K-1 visas are dual intent visas allowing foreign nationals to marry their US citizen petitioner. Once the couple is married, the K-1 visa holder can apply for a green card.
While this sounds like a straightforward process, there are several controversial issues associated with K-1 visas. What are they, and how does USCIS prevent potential scams?
Why Are K-1 Visas Controversial?
USCIS officers pay close attention to K-1 visa applications because the granting of a K-1 visa leads to almost immediate immigration and eligibility for employment in the United States.
Detecting fraudulent relationships is a serious matter for USCIS officers. Since marrying a US citizen is the fastest and easiest way to get a green card and employment eligibility in the United States, USCIS officers have to be diligent about detecting sham marriages.
While USCIS is always on the lookout for fraudulent relationships, they often don’t get detected until the foreign national is applying for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident. This means K-1 visas are rather easy to obtain. In 2009, about 95 percent of the K-1 visas applied for were granted.
Mail-Order Brides & K-1 Visas
Many people fall in love with someone overseas, whether while traveling, serving in a war or simply searching online. While the concept of mail-order brides seems antiquated or even upsetting to some, the truth is that many people still search for — and find — an overseas soulmate.
In this digital age, most match-ups are made on international agencies’ websites. A few exchanged e-mails don’t constitute a relationship, though — at least not in the eyes of USCIS officers.
Before you petition for a K-1 visa for your overseas love, USCIS officers want proof that you have met with your beloved at least once in the two years prior to filing the petition, which you can prove by providing airline tickets or showing passport stamps.
While this requirement can be waived if you can prove that a physical meeting would violate religious customs or cause either one of you hardship, it will be even further scrutinized by USCIS officers. They will be looking for more concrete proof of a relationship, which generally includes phone bills, e-mails, letters and other evidence of regular correspondence.
Also, if your loved one’s personal documents are not in English, they will require certified translations to be accepted by USCIS.
Even if you prove you have a real relationship, K-1 visas will almost always be denied to foreign nationals with communicable diseases, criminal records, drug addictions and mental disorders. K-1 visas will also not be issued to foreign nationals who may become public charges.
Are Mail-Order Brides Legal?
While arranging a marriage with a “mail-order bride” that you have a real relationship with is perfectly legal, many consider these relationships to be based on false expectations — many foreign nationals want to escape poverty and be provided for, while US citizens expect subservient spouses who overlook flaws and personal differences.
Under the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, certain rules have been set for US citizen petitioners and their foreign fiancé(e)s. Petitioners convicted of crimes involving abuse, drugs, sex or violence are often denied petitions for a K-1 visa. Waivers may be granted at the discretion of USCIS officers.
Appealing the Denial of K-1 Visas
If your K-1 visa petition is denied, you are given approximately a month to appeal the decision. Complete USCIS Form I-290B, which will be sent to Washington, D.C. The Administrative Appeals Unit will review the appeal.
While K-1 visas are associated with fraud, they are also often the first step to wedded bliss and a life together in the United States.
If you or your loved one requires certified translations of personal documents, contact Legal Language today.