The K-1 Fiancée Visa and its return policy
The call came from Valdivia, Chile: my son is in love. He told us that he has found “the one”. He also told us that he has been learning about the “4 C’s” (the color, clarity, cut and carat of diamonds) and 400 count thread sheets.
The call came from Valdivia, Chile: my son is in love. He told us that he has found “the one”. He also told us that he has been learning about the “4 C’s” (the color, clarity, cut and carat of diamonds) and 400 count thread sheets. This from a 23 year old who, prior to embarking on his Fulbright scholarship year in Chile, thought that all clothing should be purchased for $5 per bag from the local Goodwill store, who thought that a woman’s desire to own jewelry was a horrific character flaw and an absolute waste of money. This from a child who, throughout most of college, slept in a sleeping bag on top of his bed rather than risk dirtying the sheets and being compelled to eventually wash them.
His “intended” is too much like me for comfort. She is tough, aggressive and wants to mold and control him. Perhaps even worse, she is young, beautiful and totally in love with him. I see a tug of war coming on if what she wants for our son is different than what my husband and I want for him (as if any parent could ever dictate what an adult child chooses to do or to want).
Before he left for Chile my son’s goal was to return to Philadelphia, to go to law school here and practice law nearby, perhaps with me. Now, because of his new love, who, like him, has lived and studied all over Latin America, his new goal is to move to either Washington, D.C. or New York City, because, in his words “ Philadelphia is not international enough”.
There’s a good and bad part to this new girlfriend equation: she is American and hence no immigration work, no K-1 fiancée visa, will be necessary in order to bring her to the states when the kids finish their Fulbrights in January of 2010. The bad part, however, is that without that need for a K-1 visa there’s no return policy, a future mother-in-law’s dream.
What’s the K-1 return policy? K-1 visas are granted to U.S. citizens who have fallen in love with someone from another country so that this new intended spouse may join them in the States. The K-1 fiancée petition requires the filing of an I-129F petition directly with USCIS, which can often take up to 8 months or more, depending upon processing times at USCIS. Once the petition is approved, the U.S. Consulate then takes over the final processing of the K-1 petition. Eager fiancées often become frustrated, for it is at this point that security checks are done and must be completed before the foreign fiancée is issued a visa and thus permitted to join her waiting fiancé in the U.S.
Now here’s the good part for those future mother-in-laws out there: Once the foreign fiancée enters pursuant to the K-1 visa she must marry the very same U.S. citizen who sponsored her for that K-1 visa within 90 days. If either one of the members of the couple decides that marriage is no longer a good idea, the foreign national fiancée must leave the U.S. and hence the “90 day return policy”. Obviously, it is hoped that when someone undertakes the filing of a K-1 petition all parties involved are sure about the longevity of the relationship and undertake this process with a full commitment. However, life being what it is, changes of the heart do occur. For the U.S. citizen there are few repercussions for breaking a fiancée’s heart. For the foreign national, however, a negative immigration record and a probable questioning of any future U.S. immigration applications are in the future cards.
So, in retrospect, I’m glad that my son’s “Chilean” girlfriend will not need a K-1 visa and that they will not be forced to make a lifelong decision within a 90 day period. Instead, they will be given as much time as they need to determine whether their romance is just a romance or the finding of a life long best friend and partner.