Marrying a Foreign National Part 3
An immigrant visa is a visa that allows the alien to come to the United States with the intent of living in the United States permanently. A non-immigrant visa allows an alien to come to the United States for a “temporary” period of time.
To be a U.S. citizen marrying a citizen of another country (a foreign national) it can be a very exciting, yet complicated time when trying to bring that person to the United States. If the procedures are not followed correctly, you may be separated from your spouse for months, and possibly years. In general, it can take approximately six to twelve months for a foreign national to receive United States permanent residence (green card).
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has admitted to an enormous backlog of I-130 Petitions for Alien Relatives. Therefore, if a U.S. citizen filed a petition for his spouse who is living outside the United States, the couple and their family can be separated for almost two years while waiting for the I-130 to be adjudicated. Thus, the “LIFE Act” was passed by Congress and created a K-3 Visa for spouses of U.S. citizens who are waiting adjudication of an I-130. A K-3 Visa was designed to reunite families who have been separated because of the backlog of cases within the USCIS.
Bringing a foreign national spouse on a K-3 Visa to the United States is a three step process. Step I and II are filed in the United States, and Step III will be filed in the U.S. Consul in the foreign national’s home country. Step I will be filed by the U.S. citizen at a Regional USCIS Service Center. If the U.S. citizen is living in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Nebraska Service Center has jurisdiction over the case. Check the USCIS web site if you have questions where to file your application.
In Step I the U.S. citizen must file USCIS Form I-130 along with the appropriate fee and accompanying documents including evidence that will show that the couple has a bona fide marriage. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services prefers to see that the Petitioner and the Beneficiary (foreign national) show a co-mingling of assets, for example, a joint lease, mortgage, bank accounts, insurance policies, joint telephone or cable bills, etc. This evidence is not required, yet is highly preferred. If none of this evidence is attainable, the Petitioner can show photos of the couple together, as well as congratulation cards, affidavits from friends and family, and other secondary evidence. Since the foreign national is abroad, it is important to show that the U.S. citizen and his or her spouse are still in contact with one another. Therefore, any correspondence such as letters, emails, or telephone records should be submitted. Also, if the U.S. citizen has sent money via Western Union or another company, these receipts should be submitted as well. Last, if the U.S. citizen has taken a trip to visit his or her spouse, plane tickets, itineraries or receipts should be included in the application. The more information you can provide Immigration in the beginning of the process, the easier the process will be.
After the I-130 petition is filed at the local Service Center, the USCIS will issue a receipt on Form I-797. Once the U.S. citizen receives this receipt from USCIS, he or she may then file Step II at the Missouri Service Center via the Chicago Lock Box. The petition for the K-3 visa is filed on Form I-129F. Please note, that the requirements of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act must be followed when the I-129 is filed. CLick here for more information on the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. This petition must be accompanied by proof that an I-130 has been received by the USCIS along with other documentation. The USCIS was supposed to adjudicate these petitions swiftly in order to realize the goal of reuniting families, however, it could take approximately six months for the I-129F petition to be approved.
When the I-129 if finally approved, the U.S. citizen must begin Step III. Step III involves ‘Consular processing’ and more forms will be filed with the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center located in New Hampshire. The National Visa Center will contact the U.S. citizen to continue processing of the case. Usually the National Visa Center will ask the U.S. citizen or national to complete Form DS-230 Part I and II.
Also, an Affidavit of Support on Form I-864 must be submitted for Consular processing. The Affidavit of Support is used to show that the foreign national will not become a ‘public charge’. Therefore, the U.S. citizen must show that he or she can ‘financially support his or her spouse’. In order to show ‘financial stability’, the Petitioner must provide USCIS with his or her tax records (IRS Form 1040) for the past three years, including IRS Forms W-2 for all three years, and a letter from his or her employer showing present employment. If the U.S. citizen Petitioner does not meet the financial standards set by the U.S. government, a ‘co-sponsor’ must be found to help alleviate the financial burden. The Affidavit of Support is a binding contract between the U.S. government and the U.S. citizen that states if the foreign national is ever to receive public benefits from the U.S. government, the U.S. citizen will agree to reimburse the government for these benefits. The contract is binding for ten years, or until the foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen.
The U.S. citizen will be responsible for submitting this documentation in the United States. In the meantime, the foreign national in his or her home country will be required to obtain a valid passport that is good for at least six months from his or her country. Additionally, he or she will be required to undergo a medical exam at a doctor designated by the U.S. Consul. Further, he or she will need to obtain a police certificate from the authorities in every country he or she has lived for one year or more since reaching 16 years of age.
Once these tasks are completed, the U.S. Consul will notify the foreign national to appear at the Consul for an ‘immigrant visa’ interview. The U.S. citizen spouse does not need to attend this interview, but can if he or she wants. At the interview, the Consular Officer will closely scrutinize the visa application. The Immigration examiner tends to look for several things:
- To confirm the information on the forms, or make changes, if necessary, for example, change of address or phone number.
- That the foreign national has not violated U.S. Immigration laws.
- That the foreign national is not a criminal or terrorist.
- That there is a bona fide marriage.
- That the U.S. citizen Petitioner can ‘financially support’ the foreign national.
The Consul is not looking for ‘golden answers’, he or she is looking for the truth and consistency. The Consul is just looking to see if there is a bona fide marriage and the couple intends to spend a life together. It is a crime to marry a foreign national in order to help him procure an Immigration benefit like a ‘green card’. If the U.S. citizen spouse was paid to marry the foreign national, he or she can be fined or go to jail. The foreign national will be denied a K-3 Visa.
At the end of the interview, the Consular Officer will render a decision on the case. If approved, the foreign national will receive a visa in his or her passport. Sometimes it can take a few weeks to obtain the actual visa, therefore no travel arrangements should be made until the foreign national actually receives her passport and visa back from the U.S. Consul.
When the foreign national finally arrives in the United States, he or she can either wait for the lengthy adjudication of the I-130, which most likely is still pending at the Regional Service Center, or the U.S. citizen and his or her spouse can re-file the I-130 along with the I-485 Application for Permanent Residence at the local USCIS office.
Then the wait begins. Upon filing, it can take at least 6 months to be called in to Immigration for a ‘marriage’ interview. At this interview, the U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign national beneficiary must appear at their local USCIS office to meet with an Immigration examiner. This meeting will be conducted under oath, and sometimes it will be video recorded. The examiner will make sure that there is a bona fide marriage and that the U.S. citizen petitioner can financially support the alien.
The K-3 Visa was designed to reunite families while their immigration papers are pending. It can be used as a great option to quickly bring your family to the United States and live the American dream.