All K1 fiance visas start with filings in the U.S. and end with an interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad where the foreign fiance resides. A K1 fiance visa petition cannot be filed with any immigration office outside the U.S.
Case processing currently can take anywhere from about 5 ½ months total to well over one year, depending on the particulars. It is common at many consulates for a well-prepared K1 visa to process in 7 to 9 months by current standards. Some will misquote processing time estimates to give the appearance services are speedy or only check processing times for 1 agency. There are four agencies who must clear the K1 before the visa will issue: USCIS, NVC, Security checks, and U.S. consulate. A realistic timing estimate can help you with planning your affairs properly. Here are some considerations that affect timing estimates:
First filings are submitted by the U.S. citizen to the USCIS, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The time it takes depends on where in the U.S. the petitioner resides.
Note: Timing estimates posted by the USCIS are generally not accurate for a variety of reasons. The USCIS is a huge operation. Cases move by forklift. The system does not work as it should and so there are many errors. The people who quote publish timing estimates are not the same officers who actually work on the cases.
The NVC is a clearing house for all cases processing abroad at Consulate posts.
An approved I-129F petition for a fiance visa is transferred to the National Visa Center for further processing. Transfer from the USCIS to the NVC is made both electronically and also via physical file sent through the government pouch system. A case should normally take a couple weeks to clear the NVC.
The NVC will help a U.S. consulate preprocess by setting up the file in a way that is acceptable to the consulate. Consulates can have unique methods of case processing and so the NVC acts as an interface between the USCIS and consulate. Processing times for K1 fiancee visas vary at the NVC due to the peculiar requirements of the various consulates. There are more than 150 U.S. consulates that process K1 visas, so there are quite a few variations.
The NVC will also order a police background check on the U.S. citizen and also on the foreign fiance. Automated background checks can normally take a couple weeks. If the automated check turns up a “hit,” then the case can be placed into a manual check, which can take months to process, depending on immigration staffing. When a case is delayed at the NVC, it helps to determine whether the delay is the result of a police check, or whether there is some other concern.
The NVC will generally notify the consulate of NVC clearance via email. It will then forward the physical case file through the government pouch system.
Shortly upon email notification, the consulate will open a case file and begin consular processing. The consulate will not approve a K1 visa until it has the physical file in its possession and has completed its work. The foreigner will be scheduled for an interview. If the foreigner passes the interview, the K1 visa is placed in the foreigner’s passport and is normally sent by courier to the foreigner’s residence location.
As you can see, case processing varies widely, depending on where in the U.S. the citizen resides and where the foreigner resides abroad. Case processing times also depend on what is filed. If there are problems with the filings themselves, there will be great delays. It is important to properly monitor the case as it proceeds through the system. Even the best prepared case can have difficulty because the immigration system is not a perfect system. Problems simple occur.
Expeditious processing is possible for good cause, but not for any additional government fee (There is no premium processing fee for K1 fiance visas). Instead, there must be an emergency of some sort in order for an agency to bump one case ahead of another. The emergency must be unique to you and not a common problem. An inappropriate request for expeditious handling can result in added delays. It is normal for an immigration officer to pull a file, determine there is no real emergency, and then return the case back to the end of the line, thereby slowing your case. Be careful that you only pursue an expedite for good cause.
It is important to proceed correctly and deliberately. For those interested in the possibility of working with an experienced attorney at a reasonable cost on your K1 fiance visa, I invite you to call me at 1-888-483-0311, or go to the Contact page of our website. Thank you.