One of the most common questions about K-1 fiancé(e) visas is: How many times do I need to meet my fiancé(e) before filing for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa petition?
The K-1 visa allows a foreign fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States with the purpose of getting married within 90 days of arrival. This article aims to clarify the requirements regarding meeting your fiancé(e) before filing the K-1 visa petition.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that you meet your fiancé(e) at least once in the 2-year period preceding the K-1 visa filing. In other words, you and your fiancé(e) must have physically met and spent time together at least once during the 24 months preceding the filing of the K-1 visa petition (Form I-129F).
This requirement is found expressed in question 54 on USCIS FORM I-129F:
Have you and your fiancé(e) met in person during the two years immediately beforeSource: USCIS
filing this petition? Indicate whether you and your fiancé(e) have seen each other in person during the two year period immediately before to filing your petition. Select “N/A” if the beneficiary is your spouse.
Documenting Your Meetings
Although the USCIS requires at least one in-person meeting within the two-year period, our law office highly recommends documenting multiple meetings (at least two) to strengthen your K-1 visa petition. Documenting more than one meeting will help the adjudicating officer ascertain the validity of the relationship, and can make the entire process much less troublesome for you and your fiance(e).
Evidence of your relationship and the time spent together can be presented in the following ways:
- Passport stamps, boarding passes, or flight itineraries, evidencing that you have visited each other, or traveled to the same destination
- Photos together, preferably with the date and location information
- Hotel reservations, restaurant receipts, or other proofs of joint activities
- Written affidavits from friends or family members who can attest to your relationship and the meetings (an immigration attorney can help prepare these affidavits based directly on facts provided by the affiants)
Letters, emails, chat logs, or other forms of communication to show your meetings
Exceptions to the Meeting Requirement
While the in-person meeting requirement is necessary in most cases, there are two exceptions:
Exception 1: Extreme hardship exception to meeting your fiancé(e)
The first exception is granted to applicants showing extreme hardship: If meeting your fiancé(e) in person would result in extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen petitioner, they may be granted a waiver of the meeting requirement. Extreme hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis and typically involves factors such as serious health issues, or disability preventing travel. Proof of financial hardship is usually not a winning argument. These waivers of the in-person meeting requirement are not easily obtained.
Exception 2: Cultural or religious practices exception to meeting your fiancé(e)
The second exception is granted to applicants who can show cultural or religious practices dealing with no meeting before marriage: A waiver may be granted if the requirement to meet in person would violate strict and long-established customs or religious practices of either the U.S. citizen petitioner or the foreign fiancé(e). This exception is also evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Evidence provided must demonstrate that the custom(s) in question is both strictly enforced and has a long-established history. The practice must be deeply rooted in the culture or religion in question, such that violating the practice would typically result in some form of harm to the couple.
Guidance on this can be found in the instructions to FORM I-129F:
If you respond “No” to Item Number 53., explain in detail any reasons you may have for requesting an exemption from the requirement that you and your fiancé(e) must have met in person during the two years immediately before filing this petition in Item Number 54. You must request a waiver and demonstrate that meeting in person would haveSource: USCIS
posed an extreme hardship on you or violated strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice, and that any and all aspects of the traditional arrangements have been or will be met in accordance with the custom or practice. Include evidence to support your claim. Evidence may include things like medical records, statements from religious leaders, or evidence of immediate danger.
Getting the exception approved with USCIS for meeting your fiancé(e) is difficult. USCIS provides adjudicators with discretion to decide the exceptions on a case-by-case basis. In all circumstances where possible, we highly recommend meeting your fiancé(e) in person, and more than once. If you have questions about sponsoring your fiancé(e) K-1 fiancé(e) visa and obtaining a green card for your fiancé(e), contact our law office.
Summary: you must meet your fiancé(e) at least once in person within the two years preceding the filing of the K-1 visa petition unless an exception applies. However, documenting multiple meetings can strengthen your case and help demonstrate the bona fide nature of your relationship to USCIS. We strongly advise our clients to document multiple meetings. The meeting requirement is but one of many K-1 fiancé(e) visa requirements.
Navigating the complexities of the K-1 visa process can be challenging, consider consulting with a legal professional to guide you through the process and ensure your case meets all the necessary requirements for a successful K-1 visa filing. Read our tips on a successful consultation with an immigration attorney here. As you take the critical step of bringing your fiancé(e) to the United States, we are here to provide guidance and support every step of the way. We invite you to take advantage of our expertise in immigration law. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive consultation. We will assess your unique situation, answer any questions you may have, and develop a personalized strategy to help you and your fiancé(e) unite in the United States as quickly as possible.