Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The I-129 petition process

This article is not intended to be any sort of official guide (you should contact the USCIS for specific details of the rules and procedures relating to visas).  Rather it is a personal account of what my wife and I experienced when we filed a USCIS I-129 petition and began the fiance petition process, as the initial part of the K1 visa application process.  From my account, you should hopefully get a good idea of what was involved for my wife and I, however, both practically and psychologically.

My wife (fiancee at the time) and I had been involved in a relationship for three years and were engaged to be married by the time we decided to get a USCIS K1 visa.  After some discussion we had decided that I would move to the USA, rather than her moving to the UK (I am British).  This was because firstly, my wife has an adolescent daughter and secondly, I fancied the adventure of moving to the USA and beginning a new life in Florida.

After weighing up all the visa options, we decided that we would go for a k1 fiance visa.  This would allow me to live in the USA indefinitely, after we were married and I’d applied for an adjustment of status.  I’d also be able to get a US social security number when I arrived in the USA and a green card at the end of the entire process, by us doing things this way.  After we’d made our decision, we researched the process regarding K1 visas on the USCIS website and also on British expat forums.  We were, however, a little naïve with regard to how long it would take and all the effort and money that would be involved.

Once you know that you meet all the various criteria for a K1 visa (the main ones usually being that one of you is a US citizen and you are in a bona fide relationship), the first step is for an USCIS I-129 petition to be filed.  This is done by the member of the couple who is a US citizen.  In the visa language, they are ‘petitioning’ the USCIS to consider allowing their foreign partner to move to the USA to marry and live.  In my case, it was my future wife who was the petitioner.  It doesn’t make any difference if the genders are reversed and it is an American man petitioning for his female partner to come to the USA, as far as I’m aware (although then presumably it would be then be a ‘fiancee petition’, rather than a ‘fiancé petition’!).

The burden is very much on the petitioner at this stage.  They have to provide proof that they are a US citizen, and lots of financial evidence to show that they can support their partner, once they’ve moved to the USA.  The fiance on the other hand, me in this case, just has to provide some basic biographical information and some proof that the relationship is a real one and not a sham.  The forms aren’t always east to fill out, however, and any mistakes you make could lead to a delay, or in extreme cases, rejection, so you have to be very careful when filling them out.  Neither my wife or myself are wealthy, so there was no question of us getting a lawyer or attorney to help us.  We just did it ourselves, referring to the USCIS guidelines and information that we’d researched online.

Some of the proof can take a lot of time to assemble and organize.  But it’s worth the effort, in my opinion.  The last thing that you want is for the whole process to be extended further.  There is also a large fee of several hundred pounds to pay when you’re finally ready to send off your USCIS I-129 form.

In some ways, the worst bit is waiting.  Once you’ve sent off your USCIS I-129 petition with all the other forms and evidence, they send you a receipt to say they’ve received it, then you just wait and wait.  If you’re anything like my wife and I, you begin to wonder if they’ve forgotten about you, or there’s been some major bureaucratic error.  Over three months had gone by when we received our notification (a form called an I-797) that the I-129 petition had been accepted and all the necessary documentation would now be passed on to the National Visa Centre.  It’s apparently not unusual for people to wait longer or shorter than we did, it all depends on how busy the USCIS are.

About a month after we'd received the I-797, the US Embassy London contacted me in the UK with instructions for filing the K1 fiance visa application forms.

46 comments:

  1. And? How did the K1 process go? How long did that take?

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  2. Hi anon - The K1 process starts with you putting in the K1 forms (assuming you've gone through the petition phase) and ends with the medical and embassy interview. There is a wait of a few months before the medical and interview happens. That is how it was for me, anyway.

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  3. Hi Paul
    I am awating the contact from the US consulate in London but travelling in Dec to spend xmas with fiance. Need to return to work and then leave end of Feb. Based on your timelines it seems that I may get the appointment in Nov this would mean that if all goes well the Dec trip would mean I cant return to UK (single entry). Do you know if there is a time limit for you to have medical and submit docs for app? I am hoping to delay until Jan if possible.

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  4. With me, they gave me an interview appointment date and instructed me to get a medical before the appointment in a letter. The medical results went directly from the doctors to the embassy without me having them, so I didn't submit them.

    I am not sure what you mean by time limits, the embassy website had quite a bit of info on it. I don't know if you could enter and leave on a visa waiver and then use your K1 visa later, you'd need good advice on that, that I can't give, sorry.

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  5. It's my understanding that the beneficiary must interview in the country that they are a citizen of. However, can they receive and complete the K1 forms and/or complete the medical exam in a different country? How far in advance did USCIS schedule the interview for you (a couple weeks? a couple months?)?

    I'm asking because my partner is Chilean, but currently on a Working Holiday in Canada. He can stay there until April 2012. I want to send off the petition by January 1st, and so it's possible that he will still be in Canada when we receive the I-797/instructions for filling out the K1 Visa.

    I'd appreciate any advice, insight, or resources you can share. Thanks!

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  6. What sort of financial support did you or your wife have to show? I am the US citizen and I have been in school, plus I left my job to stay in Scotland for 6 months to test out our relationship so I do not have any tax returns for the last couple of years. Did you have to show those? If so, for how many years?

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  7. Your blog has been really helpful. Do you know if the petitioner has to be in the States to file the K1 form or can this be done abroad? My fiance and I are currently studying Mandarin abroad, and it would be hugely inconvenient for me to return to the States just to file the papers. Any insight is appreciated.

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  8. My fiancee and I filed our I-129f and received the I-797c last October 14 , and have not heard a thing since ,I live in England and have visited the US three times last year on the visa waiver program , after my last trip to US I was given a hard time by immagration at Boston , and told not to come back for at least three months , its my intention to visit again in March to be with my fiance'e , if the interview date come through while I am there can it be changed ?

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  9. Hello there.
    Me and my fience who is a US citizen decided to go for the K-1.
    We already have some attorneys helping us in this but it is going to cost too much ( over $2.5K) for the whole thing, so I am thinking that we could do it ourselves.
    I understand that this won't be easy and we need to be extremely careful and informed before doing anything, but I'm asking for your opinion, since you obviously did it: should we go for it? We have the money to ask for professional help, but is it worth it?

    Thank you!

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    1. If there are no complications, such as say serious criminal offences or previous overstay of visa, you should probably be okay doing it yourselves. We were.

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  10. As I am currently researching, I am a US citizen and my finacee is from Ireland. We have not met in person, which would seem to complicate things. I have not come across anyone who can give us much help. I am going to be seeing an attorney soon problem is, I wouldn't even know what questions to ask. Any ideas?

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  11. Hi Paul,
    First thank you so very much for putting this blog together, it's the most informative resource I've found on the web! My Question is regarding the I-129F you said "Some of the proof can take a lot of time to assemble and organize, especially the financial documents." But no where on the I-129F am I being asked for Financial Documents, am I missing something?

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    1. Tanya- My finacee and I submitted our I129F in Feb 2012. None of the forms I completed requested any financial information, so I did not submit any. We also received notice that the forms were sent to the Vermont Service Center for review roughly 2 weeks after sending them in (they were send via certified mail). We are still waiting to hear anything else from them, but our case is under review and the processing time is only 5 months. From my research of the current immigration forms, they do not request financial data until you need to complete the I485 which adjusts your finacee's status to that of a permanent resident and on that one you just need to send copies of your last 2-3 years of tax filings and proof of current employement (current pay stubs or letter for your employer). The income requirements are not bad, you just have to show you make 125% over the poverty level for your household size. Hope this helps :)

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    2. Hi Anonymous!
      Thank you, this was very useful, I can send it in now with confidence... And thank you for the additional info on the I-485, that seems to make more sense to me...

      When you said "processing time is only 5 months" were you referring to the 129I Petition or the entire K1 Visa Process?

      I wish you and yours all the best! and Good Luck with the process...

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    3. From what I have gathered, it seems to be the entire K1 process is 5 months (at least for the Vermont Service Center, which is where our petition is). Other service centers have much longer processing times, so we are lucky that ours was sent to Vermont. You can check the processing times online and even register to have an account once you receive your petition receipt. We signed up for the online account and choose to receive updates via text and email that are sent as soon as a decision is made, which will be faster than waiting for the mail (they still mail you the official documents, but knowing ASAP will be nice). Thats all the info I have for now
      Good luck with your petition!!

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    4. Yes, the wording on this misleading, so I'll change it. I wonder if I was thinking of the I-134 Affidavit of Support, which we sent with the K1 and asks for lots of earnings info.

      The main financial info comes with the I-485.

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    5. When we submitted our docs in Feb 2012, the I-134 was not part of the I-129 required documents, so we did not submit any financial information. The only additional form that we needed to fill out was a G325-A (one for each of us).

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    6. Hello Anonymous,

      Seeing your replies are from April, I hope this gets to you. I too filed a K1 in Feb 2012. I received my receipt notice I-797, back in Feb as well. Since then, I have not heard a thing. I was wondering how yours is going and how far along into the process you are? My fiance is in Jamaica, so I was curious maybe if different regions had different processing times as well.

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    7. Still haven't heard anything since Feb 2012. We are hoping that we hear something soon as I am now 6 months pregnant with our 1st child and the 3000 miles between us is extra hard. My fiance is in Canada, but I think where they live doesn't matter as much as what service center your documents are processed at as each of them has seperate processing times (ours in in Vermont).

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    8. Hello anonymous, when in February did you send the papers? Have you heard anything? We did it in February 28, 2012 (they are in the Vermont Service Center) and now word yet :(

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    9. Nothing yet and they received our documents on Feb 16, 2012. According to the processing times website, Vermont should be 5 months or less. If we do not hear anything by early next week, I will be calling them to find out what happened.

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    10. Hi Anonymous, any news on your docs? We sent ours on Feb. 28, 2012..we haven't heard anything yet either...

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    11. Here is what I found out when I called them on Fri 7/20. They stated that the Vermont Service Center is roughly 1 month behind on processing and the last one completed had a submittal date of 1/16/12 (Our submittal date is 2/16/12). I was told to call back in mid August if we do not receive a response by then. They also told me that after the USCIS decision, the rest of the process can take up to 90 days (depending on the country-they said ours may be quicker as he is in Canada), but assured me that he would still be able to come on a normal travel visa and stay for up to 6 months (which means he will be here for our baby to be born no matter what). Hope that helps everyone. I will post updates if I hear anything.

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    12. UPDATE*** We received our approval yesterday 8/8/12 (Feb 16 submittal).

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    13. Congrats on your approval, Anon! The processing times seem to vary such a lot!

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  12. hello juts have question im trying to petition my fiance and have the application what else do i need to send with that application.

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    1. http://britishexpats.com/wiki/K1#Required_Documents_for_Application

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  13. Did you get a blood test at the medical appointment? I hate needles but I'll do it. I was thinking if you have enough medical papers from the past on boosters and immunization etc would kind of be suffice to not get a blood test but I doubt it, just looking for an excuse to get out of it haha.

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  14. I never had to do a blood test, thank goodness!

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  15. Really? I thought that was mandatory. Interesting. Was it because you had enough papers to prove you didn't need it or what?

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    1. I certainly don't remember taking one. I think the doc said that they stopped it. You are best checking with the medical people, I can only give my experience, I'm no expert.

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  16. where will i send the fiance petition? what specific address? i am from new york, and how much i need to pay thru money order? thanks

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  17. Hi Paul,

    Am finding your blogs both really useful. Am an American living/working currently in the UK on a Spouse/Un-married Visa... My partner have decided to make the move, but are still deciding on the when part, meaning we haven't even started the process... As a school teacher, it's a lot easier finding a job at the start of the school year in the States, than it is finding one in the UK...

    One quick question- with regard to the proof of relationship, do you think the visa that I am currently on in the UK would suffice as proof? As we had to submit similar proof for that?

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    1. I really don't know. Everything seems to be done in a very beaurocrat way, so they might not make it easy for you, so they might not make it easy for you, even though it makes perfect sense! :-)

      I have an American friend in Yorkshire who is a kind of mirror image of me, with a visa to stay in the UK.

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  18. Hi,

    My finace and I submitted our I129F in Feb 2012. We received the first notice that the forms were sent to the Vermont Service Center in Feb 24, 2012. It has been 7 months now and we haven't heard anything from them. Last month that my fiance called last 3 weeks ago, they said that the dates being processed still on Feb 16, they admitted that they are already out of the processing time but they said that they are working on it. It's October now and we are going to 8 months this 22. I am losing hope. We signed up for the updates via email, however, we haven't receive any email nor when we checked the status in the USCIS site, it's still in the Initial Review.

    any idea?

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    1. That sounds rough! I wouldn't rely on the USCIS site too much, I have a friend who told me that he had got his visa, moved to the US, got married, and 18 months later, when he checked the USCIS website, just out of interest, it still said that his visa was still being processed!

      I don't know what to suggest, if it was me, I would maybe give them a couple more weeks then ring again? Best wishes!

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  19. Hi, Can I ask did you live in the UK and your now wife, live in the states whilst you were waiting for your K1 Visa?

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    1. Yes, I was in the UK, she was in the US, whilst the visa application was being processed.

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  20. Hi Paul,

    Your blog has been very helpful. Do you happen to know if there are any restrictions to travel to the US once the I-129 is filed. I'm a US citizen, my fiance is Togolese but lives in (and is a carte sejour holder in France) so he requires a Visa to come to the US. We are worried that once we file the I-129, he will be denied a tourist Visa to come to the US. Thanks!

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    1. I really don't know. They could treat him differently if they think he's an overstay risk, I suppose? It's outside my experience/knowledge.

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  21. salut paul je suis une senegalaise mon fiancé vit aux usa il deposé mon pétition depuis le octobre ont n'a toujour pas reçu de decission je suis tres stressé car on ne sais pas si ca marché ou pas je voulais avoir ton avis sur ca

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  22. Wow this is an AMAZING blog! Thank you so much for creating it! I am in your fiancée's (wife's?) exact position. I am an American bringing my fiancée over from the UK and it has been so stressful! The waiting is the worst, it took CA 7 months to process our application, we just got notified that it's on its way to the NVC. Keeping our fingers crossed that we will get the visa on time for our wedding this October! Your lovely blog has been VERY helpful. Thank you again for making this it has been a great resource and comfort to me :)

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  23. Hey Paul,

    This is the best blog ever, Its great to read feed backs from everyone and not feel like your all alone in this stressful process. I filled out everything and getting ready to submit the documents Next week. I know this is considered a Fiance visa but I have not officially given my girlfriend a engagement ring because I don't want to send it via mail. We have been doing this for the past 3 years and have seen each other last year. We both decided to go take this further and get married. I have not yet purchase a ring. She is from Germany and I live in the US. I was hoping to either travel to Germany in December and give her the ring or wait till she comes here after the K1 visa goes through. Do you think her not having an official engagement ring will deny our petition, or affect the process. In our documentation we stated that we both agreed on getting married. Any feed backs will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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  24. Hi there, I came across this blog and was thrilled to see this. I am a Canadian engaged to a American. I have begun the uphill battle of sorting all this out and my heart breaks. My fiance has had a bad run with employment and well...does not meet the requirements. I have looked into a family member sponsor and unsure how that all works out. Basically we are too poor to do this. Yes I have heard every nasty comment out here so please, you dont need to say it. No need to kick a dog when they are down ok? I just wonder if anyone out there is in the same boat. I never planned on my fiance; both of us given up on the idea of love; then met one another. I traveled to see him for over a month and it was wonderful; we so much want to be married. But to say no cause your like many out there lost their jobs due to the economic downturn? We are not bums; I am educated and have universal skills...I dont know what to do anymore. Anyone been in the same boat? Id love to hear your experience...maybe there is hope. Oh yes we are both looking for jobs and I am currently upgrading my skills. Hope to hear from you soon.

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  25. i sent the i129 on February 6th it was receive on the 7th the only paper i got from uscis is the receipt from 8 month ago everytime i call they say it still in process any idea of what can i do? vermont service center is in charge of our case

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