Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘K-1 visa application’

13th October 2013

A frequently asked question from those wishing to sponsor a foreign fiance or spouse for a US Fiance Visa or US Marriage Visa is: do I make enough income to act as a sponsor for my loved one? The answer to this question involves the affidavit of support which is a primary component of the visa application process. When a fiance or spouse visa application is adjudicated by a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate overseas part of the application includes either and I-134 or I-864 affidavit of support. This document allows the adjudicating Consular officer to make a determination as to whether or not the US Citizen spouse or fiance has the income necessary to support their fiance or spouse in the United States. This affidavit also acts as a sort of third party beneficiary contract between the American spouse and the United States government in order to make certain that the American spouse pays the US government for any means tested benefits that the foreign spouse may acquire while in the USA.

When determining whether or not an American spouse or fiance can support a foreign spouse or fiance the adjudicating officer will first look to the American’s adjusted annual income on his or her income tax return. In order to meet the minimum eligibility requirements the American spouse or fiance must earn 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for a family of their size. The current federal poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous States as well as Alaska and Hawaii can be found below (as quoted from the official website of Housing and Human Services):

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.
1 $11,490
2 15,510
3 19,530
4 23,550
5 27,570
6 31,590
7 35,610
8 39,630

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR ALASKA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,030 for each additional person.
1 $14,350
2 19,380
3 24,410
4 29,440
5 34,470
6 39,500
7 44,530
8 49,560

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR HAWAII
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,620 for each additional person.
1 $13,230
2 17,850
3 22,470
4 27,090
5 31,710
6 36,330
7 40,950
8 45,570

SOURCE: Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, January 24, 2013, pp. 5182-5183

Those wishing to ascertain whether they are eligible to sponsor their foreign fiance or spouse should use the above figures to determine 125% of the poverty guidelines for a family of their size (including the foreign family member(s)). It should be noted that active duty members of the United States Armed Forces must only meet 100% of the federal poverty guidelines in order to be eligible to sponsor a foreign fiance or spouse. Those unable to meet the 125% income level noted above may be able to use assets to offset the difference between their level of income and the 125% requirement. For affidavit of support purposes, a prospective sponsor of a Thai fiancee or wife can make up the difference in income between what is actually earned and what is legally required by providing evidence of assets which equal 5 times the difference between what a prospective sponsor earns and the level required by law. Thus, if a prospective sponsor fall short of the 125% level by 5,000 USD, then the prospective sponsor can show proof of assets in the amount of 25,000 USD in order to overcome the disparity.

It may also be possible to use the income and assets of a joint sponsor if the person petitioning for the foreign national’s visa is unable to overcome the income and asset requirements. It should be noted that only the I-864 affidavit of support (that used in cases involving the application for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) may utilize a joint sponsor. Those seeking a K-1 visa are not eligible to use a joint sponsor, therefore, only the American Citizen fiance’s income and assets will be adjudicated during the K1 visa application process. In the past, Consular Officers at the US Embassy in Bangkok were known to accept joint sponsors in K-1 visa application adjudications. However, as of the time of this writing that practice has ceased.

Those interested in learning more on these topics are encouraged to click on the following link: Affidavit of Support.

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2nd July 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a statement regarding the implementation of policies regarding adjudication of immigration petitions for same-sex bi-national married couples. To quote directly from the official website of DHS:

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

This statement is a significant moment in the long fight for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples. In order to provide further information regarding these developments the DHS has posted some frequently asked questions on the same page as the aforementioned quotation. These FAQ’s are quoted below:

Q1:  I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national.  Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa?

A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly, the United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident same sex spouse of a foreign national can now submit an I-130 petition for Lawful Permanent Residence (also known as “Green Card” status) for their husband or wife. In fact, it would appear that a same-sex couple in Florida was recently granted immigration benefits for the same-sex spouse. This would especially be true in a case where the couple not only was married in State recognizing same-sex marriage, but also resides in that same State or another of the 13 States which recognize such unions. An issue which is, as of yet, not so clearly delineated hinges upon a situation in which a same-sex married couple has married in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage (and performs them), but resides in a State which does not recognize such unions. To shed further light upon this issue it is necessary to quote again from the same DHS webpage, quoted above, regarding this issue:

Q2:  My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not.  Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?

A2: Yes, you can file the petition.  In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.

For those wishing to visit the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to learn more please click HERE.

For those unfamiliar with the recent Supreme Court decision striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) it should be pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision did not impact section 2 of DOMA which reads as follows:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that there are some who argue that section 2 of DOMA violates the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, no Court ruling nor Act of Congress has repealed section 2 of DOMA and, in the words of the DHS website itself, in those “fact-specific” situations in which Section 2 of DOMA may be relevant the provisions of Section 2 could prove detrimental to a same-sex bi-national couple. That being said, according to the DHS website, a petition could still be filed and it would be adjudicated accordingly.

One final point to ponder on this issue is the K-1 visa. Under current United States Immigration law it is possible for an American Citizen to apply for a Fiance Visa, also known as the K-1 visa, for a foreign fiance residing abroad, so long as the couple intends to marry in the United States within 90 days of the foreign fiance’s arrival (other regulations apply to K-1 visa holders, but for the purposes of this analysis they are not necessarily relevant). If a same-sex couple, who are not yet legally married, wishes to obtain a K-1 visa based upon their intention to wed in the United States, then it could be inferred from the DHS Secretary’s statement that they might be adjudicated in the same manner as the same petition for a different-sex couple. However, this should not be viewed as a foregone conclusion because the statements quoted above only pertain specifically to couples who are already married. Neither the Court, nor the DHS, have specifically dealt with the question of those same-sex couples who wish to seek a K1 visa based upon an intention to marry in the USA. It could be inferred from the Court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor that those same-sex couples with the intention to marry in a jurisdiction where same-sex unions are recognized should be granted the same treatment as those different-sex couples in similar circumstances; but the issue has yet to be clearly adjudicated and therefore no completely clear answer arises.

Meanwhile, one significant question remains: based upon the above information how will USCIS adjudicate K-1 visa applications for same-sex couples who wish to travel to the United States to marry in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage, but reside in a State which does not? Hopefully the answer to this question will come soon. Until then it would appear that although DHS clearly intends to adjudicate same-sex married couples’ petitions for immigration benefits in the same way as different-sex couples; it remains to be seen how same sex fiances will be treated in the eyes of U.S. Immigration law.

For information on immigrant visas please see: CR-1 Visa or  IR-1 Visa.

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8th June 2009

How can my Fiancee and I meet the K-1 Visa Requirements?

Many couple’s initial question regarding the K-1 visa is: do we meet the legal requirements for a K-1 visa? Although the K-1 has less requirements than other US visas, there are still requirements that must be met in order to meet the statutory requirements laid out in the US Immigration and Nationality Act.

Basic Requirements in order to Petition for a K-1 Visa for a Foreign Fiancee

With regard to the K-1, a major legal requirement is that the Petitioner be a United States Citizen. Unlike US Marriage visas, a K-1 visa can only be obtained for the fiancee of an American Citizen. In Thailand, this is not n issue that generally arises, but in other areas of Southeast Asia (Vietnam for example), lack of United States Citizenship is often a preclusion for those who would otherwise have filed for a K-1 visa.

Further, the United States Citizen and foreign fiancee must have met in person at least two years prior to submitting the K-1 visa application. In certain cases, particularly involving arranged marriages in which the parties cannot meet in person as dictated by custom, it may be possible to obtain a waiver of this requirement, but in nearly all cases this is a firm requirement in order to qualify for a K-1 visa.

A US Citizen is required to show evidence that he can adequately support a foreign fiancee should she receive a K-1 visa. The Financial requirement is currently set at 125% of the poverty level as designated by housing and human services. For the current figures please see: K-1 visa financial requirements.

K-1 visa requirements imposed by IMBRA and the Adam Walsh Act

There are further K-1 visa requirements imposed by the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act and the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act. If the US Citizen has petitioned for 1 or more K-1 visas in the 2 years prior to current K-1 application, then they will be precluded from obtaining another K-1 without obtaining a waiver from USCIS. As to the Adam Walsh Act, the statute generally requires that the US Citizen mus not have a criminal history involving offenses against children in order to be eligible to apply for a fiancee visa.

K-1 visa requirements: Necessity of a US Immigration Attorney

Where there is a question as to whether or not the US Citizen and Thai fiancee meet the K-1 visa requirements it may be helpful to consult a US Immigration attorney in order to determine if all K-1 visa requirements have been met.

(Please note that none of the content contained herein should be used instead of personalized legal advice from an attorney. Further, this is a general list of K-1 visa requirements, it is non-exhaustive and therefore should not be used as a definitive source regarding K-1 visa requirements. No lawyer-client relationship should be assumed to exist between the author and reader of this article.)

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7th June 2009

The K-1 Application: Frequently Asked Questions

A very frequently asked question with regard to the K-1 Fiance Visa is: how do we apply for a K-1 Visa? US Immigration procedure is a somewhat difficult to understand for those who have never dealt with the application process. This post will briefly provide details about the K-1 application, where it will be filed, and use of an Immigration attorney.

A common misconception held by many American Citizens is that a visa applicant can simply apply for the K1 Visa at the US Embassy directly. It is easy to understand why people believe this particularly in light of the fact that this is essentially the procedure for obtaining a US tourist visa. In the case of K1 visas this, however, is not the case. One must first file the K-1 visa application with an office called the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS for short. The application is then routed to the National Visa Center and remitted to the American Embassy in Bangkok.

There are so many forms, which should be used?

Many people are belabor under the myth that the US Immigration process is a very straightforward process. In reality, because US Immigration law is statute driven it can be quite complex to the point of being byzantine. The rules governing how and where things must be filed and the order in which petitions ought to be filed can be fraught with difficulty for the laymen. In the case of the K1 visa, the correct application form that should be used is the I-129f. This should not be confused with the I-129 petition form. Withing this application form, there are many questions that  a couple will need to confer about. Recent statutory changes like IMBRA and the Adam Walsh Act have created new restrictions with regard to who is allowed to petition for a K-1 visa.  The I-129f is the crux of the fiance visa application, but there are more government forms that must accompany this application along with supporting documentation that must be used to prove the legitimacy of the relationship.

Where do we file the K1 visa application?

The location that one should file a K1 application depends upon where the US Citizen’s residence in the United States is located. Another misunderstanding involves a belief that aK1 application can be filed at a local USCIS office. In most cases this is not correct. There are two Service Centers for US Citizens wishing to file a K1 application, one is in Vermont and the other is in California. The location for filing the application depends heavily upon the US Citizen’s state of residence.

Should we use an attorney to file a K-1 visa application?

Retaining the services of an attorney is a decision that each couple should decide on their own. That being said, a great deal of the administrative burden can be lifted by retaining attorney assistance. An attorney or law firm with an office in the home country of the fiancee can be even more beneficial because the attorney can deal with the fiancee’s issues at the US Embassy in real time.

(Nothing Contained herein should be thought of as an appropriatealternative to personalized legal advice from a competent attorney. No attorney/client relationship should be assumed to have been created by merely reading this post.)

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