A K-class visa is a non-immigrant visa category. It is widely used for a loved one of a US citizen to join them in the United States. The K-1 class explicitly is for a fiancé(e) to join his or her partner in the United States. Have you experienced a fiancé(e) visa denial? If so, it could have been denied for many different reasons. It is important to know how to address issues specific to your case.
The overall number of applicants to the K-class category has decreased since 2016 by roughly 10% annually. This means applications received in 2017 been lower than those received in previous periods. Furthermore, the K-1 category has seen an overwhelming number of rejections and denials in recent years as well.
Having Your Fiancé(e) Visa Denied is Common
More than 35% of all K-1 category visa applicants had their applications rejected in 2017. This amounts to over 20,000 rejected visas. However, the high K-1 visa denial rate is not surprising. This is because it is a visa category that is at high risk of fraud. Some experts cite a wide range of reasons for rejections. Furthermore, it is important to note that, on appeal, most denials are reversed, with only 40% of appeals being unsuccessful.
Rejection vs Denial
While these two terms may seem synonymous, they actually have very different meanings in immigration law. Your fiancé(e) visa is processed in two main stages. During the first stage, your petition will be looked over to ensure that all of your information is there and that the necessary documents filed and the fees are correct. If your petition fails this stage, it will probably be “rejected”.
If it passes, it will move onto the second stage. Here, the evaluating officer will determine if you are eligible for a fiancé(e) visa through information gathered by your petition and through your interview. If your petition fails this stage, it will likely be “denied”.
Reasons for Having a Fiancé(e) Visa Denied or Rejected
There are many reasons as to why visas are denied or rejected, some more common than others. This is because there are diverse rules and unique circumstances for individual cases. However, based on our experience, common K-1 visa denial reasons are as follows:
Insufficient Evidence of a Genuine Relationship
The K-1 visa is one of the most heavily scrutinized U.S. visas. Immigration officers will look at every available avenue to determine whether your relationship is bona fide or not. Any red flag in this regard may lead to denial. Some of the reasons include:
- A significant age difference between you
- Practicing different religions
- Having distantly different cultures
- No common language
- Getting engaged shortly after meeting for the first time
NOTE: The above conditions are not necessarily an automatic prerequisite for K-1 denial. However, they are some issues that will require more diligence and details to prove. This is because it generally raises suspicions when two people in a relationship do not have much in common.
Insufficient Evidence that You Have Met In Person
Not meeting basic requirements, such as meeting your fiancé(e) in person at least once in the preceding two years is a red flag that may lead to denial. This is one of the criteria to judge the authenticity of your relationship. You must provide adequate proof of these meetings, which may include photographs, hotel reservations, flight tickets, etc. This proof must be in accordance with K-1 visa application guidelines.
The meeting must be in person as phone conversations, Skype calls, social media messages, and other meetings via electronic means of communication will not count for this requirement. However, in case it is extremely difficult or impossible for the two of you to meet in person, you may request a waiver for this requirement. The USCIS may grant a waiver on two conditions:
- If your meeting in person will violate strict customs of your fiancé(e)’s culture;
- If meeting in person will put the U.S. citizen sponsor in extreme hardship.
Failure to Meet Income Requirements for K-1 Visa Sponsor
There is a stipulated income level required for K-1 visa sponsors. The U.S. citizen sponsoring the K-1 visa must sign an affidavit of support to demonstrate his or her financial ability to provide the financial needs of the foreign fiancé(e).
The affidavit form must reflect that you are capable of meeting your personal needs, those of your fiancé(e), and of every dependent member of your household. At the very least, you must show the minimum requirement, which is 100% of the HHS poverty guidelines. The amount will be dependent on the number of people in your household and your state of residence. This is because the higher the cost of living is in a state, the higher the income requirement, according to the HHS guideline. Here is the full detail of income requirements for K-1 visa sponsors.
Failure to Demonstrate Readiness to Marry in 90 Days
One of the crucial requirements of the K-1 visa is that the couple must be ready to get married within 90 days after the foreign fiancé(e)’s arrival in the United States. This must be proven with a signed statement, indicating your intention to get married within that period. Having supporting evidence for this will be a great boost for your petition.
For instance, if you’ve already fixed a date for the wedding, printed the invitation, and paid for some elements of the ceremony, you can submit the receipts of the items bought, your wedding invitation card, and other relevant items to reinforce your signed statement.
While this is a very important requirement, you may also get a waiver for it if there is a genuine reason that can cause you not to get married within the stipulated 90 days. For example, if there is a delay with a prenuptial agreement, a medical issue, or any other verifiable, legitimate reason that justifies the delay of your wedding.
Not Legally Eligible to Marry Each Other
Your K-1 visa petition may be denied if one or both of you do not meet the legal requirements to get married in the U.S. The most common scenario is when either or both of you haven’t terminated your previous marriage(s). If any of you has been married before, the marriage must have legally ended before you can be eligible for a Fiancé(e) Visa, either as a beneficiary or petitioner. Legal termination must be proven with documents showing divorce, annulment, or death of the previous spouse(s).
Filing K-1 Visa after Recently Divorced
Keep in mind also that filing a K-1 visa after recently divorcing may raise suspicions. The officers adjudicating your case may become suspicious as to whether your new relationship overlapped while you were still married to your former spouse. If you find yourself in such a scenario, you will need strong evidence to prove the genuineness of your relationship.
If no friends or relatives are aware of or involved in your relationship, this may also arouse suspicion from the immigration officers. Most bona fide relationships that lead to marriage usually include their family, friends, and/or colleagues at work. If there is no evidence that other people were a part of your relationship, you may run into issues.
You can avoid raising suspicion on this ground by presenting some group pictures of the two of you that also include your family and friends. If there are no pictures for this, other documents that can help prove this can be provided.
Making contradictory statements during your K-1 visa interview or in the documents you submitted can lead to the denial of your K-1 visa petition. For instance, if your paperwork says one thing and you give a different answer during your interview, this could portray you as a dishonest applicant and may lead to a denial. Another thing to avoid is visible nervousness or incoherence during your visa interview, so always be sure to speak confidently and clearly.
Failure to Comply With the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)
IMBRA was enacted in 2005 to check the abuse of marriage-based visas. The Act compels a petitioner of a K-1 visa to provide information regarding certain past criminal convictions. This can include cases of sexual abuse, crimes, slavery, domestic abuse, violence, substance abuse. If you are found to have been involved in any of these crimes, this could lead to the denial of your K-1 petition.
Also, the immigration officers may decide to release the information to your fiancé(e). This is to enable him or her to know the truth about the one he or she intends to marry and make an informed decision with that knowledge.
The Act also covers online dating platforms. If the two of you met online, your petition must include the details of the website and how and when you met there. The details must also show that the foreign fiancé(e) authorized the dating platform to release his or her contact information to you.
Other Reasons for K-1 Visa Denial
- Human error, such as administrative errors made in filling the application. Also, not adhering to legal requirements for the application. This often results in rejection.
- Missing time restrictions and limits that apply to documents gathering.
- Having a criminal record or certain medical conditions.
- Misrepresenting facts, documents, or other application-related data.
- Also, not proving intent to marry can result in visa rejection.
- Your fiancé(e) visa may be denied at the interview because of an unconvinced consular officer. Not convincing the consular officer of the legitimacy of your relationship is a major contributor to visa rejections. It may even be better to get married and then apply for a spouse visa.
Officially published statistics only point towards an overall list of reasons given for denial of non-immigrant visas. This list is very general in nature. However, it must be noted that documentation-related administrative mistakes or missed deadlines can easily result in denial. Always ensure that your documentation is in order. Also, consult an immigration adviser to look out for dependencies overall.
Remedial Steps for Rejected Fiancé(e) Visas
If your petition was rejected because of a simple error with your petition or filing fees, the best thing to do may be to just refile the petition with the help of an immigration attorney. However, if your petition was denied due to your ineligibility, it may require more steps.
Other steps that you can take to improve your chances of a successful K-1 visa application include:
- Making sure you have all documents requested by the right authorities indicated.
- Ensuring you file your application by taking note of processing times and requirements. The consular representative is the ultimate issuing authority who will approve or reject your K-1 visa. Therefore, you must provide any additional documentation and evidence requested by the consular officer in addition to mandatory documents.
In case of a rejection, meticulous care must be taken. This will help put things back on track for you upon appeal. If you have missed a document or do not fully satisfy a condition, then you must gather evidence as required. Sometimes it is a case of specific requirements that are unique to your case. At other times, it is a case of missing general guidelines. Whatever these may be, you will need to work to provide a compelling case as to why your relationship is genuine.
In many cases, you may be able to file one of two legal motions to have your case reviewed a second time:
Motion to Reopen – This is used when new documentation or evidence has come to light that may change the outcome of the fiancé(e) visa case should it be reopened.
Motion to Reconsider – This is used when you and your immigration attorney believe that the evaluating officer was incorrect in his or her decision and you can demonstrate this through a legal argument.
Because they require such legal finesse, neither of these routes should be taken without having an immigration attorney at the helm. This is the best way to overturn a fiancé(e) visa denial successfully.
Depending on your situation, you might also be able to file an appeal to a third party, namely, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), which is a part of the USCIS. Your fiancé(e) visa denial notice should indicate whether or not you can appeal this decision. The AAO does not easily overturn the decisions of USCIS officers, so the argument for the appeal should be strong and assembled by a qualified immigration attorney.
Fiancé(e) Visa Statistics
US Department of State stats show that in 2017, 60% of refusals were reversed. This was only when objections were overcome or waivers were obtained. This puts the final refusal rate from the overall number of applications for a non-immigrant category K-1 visa at around 15%. However, most reversals are on an unspecified number of objections. There is no clear list of violations that are given for the K-1 visa category.
If you meet K-1 visa criteria and have all your documents in order, then there is nothing to worry about. However, 40% of refusals are ultimately rejected altogether even after appeal. This means you should make sure that you have everything in order. A qualified and experienced immigration lawyer will help improve your chances of a decision reversal in cases of an initial refusal.