K-1 (Fiancée) Visas Are Now Harder to Get, but Why Have Them at All?

By David North on January 23, 2018

A few years ago I wrote that one of the easiest visas to secure from a consular officer was the K-1, for an alien fiancée.

After all, who wants to stand in the way of Cupid?

At that time (2015) an alien, whose citizen fiancée had secured an approved petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had a better than 99 percent chance of floating through the consular interview successfully, as I reported at the time.

No more.

Two things have happened to the K-1 visa: First, there was the mass murder in San Bernardino (Calif.) by two Middle Eastern terrorists; the woman involved had been admitted on a K-1 visa. Second was the arrival of the Trump administration, which has started to handle some of the nuances of migration control with rather more skill at the working level than the rumblings about a Wall coming from the White House.

The nuances of the K-1 visa, as I reported frequently in the previous eight years, were one of the tools employed by the open-borders types in the previous administration to open up all sorts of loopholes in the immigration law, always resulting in a little more migration.

In a 2015 report, I noted that USCIS usually granted the petition (I-129f) that led to the K-1 visa without bothering to interview the citizen seeking it.

That, according to a recent Reuters report recently has been changed by USCIS, and now a face-to-face interview must take place; in such interviews the citizen is (one hopes) warned that not all U.S. citizen-alien marriages work out as hoped.

The K-1 decision numbers are now much different than they were in the past. There are two sets of them. The first deals with the initial step in the process, the petition. In FY 2016, USCIS approved 90.5 percent of the petitions it received; then in FY 2017, which was mostly under the Trump administration, that figure fell to 66.2 percent. (The data are from this hard-to-read USCIS statistical summary.)

The second step — the one involving the overseas interview — showed in the latest data available that in FY 2016 the denial rate was about 20 percent, a huge increase from the 2015 rate of less than 1 percent. Bear in mind that the 20 percent denial rate was laid on cases that had been 100 percent cleared by USCIS. The two agencies are moving in the same direction with, State backstopping DHS.

I dove into these numbers because the Center for Immigration Studies received yet another of those grim letters we see all too frequently from a citizen who had been charged with abuse by the K-1 visa-bearing spouse, who, as usual, prevailed later as a "self-petitioning" applicant for an immediate-relative-of-a-citizen green card. As usual, the citizen did not have a chance to testify and defend himself, as USCIS never allows this to happen. In this case the American was duped by the alien woman despite his PhD and a captain's rank in the Air Force.

This got me to thinking about the need, or lack of it, for the K-1 visa itself. It comes into play only when none of the following scenarios is possible:

  • Both the alien and the citizen are now in this country (where they can marry);
  • Both the alien and the citizen are together overseas (where they can also marry);
  • The alien can get a visa, as a tourist or a student, for example, to come to the United States; or
  • The citizen can (or will) travel overseas for the wedding.

So the K-1 visa's existence flies in the face of the old adage "love will find a way." It only is needed when the alien cannot or will not get a visa to come to the United States and, simultaneously, the citizen cannot or will not fly to the other nation for the marriage. If they really wanted to marry they could do so without a K-1 visa.

So why issue them at all? Particularly when some of the K-1 visas produce spectacularly bad marriages.

The fine print: There is also a series of immigrant visas available to spouses of citizens and green card holders. Our discussion here is about the K-1 nonimmigrant visa, for the fiancée, and the vast majority of K visas are the K-1s for prospective brides or grooms; there are also K-2 visas for the K-1's child or children, a small number of K-3 visas for alien brides and grooms, and an even smaller number (20 in FY 2016) for the children of K-3's. There are also V-1 visas for fiancées of green-card holders, and V-2 and V-3 visas for the children of V-1's. There are no V-8 visas.