The K-1 Fiancé Visa process: My experience
It is a dream ambition for many people to move to the USA to live . Unfortunately, in order to be able to do this legally, you are normally required to fulfill certain criteria and negotiate many difficult and expensive hurdles in order to achieve this.
This is my personal account of my experience of the K-1 fiancé visa process. It is not an official guide. I will, however, write about the various practical stages I had to go through. By the end of it, you should have a broad idea of what was involved for me in getting a K-1 Fiancé visa and what the process involved.
Background and Eligibility
After being in an internet romance for nearly three years, Abby, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I decided that it was time for us to make the commitment to marry and live together. Webcams, email, and cross-Atlantic trips between the UK and the USA were useful and fun ways of sustaining the relationship while we were apart, but the time had come for us to make the big leap. There were two things for us to decide, firstly who would make the move to the other’s country and secondly what sort of visa would be used to accomplish this.
After some discussion, it was decided that I would the one to move to the usa, Abby has the complication of having a thirteen year old child, whereas I am childless, plus I found the adventure of a major life change appealing.
There are many different sorts of visa for entering the USA. Work and student visas are relatively easy to get, but no use for someone who wants to move to the USA for the long term, as they are non-immigrant visas and pretty restrictive.
After researching the matter thoroughly, we decided on getting a K-1 fiancé visa, which would mean me moving to the USA and getting married there within 90 days. After that I could seek permanent residency status. We also decided that we would try and work through the process on our own without the aid of a visa lawyer.
Submitting a Petition
The first stage of the K1 fiancé visa process in our case was for the US citizen to submit an I-129 petition. For us, it was Abby who was the petitioner. The rules state that she had to be a US citizen, which was not a problem, and that also that we were both free to marry, also straightforward as neither of us have been wedded previously. We also had to commit to marrying within 90 days of my move to the USA, again not an issue as we were already engaged by this point.
The petition essentially consists of Abby having to send off an application bundle known as an I-129F package and supply things such as proof of her US nationality, hers and my biographical details, and evidence that she would be able to support me financially when I arrived in the USA.
This was sent off, along with a fee for $340, and about three months later, Abby received an I-797, which is an official letter, stating that the petition had been successful and that the forms would now be sent to the National Visa Centre. The National Visa Centre processed the forms, then contacted the relevant foreign embassy, which in my case was the US Embassy in London, for the second stage of getting a K-1 fiancé visa to begin.
K1 Fiancé Visa forms
Getting a K1 fiancé visa application package from the US Embassy took about a month after Abby received her I-797 for me, although it can take longer, I've been told. Most of the questions on the visa forms were pretty much what I expected. They were repetitive and a little intrusive, but I appreciated that the US Government was bound to be careful about who they let into their country. There were a few unusual questions, but I was able to get through this part of the process by USCIS and internet research of expat forums etc. I had also managed to sort out some things in advance, such as my UK Police Certificate. The K1 fiancé visa application was the only part of the process I can remember where there was no fee charged.
After another two months, I was contacted by the American Embassy, they gave me details of the date of my K1 Visa interview at the embassy and requested that I attend a medical exam in advance. The embassy tells you which doctors that you have to use, you can’t use your own doctor, or pick and choose another one, so I telephoned the doctors and made an appointment. This meant taking a day off work and traveling down to Knightsbridge, London.
There was a fee of £200 ($330) to pay for getting a visa medical and in return I receieved a chest x-ray and a 15 minute examination. I had got all my vaccination injections done for free at my local health centre in advance, which saved me money as there is a typical fee of £30 ($50) per shot if you have to have them done by the Knightsbridge doctor. Once the medical is over, they give you a copy of your vaccination record sheet (which you need when you arrive in the USA). The Knightsbridge doctors then send the results of the examination to the American Embassy within a few days.
The American Embassy Interview
Because of the terrorist threat from groups such as Al Qaeda, there are strict rules for people attending their American Embassy interview in London. For instance, you aren’t allowed to take any electronic devices, including things like mobile phones and ipods. You can leave your stuff at a local chemist if you’re prepared to pay a fee, however, but I didn’t want to do that, so spent the day without any of my usual helpful gadgets. The embassy is heavily guarded and defended and I had to pass through strict security searches to get to the main reception desk. Once there, I was issued with a number and then have to sit in a big waiting room with a large number of other people, most of whom are seeking work and student visas to facilitate their move to the usa, rather than an immigrant visa like myself. I waited for nearly three hours before my number was called.
In my mind’s eye, I had pictured my interview to be a fairly formal affair and take place in a private room. The reality was rather different, however, with me getting my K-1 visa interview conducted relatively informally at a semi-private stand up hatch. I had read up on all the types of questions that I might be asked in advance, but all I received were a couple of brief, informal questions: how did I meet my wife? and what did I plan to do for work in the US?
I had to pay another fee, then pay for a private courier service and give them my contact details so that they could deliver my visa and documents and return my passport, which I’d handed over to an embassy official. They told me that I'd be getting my K-1 fiancé visa documents a few days later, which is what happened. The entire K-1 fiancé visa process had taken seven months.
As well as my passport and K-1 fiancé visa, there was a sealed envelope in the courier package which I wasn’t allowed to open. Instead it had to be handed to the customs official upon me arriving in the US port of entry, which in my case was Orlando. When the sealed envelope was opened by the customs officer, I saw that it contained a variety of documents, including copies of most of mine and Abby’s earlier approved K-1 fiancé visa application forms and other documents relating to my move to the USA.
Having got my K-1 fiancé visa and my move to the USA successfully achieved, it would be nice if I could take it easy and relax as far as immigration procedures go. But unfortunately my entanglement with red tape is not over yet. In order to become a permanent resident and seal my move to the USA, I next have to apply for an Adjustment of Status.
I should also say that despite everything, I don't regret going through all that trouble to get my K-1 fiancé visa and move to the USA, as I am now happily married (we tied the knot less than a month after my arrival, well within the 90 day maximum period allowed)
I've posted more k1 fiance visa info at my visa blog: My K1 Fiancé Visa Experience.
© 2011 Paul Goodman