Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘K1 Fiance Visa’

19th September 2018

In what may be one of the most significant developments in immigration practice in quite some time, it recently came to this blogger’s attention via a policy memorandum from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that the USCIS is radically changing their policies with respect to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). For those unaware, an RFE is issued in a case where the adjudicating officer of an immigration petition is not fully satisfied that the beneficiary and/or the petitioner meet the legal requirements. An NOID is similar and may allow the petitioner to rectify a petition notwithstanding prior inadequacy.

That being stated, the procedures regarding issuance of RFEs and NOIDs have been fundamentally altered pursuant to policy memorandum PM-602-0163 dated July 13, 2018 entitled “Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM)Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)” The provisions of this memo dictate new guidelines for adjudicators of immigration petitions. To quote directly from the USCIS website:

The 2013 PM addressed policies for the issuance of RFEs and NOIDs when the evidence submitted at the time of filing did not establish eligibility. In practice, the 2013 PM limited denials without RFEs or NOIDs to statutory denials by providing that RFEs should be issued unless there was “no possibility” of approval. This “no possibility” policy limited the application of an adjudicator’s discretion.

The policy implemented in this guidance restores to the adjudicator full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate.

Although the ramifications may not be immediately apparent, especially to those who do not deal with the immigration apparatus on a regular basis, this change in policy is rather profound. The prior doctrine which required that an adjudicator denying a petition without first issuing an RFE or NOID show that there was “no possibility” that a case could receive approval provided a great deal of limitation upon an adjudicator’s ability to unilaterally deny an immigration petition. The removal of this policy encumbrance allows future adjudicators a great deal more discretion in issuing immediate petition denials. The sources noted above go on to note that the primary reason for the change in policy stems from the desire to discourage so-called “placeholder” or “frivolous” filings (which under certain circumstances is laudable as such cases can unnecessarily clog up the immigration processing channels), but there could be significant ramifications for cases which would not necessarily fit those descriptions.

For example, in K-1 visa petitions it is now more likely that more denials will be issued in the future in such cases where it has not been incontrovertibly proven that the couple has in fact met in person within 2 years of filing for the benefit (the so-called Meeting Requirement). Furthermore, in cases involving petitioning for a fiance visa it seems logical to infer that future adjudications may result in a  denial where the petitioner has failed to demonstrate that both parties maintain the requisite intention to marry in the USA.

It is difficult to speculate at this time exactly how this change in policy will be implemented and the full consequences associated therewith. However, two things are clear: 1) visa petitions are likely to be more susceptible to denial moving forward and 2) those thinking of undertaking a do-it-yourself approach to petitioning for a fiancee or marriage visa are well advised to seriously consider the negative aspects of failing to seek professional legal assistance in immigration matters as failure to fully delineate a case clearly and concisely in the initial petition for immigration benefits could result in a denial and thereby a loss of time and resources.

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23rd November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video which can be found here: K-1 Visas from Vietnam

In this video we are going to be discussing K-1 Visas specifically in the context of cases that will be processed presumably through the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City primarily.

As can be heard from the preamble to this video, I’m an American attorney but we’re located here in Bangkok. Primarily we do the vast majority of our cases do involve Thai nationals though we do deal with cases regionally and I sort of thought about it the other day and I said that you know, I really don’t do enough videos talking about some of the other posts and other nationalities we deal with in the immigration context within the immigration practice here. So I went ahead and decided to do this video.

The way to look at the K-1 process specifically and the K-1 fiancée process is slightly different than dealing with other family based petitions. First of all, you have to be intending to marry an American citizen unlike marriage visas where you can be married to a lawful permanent resident and process a case that way for one of the preference categories. K-1 Visas are only between a foreign national and an American citizen. Both parties have to be legally free to marry, that’s rather important. This can come up and cause some confusion, and cause some problems in a lot cases because folks think “oh, we filed and now we can marry”. “No, you have to remain fiancées throughout the whole process!”  You have to be legally free to marry up until the fiancée, the Vietnamese fiancée comes to the United States at which point it is then possible to go ahead and get married in the United States and file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. In another video on this channel I discuss specifically adjustment of status. Adjustment of status is the process by which an individual comes to the United States, in this case in K-1 status, gets married and goes ahead and  lawful permanent residence attached,  aka Green Card Status. Another thing to keep in mind with respect to the K-1 specifically, the couple in question needs to have met physically in person within 2 years of the filing of the petition for the visa benefits.  There are exceptions to this rule but they are very, very narrow in scope and for that reason it’s best to effectively just go ahead and say “look, I have to meet in person. That usually means they are going to have to travel at least once to, in the case of a Vietnamese fiancée, presumably Vietnam and meet physically in person, the Vietnamese fiancée before filing can be perfected or at least before an acceptable filing can be perfected.

Some things to think about as far as how it works.  Well the case starts off over at the Department of Homeland Security, specifically USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. They go ahead and process the petition. If the petition is approved, the case moves to the National Visa Center which is under the auspices of the Department of State. The National Visa Center, they act as a sort of clearing house or sort of administrative hub for sending these cases out, making sure it gets from the approval at DHS and gets to the appropriate embassy or consulate. In the vast majority of cases involving Vietnam you’re  not going to be dealing with the post in Hanoi, in the vast majority of cases at least that we deal with, you’re dealing with the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a higher volume post, so processing can take a little bit longer. In Vietnam, as far as Consular processing goes, it can take a little bit longer when compared to other posts in the region, Bangkok included, but Bangkok is a pretty high volume post as well. Some of the other smaller posts, Cambodia, Laos definitely, even Yangon, don’t quite have the volume so things may move a little bit more quickly.  But that being said, it’s just the process you have to deal with and every case is sort of being unique and you have to deal with the circumstances as you take them.  So that being said, it will go to the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and at that point the case, the Vietnamese fiancée will be informed of the protocols that he or she needs to undertake to go ahead and complete the consular processing portion. In the cases where we have been retained to assist in these matters, we often assist with translations, compilation of documentation, filling out of various forms, both online and physical forms cases and in a lot of cases going ahead and submitting the request for the actual visa application interview.  And then on top of that we go ahead and assist in preparing certain questions or I really hate to say we provide the questions that they are going to ask, we don’t; we provide an overview with respect to how, what is the process looking for? What kind of due diligence is the Consular Officer likely to be interested in conducting? In most cases it’s ascertaining that the couple is a genuine couple, they are legally free to marry, they’ve remained legally free to marry, they adhere to the law, they adhere to the Immigration policy, they don’t have any legal grounds of inadmissibility and all the documentation relevant to the case that that officer feels is pertinent is present and accounted for with respect to the underlying application. That’s basically what they’re looking to do. It’s not an exercise in “stump the applicant”, it’s an exercise in due diligence. They want to make certain that the couple is bona fide.  So for that reason, that is sort of a general overview of what the interview process is like. If the officer requests further documentation, they can issue what is called a 221-G request for further documentation.

In some cases they may feel that the case is denied for various reasons. They have to give a legal reason why they are denying the case. In most cases that I have dealt when you get a denial, you are looking at a legal ground of inadmissibility, and a legal ground of inadmissibility is defined in the Immigration Nationality Act and in some cases it’s often possible to overcome that legal ground of inadmissibility through use of an I-601 waiver. There are various videos on this channel with respect to the I-601 specifically but to sort of just sum up K-1 visa processing through Vietnam, you’re looking at a matter of months; I think you are looking at probably 8 or 9 months with respect to the overall “door to door” process with respect to processing a successful K-1 visa, on average.  There are outliers on both sides. Every case is unique; it’s like a snow flake. But that being said, that’s kind of a general overview with respect to timeline, the thing to keep in mind, just sort of in sum. It’s a 3 part process. It effectively begins in the US, goes through various offices in the US, finally to wind up, generally speaking, at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City where the matter will be adjudicated by the Consular Officer at the Immigrant Visa Unit. Again, K-1s are interesting because they’re a non-immigrant visa that has dual intent. You are actually a non-immigrant visa but to all intents and purposes, the consular section treats it as if it were an immigrant visa and you go ahead and undertake the interview and hopefully, presuming a successful interview, a visa will be issued shortly after the interview date.

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10th November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video found here: K-1 Fiance Visas From Cambodia:

In this video we are going to be discussing the K-1 Fiancee Visa specifically in the context of Consular processing in the Kingdom of Cambodia; specifically the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

For those of you who have checked out this channel and seen some of the other videos, you probably know that we are based in Bangkok, Thailand, we do deal primarily with immigration matters arising with Thai-American nationality generally, we deal with a lot of US family immigration matters, fiancée visas, marriage visas etc.

Just because we’re located here, does not mean necessarily that this is our exclusive bailiwick with respect to US immigration.  It is sort of interesting in so far as immigration attorneys who practice in the United States tend to have a plethora of rather wide range of nationality of clientele that they deal with, whereas, it is sort of somewhat inverted by us being based in Bangkok we primarily deal with Thai nationals. But that being said, I have dealt with cases involving the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, quite a number of cases involving that particular post, mostly because of its nearby proximity to Thailand here.  But that being said, for those who are interested in sort of an overview of the process it’s best to sort of look at it in 2 phases: One involves the Department of Homeland Security.  The Immigration apparatus, USCIS under the auspices of DHS, Department of Homeland Security, is going to go ahead and adjudicate what is called an I-129 F petition. That petition is basically the starting point of the process if you will. You have got to file a petition and you have got to get approval from the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, before being able to proceed further with the K-1 visa. After the initial adjudication of the petition, and let’s go into some details of some requirements associated with the petition, most notably the couple in question must both be legally free to  marry at the time that the application is filed. Moreover, both parties need to have met physically, in person within a 2-year period of their initial filing of the petition for a K-1 visa status. The big things to keep in mind is that “You have got to be legally free to marry”, you can’t be getting a divorce, you have to already be divorced if you have a prior spouse; you have got to be legally free to marry and the other thing to keep in mind is this can sort of happen in certain common law jurisdictions or sometimes even in civil law jurisdictions. You can’t get married legally while the K-1 is processing, even if it’s to each other, you have to wait and remain fiancées until the foreign fiancée in this case Khmer, presumably coming out of Phnom Penh, comes to the United States and then you have 90 days to get married and file to adjust status. Adjustment of status is a different process. It comes subsequent to marriage, in the United States. There’s another video on this channel which specifically discusses the details of adjustment of status. Suffice it to say that basically that’s the process by which the foreign fiancée, and later spouse, becomes a lawful permanent resident, aka a green card holder in the United States.  So that’s sort of the back end of the process. Going back, petition, have to have met within 2 years of filing, need to be legally free to marry, there’s other details associated with this, I am not going to get too deep into that side of things, but presuming USCIS DHS approval, the matter is going to move quickly over to the National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house or routing hub to send it to the appropriate Embassy or  Consulate abroad, in the case of Cambodia Nationals, presumably that’s going to be Phnom Penh , Cambodia and at that point, you need to deal with the specific Consular processing mandates of the visa section of the Embassy over there.

It is interesting to bring up with respect to K-1 visas, they are what is considered a dual intent visa. So technically speaking, they’re non-immigrant category but for purposes of consular processing, and sort of the application process, they are treated for all intents and purposes as Immigrant visas, just like a spouse visa, CR -1 IR -1 or “shades of grey” here but the K-3 visa. So basically to sum up, with respect to this video, the process for getting a fiancée of Cambodian nationality into the United States, begins in the United States, progresses through multiple agencies over there before getting to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh and then there’s various documentation associated with the overall process and various documents which need to be translated from Khmer to English etc. Our services, we can provide those translations, part and parcel with what we deal with on a regular basis. I oftentimes have to go over to Phnom Penh to deal with clients as well and that can sometimes come up. But just generally speaking, as sort of from an overview of how the process works and what we can do to assist if necessary is basically, it starts in the US, comes over to the Embassy and finally, I think it is pretty safe to say probably 8 months, 9 months on average, all in, the processing time for getting a K-1. It can move faster, it can move slower. The thing to keep in mind with respect to all US visa applications is they’re like snowflakes, every one of them is unique, every one of them is slightly different and you are going to see one case may move inordinately quickly, we actually had one process through quite quickly as far as sort of compared to averages and I think it sort of just hit the right desk at the right minute and just sort of went through whereas some cases they just move more slowly.  It’s going to differ, case to case, circumstance to circumstance but that being said, with respect specifically to Cambodia K-1 Visas again are going to start processing in the United States, they’re going to end up in Cambodia and then once the Cambodian national comes to the United States and marries their American citizen fiancée, they can go ahead and petition to adjust status and receive a green card in the US.

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22nd September 2010

Those who read this blog on a regular basis may have noted that recently less attention has been paid to the K1 visa than in the past. This development is partly due to the fact that there has been little to report regarding the US fiance visa as there have been few dramatic changes to the K1 visa process since the beginning of the year 2010. That said, with Comprehensive Immigration Reform possibly on the horizon, there are those who believe that many changes will be made to current US Immigration protocols. In a recent announcement, the American State Department sought comments regarding the DS-156K. This form is specifically used for Consular Processing of the K1 fiance visa. To directly quote an excerpt from the announcement as distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

We are soliciting public comments to permit the Department to: Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary to properly perform our functions. Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the burden of the proposed collection, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used. Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected. Minimize the reporting burden on those who are to respond, Abstract of proposed collection: Form DS-156K is used by consular officers to determine the eligibility of an alien applicant for a non- immigrant fiancee visa. Methodology: The DS-156K is submitted to consular posts abroad.

In the past, the DS-156K might have also been utilized in a K3 Visa application pending before a US Consulate or US Embassy. However, the National Visa Center announced this year that many of the K3 visa applications will be “administratively closed” in cases where the underlying I-130 petition (used for spouse visas such as the CR1 Visa and the IR1 Visa) arrives at NVC simultaneously or prior to the arrival of the I-129f petition for a K3 visa.

In the context of the K1 visa, this request for comments would appear to be an attempt by the State Department to assess the utility of the DS-156K in an effort to streamline the processing of future K visa applications. How the comments will ultimately be used remains to be seen, but any attempt to make the visa process more efficient should be greeted positively by this author as the visa process can sometimes prove to be confusing and cumbersome those American Citizens wishing to bring a loved one to the United States.

For further information please see: K1 Visa Thailand or K3 Visa Thailand.

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26th December 2009

For Thai-American couples the most common method of immigrating to the USA is through use of a K1 visa. The K1 visa is a fiancee visa granting the bearer 90 days of lawful presence in the United States of America with the option to apply for adjustment of status. If an adjustment of status application is submitted and approved then the Thai fiancee will be granted conditional lawful permanent residence for 2 years. After nearly 2 years the couple should submit a petition for a lift of conditions of the Thai spouse’s permanent residence. Should this petition receive approval, the Thai spouse will become an unconditional lawful permanent resident of the United States of America.

There are some travel restrictions placed upon permanent residents of the United States. Namely, they cannot be outside of the USA for more than one year without endangering their resident status in the USA. For those who remain abroad for more than one year it may be necessary to apply for an SB-1 visa. This is a visa specifically meant for returning residents of the USA. For those who plan to be outside of the USA for a substantial period of time there is a way to forestall a finding of residential abandonment: a US reentry permit. This is a travel document that is very similar to advance parole in so far as it preserves the status of the lawful permanent resident while they remain abroad. These travel documents are generally granted with a validity period of 2 years from issuance.

Recently, this author came into contact with an individual who had lawful permanent resident status in the US, but had lost his Resident Alien Card (“Green Card”) and needed to return to the US. This individual still had a valid US reentry permit. After some research, this author discovered that a United States lawful permanent resident may reenter the country without a proper visa provided that they have a valid United States reentry permit.

To directly quote from the website of the US Embassy in Mumbai:

“Per 8CFR 211.1, an alien in possession of a valid form I-327, Permit to reenter the United states (i.e. reentry permit), does not require a visa to reenter the United States.  Therefore, [one] may travel [to the USA] with [only one's] valid reentry permit.”

In a way, the United States reentry permit is akin to a passport for lawful permanent residents although it is inherently more restrictive than a US passport. For those lawful permanent residents thinking of leaving the USA for a prolonged period of time it may be wise to seriously consider applying for a reentry permit because it provides not only the peace of mind that comes from preserving one’s status, it can also act as a backup travel document in the event one loses their resident alien card.

For related information please see our postings about losing a US passport and obtaining a new one from American Citizen Services at a US Consulate in Thailand.

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