Recently a reporter working for a U.S.-based, Mandarin-language publication asked me what should be done about the K-1 visa, which has been negatively impacting some older Chinese-American males. This happens when their new, young, alien wives from China turn around and accuse them of abuse, and secure green cards in that way. (The reporter's assumption was that many, if not most, of the abuse charges were fraudulent.)
While scheming alien spouses (usually women) using these tactics to secure green cards under the Violence Against Women Act by claiming that their citizen spouses have abused them was not news to me, this particular ethnic connection within the broader scheme was. For more on the basic problem see this posting on last year's Senate committee hearings on the subject.
Meanwhile, as we reported a couple of years ago, men from China's neighbor, Laos, have also abused the K-1 visa. In these cases it is older Hmong men, U.S. citizens by now, who are using the visa to bring teenage spouses from the rural villages to the United States, despite in some cases, the presence in the United States of their aging current wives. (The Hmong were our allies in the Vietnam war, and many came to the United States afterward as refugees.)
Can you think of a group of people abused by America's immigration system less powerful than these elderly Hmong women dumped by their randy spouses? I cannot.
But back to the reporter. I suggested two approaches, each helpful if implemented, each with its own problems. They are:
A) Abolish the visa, as it is only used when all three of these conditions are present: If the couple cannot or will not overcome those barriers, maybe they should not get married.
- The couple is not married;
- The alien will not or cannot come to the United States;
- The citizen will not, or cannot, fly to the alien's country for the marriage.
Problem: It would take an act of Congress, and would run contrary to the "let's help cupid" emotions.
B) Engage in much more serious vetting of K-1 visas.
Problem: This calls for more Foreign Service officers working these cases, and the Trump White House has called for a drastic reduction in funding for the State Department.
An examination of migration statistics suggests, however, that a more careful examination of these petitions might currently be taking place, both by Homeland Security and by State.
Here are some numbers:
DHS-approved petitions for K-1 fiancés, and their relatives:
- FY 2016: 47,898
- FY 2017: 32,988
Those numbers were the result of both a lower level of applications and increasing denial rates, 14.3 percent in FY 2016 and 18.5 percent the next year — and were calculated from this USCIS data source.
The next step in the process, after DHS approves a petition, is for the State Department staff in overseas offices to issue or to deny a visa. These are the world-wide figures for K-1 visas for fiancés (excluding their dependents) as reported by State:
- FY 2016: 44,252
- FY 2017: 40,208
Often a petition approved in one year is converted into a visa the following year.
Meanwhile, getting back to the reporter, the average monthly issuances of K-1 visas to people from Mainland China fell much more sharply:
- FY 2016, entire year: 132
- FY 2017, entire year: 88
- FY 2018, first four months: 51
These monthly averages were calculated from this State Department source.
Straws in the wind, perhaps, but all the straws seem to be blowing in the same direction.