When an individual is a fiancé of an American, is currently living abroad, and wishes to obtain a visa so they can come to the United States in order to get married, they are required to file for a special fiancé visa.
Once the individual marries their American fiancé, they can file for an adjustment of status in order to become a permanent resident and to obtain a green card.
When an individual obtains a fiancé visa, they are not required to permanently reside in the United States. They may choose whether or not they want to continue residing in the United States after they are married.
What is a Fiance K-1 Visa?
A fiancé visa, or a K-1 Visa, is granted to a foreign citizen who intends to marry an American citizen. It permits the individual to enter the United States.
It is important to note that a fiancé visa does not grant the individual legal permanent residency as a green card does. Instead, the fiancé visa grants the alien 6 months time to enter into the United States and 90 days to marry their American fiancé following their entry into the country.
The K-1 fiancé visa only permits entry one time, so once the individual has entered into the United States, they cannot leave and return using their K-1 fiancé visa.
How Do I Obtain a K-1 Visa?
In order to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa, the United States citizen is required to file a Petition for Alien Fiance, or USCIS Form I-129F. Once the petition has been approved and processed, it will be sent to the consulate or embassy in which the non-American fiancé is applying for their visa.
Once the petition is approved, the alien fiancé has 4 months to apply for their visa. In order to receive their visa, the alien fiancé must provide the following information to their embassy:
- A passport which is valid for six months after intended entry into United States;
- A birth certificate;
- A police certificate from all locations where they have resided since the age of 16;
- A medical examination;
- Evidence of financial support;
- Two Nonimmigrant Visa Applications, Form DS-156;
- A Nonimmigrant Fiance Visa Application, Form DS-156K; and
- Evidence of a fiancé relationship.
How Do I Apply for Permanent Residency Once Married?
Once the alien fiancé is married, they are required to apply for a marriage visa which grants them permanent residency in the United States. The alien fiancé is required to file an Application to Register Permanent Residence USCIS Form I-485.
The American citizen is also required to file an Affidavit of Support, USCIS Form I-864. Once these are approved, the alien fiancé will be granted a conditional green card.
After 2 years have passed, the alien fiancé may then apply to remove the conditional status using Form I-751. The alien fiancé is required to have been married for 2 years or have been divorced from a good-faith marriage and demonstrate that their marriage was not entered into in order to evade immigration laws.
What is Fiance Visa Fraud?
An individual commits fiancé visa fraud when they use deceit or misrepresentation as a means to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa. This type of fraud is surprisingly common because, in general, it takes less time to secure a K-1 visa as it does to secure other types of visas.
There are instances of individuals who are attempting to defraud the United States federal government with their marriage through marriage immigration. It is also common, however, for one party in the relationship to enter into the engagement to defraud the other party.
What are Common Examples of Fiancé Visa Fraud?
Fiancé visa fraud may occur in a variety of ways. It may be as simple as an individual approaching an American tourist abroad and offering the money in exchange for a false relationship in order to deceive immigration authorities.
As a result of these issues, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has created and instituted measures to prevent individuals in a sham marriage from being issued visas as well as to penalize those individuals who are caught attempting to defraud immigration officials.
Common examples of fiancé visa fraud which are often discovered by the USCIS may include:
- Lying and providing false information on their visa application;
- Showing staged photos or other fake evidence to support a sham marriage; and
- Having witnesses falsely testify on behalf of the couple and their relationship history.
Are There Any Legal Penalties for Fiancé Visa Fraud?
Yes, there may be legal penalties for engaging in fiancé visa fraud. Immigration laws place strict prohibitions on anyone from attempting to defraud the United States government.
If individuals are caught attempting to defraud the United States government, harsh penalties may follow. The possible penalties for immigration fraud may vary depending on the party.
For a non-United States citizen alien, they will likely be deported from the U.S. They may also be barred from re-entering the United States for a specified period of time.
A non-citizen alien may lose their chance at naturalization. They may also become ineligible for a change of immigration status.
For a United States citizen and any other party who participated in the fraud, they may be subject to criminal charges, fines, incarceration, and a combination of incarceration and fines. This may include any individual who participated in the attempt at defrauding the government, including false witnesses.
A couple may wish to consult with an immigration attorney prior to applying for a K-1 fiancé visa. An experienced immigration attorney can advise the couple regarding what evidence they may need in order to prove their relationship is true and is not based on false pretenses as an attempt to defraud the government.
How Does USCIS Determine there is Immigration Fraud for a K-1 Visa?
The USCIS looks for certain red flags when they are attempting to determine whether immigration fraud is occurring by individuals attempting to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa. The following list includes some examples that may signal USCIS authorities to further investigate an individual’s visa application:
- The couple does not have a shared language;
- There is a large age gap between the parties;
- Differences in race or religion;
- Unequal educational backgrounds;
- The couple is residing in separate addresses;
- The marriage is secret from friends and family;
- The timing of the marriage may be due to urgency;
- For example, if one party is approaching the expiration date on a nonimmigrant visa and will have to leave the U.S., a marriage at this time may seem suspicious;
- The marriage occurred quickly after the couple met, or quickly after a divorce;
- The U.S. petitioner has a history of supporting other spousal immigrants;
- The U.S. petitioner is in need of cash;
- Either individual has a history of crime, especially fraud offenses; and
- Any attempt to create false evidence of a shared life prior to the interview.
The first portion of the approval process for a fiancé visa petition may take anywhere from 4 to 6 months. The second part of the application process typically takes anywhere between 45 to 60 days.
There are some K-1 fiancé visa applications which are approved in as little as 3 months, while others take well over 12 months, depending on the circumstances. Each K-1 fiancé visa application is unique.
An experienced immigration attorney will be able to provide a better estimate of how long the process should take for an individual’s application situation.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Fiancé Visa Fraud Issues?
It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced immigration law attorney for any issues you may have regarding fiancé visa fraud. Your attorney will review your case, advise you of your rights, and assist you in making your case for being issued a visa.
If you are required to take any extra steps with the USCIS, your attorney will represent you throughout the process.