Integrity Legal

2nd Jun 2009

Origin of the K1 Visa

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Certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act promulgated in 1952 create differing means and methods for family immigration to the USA. Of particular interest are the provisions specifically designed to provide visas and travel documents for foreign loved ones of Americans.

Pursuant to prior US immigration statutes and rules, an American Citizen with an alien fiancee was required to marry the alien loved one outside of the United States and subsequently petition for an Immigrant visa in order to obtain immigration benefits for the alien spouse. As time went by the number of United States Citizens marrying foreign nationals grew. As a result, the immigration caseload increased.

Over the years, the United States Congress has made efforts to ease the administrative burden shouldered by agencies involved in US Immigration. Concurrently, Congress has also passed measures designed to provide  more immigration options to those United States Citizens who have alien loved ones.

The K1 Fiance visa is an example of Congressional intent to assist bi-national couples. One major problem with the pre-K1 immigration regulations: what does a couple do if they cannot get married in the foreign fiancee’s home country? Prior to passage of the legislation creating the K1 visa category many couples found themselves unable to immigrate to the USA together if the non-US Citizen’s home country would not legalize the marriage.

These types of situations can be seen even today. In Southeast Asia, there are many countries that make restrictions upon marriage to foreigners. Burma (also known as Myanmar) has enacted stringent rules regarding marriage to foreigners. At different points in Cambodia’s history, there have been instances of government attempts to keep Cambodians from marrying non-Cambodians. In situations such as this, a K1 visa can be a godsend for couples because it allows them to obtain a US visa without the requirement of formalized marriage. Once present in the USA on a K1 visa the foreign fiancee can marry the American Citizen and submit an application for adjustment of status. After the adjustment of status application is approved, the foreign fiancee is given permanent residence.

In Thailand, a country that makes no specific provisions barring foreign nationals from marrying Thais, the K1 visa is often sought because the processing time is quick in comparison to the K3 visa or the Immigrant US Marriage Visa. However, the K1 is not necessarily the fastest option because sometimes locally filing an immigrant visa petition is the fastest method of visa acquisition.

(No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this post. This post is written and distributed for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.)

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