Fiance Visa Process
The Fiance Visa (also known as K1 Visa) process starts with filings in the U.S. and ends with an interview at the U.S. consulate abroad where the foreign fiancé(e) resides. A K1 fiance visa petition cannot be filed with any immigration office outside the U.S.
Case processing currently takes anywhere from about 5 ½ months total to well over one year, depending on the particulars. The average is about 9 months or so for an application that is well-prepared at each stage of case processing. Some misquote processing times hook you to hire. Often, they will quote only the processing time of the first stage, not the entire process through to visa issuance.
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Expeditious processing requires good cause. 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. We’ll be happy to discuss your specific situation via phone or our free consultation form.
- Unlicensed immigration “agents” are unregulated. They do not work directly with immigration agencies. They are passive participants in the immigration process. Consequently, they have little opportunity to help when a problem arises and they are not fully informed. Moreover, you cannot hold “agents” legally accountable when they cause a problem.
- By comparison, our law firm is licensed and regulated. We are legally accountable to you. We have a great deal of experience in immigration law and work directly with immigration agencies when problems arise.
The Complete Process
Four agencies must clear the K1 Visa before the visa will issue: USCIS, NVC, security checks, and U.S. consulate. A realistic timing estimate helps you plan your affairs properly. Here are some considerations that affect timing estimates.
1. USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services)
U.S. citizen submits first filings to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). 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, so there are many errors. The data clerks who publish the timing estimates are not the same officers who actually work on the cases. The data clerks don’t always know what is happening with the immigration officers who work on the cases.
2. NVC (National Visa Center)
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 or so 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. 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. Consequently, there are quite a few variations.
3. Security Checks
The NVC orders a police background check on the U.S. citizen and also on the foreign fiance. Automated background checks normally take a couple weeks. DHS officers order a manual check if the automated check turns up a “hit.” Manuel checks can take months to process, depending on staffing. Consequently, it helps to determine whether the delay is due to a police check or some other reason when there is a delay.
The NVC will generally notify the consulate of NVC clearance via email. It forwards the physical case file through the government pouch system to the consulate. Shortly upon notification, the consulate opens a case file and begins consular processing. An interview at a U.S. consulate will not take place until the consulate has the physical file in its possession. It then schedules the foreigner to come in for an interview. Upon approval, the consulate keeps the foreigner’s passport so that the consulate can affix the K1 visa into it. The consulate sends the passport by courier to the foreigner’s residence location.
As you can see, case processing varies widely, depending on where the foreigner resides abroad and what is happening at each of the agencies. How you prepare and present a case at each step makes a difference. Your case will be delayed or denied unless prepared and submitted correctly and on time. Therefore, it helps to have an experienced attorney properly monitor the case as it proceeds through the system.
Call for Assistance
Consider a licensed, professional immigration legal representative before proceeding. Immigration law is large and diverse, covering many types of immigration. Government agencies have become increasingly adversarial. It helps to have our team on your side to prevent avoidable and unnecessary delays, anticipate problems, and effectively navigate your matter toward successful completion. We provide a free initial consultation for those interested in possibly working with us on case processing, and we’re happy to answer your questions.