to America and marry within three months.

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