Monday, April 25, 2011

USCIS I-129 Petition Relationship Proof

There were two occasions when my wife (fiancee at the time) and I had to provide some sort of relationship proof during the k1 fiance visa process.  The first time was when filing our USCIS I-129 petition and the second was when I filed my K1 Fiance Visa application.  In this post I intend to focus on the first occasion, the relationship evidence that we included with the I-129f (I intend to focus on the K1 application in a later post).

The I-129f relationship proof is meant to provide proof that the couple in question have met each other within the two years before the filing of the I-129 petition application.  In our case, my wife (fiancée at the time) was the us citizen applicant and I was the foreign fiancé, so it was she who put in the petition albeit with some supporting evidence from myself.

We were both legally able to marry, neither of us having being married before.  This made some things easier as there were no divorce papers etc. to submit to the USCIS as part of our relationship evidence.

We had met on a number of occasions, despite us living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, with me visiting Florida half a dozen times and my wife and her daughter coming to the UK twice to see me.  We therefore included photos of us together and photos of us with other members of our family.  My wife and I got engaged a month before we filed the I-129 petition, so we also included a photo of the engagement ring on my wife’s hand.

We included ticket stubs for some of the flights we’d taken to visit each other.

Although it probably wasn’t entirely necessary at this stage, we also included some sample copies of the conversations that we’d had with each other on Skype and Instant messaging.

I also wrote a statement, in which I stated that I intended to marry my wife (fiancee at the time) within three months of arriving in the USA.  I signed the letter and posted it to my wife, so that she could use it as relationship evidence.  My statement sample is below:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to confirm that I began a romantic relationship with My Fiancee Name in 2009.  Although the relationship began online, we have since met six times in person in both the UK and USA.  Between visits, our relationship has continued through online chatting, webcam conversations, telephone, letters and email.

In Spring last year, we became engaged to be married.

I have not been married previously.

If a visa is granted, I intend to marry Fiancee Name within 90 days of my arrival in the USA and will make the necessary arrangements in order to do so.

yours faithfully

My name

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do I need a visa lawyer? Pros and cons and affordable alternatives

I am writing this post because I was contacted by someone who was considering submitting an I 129 petition as the first stage of the K1 fiance visa process and asked my opinion on this topic and I thought it deserved a full answer. 

It is a question that I think many people ponder before they embark on the process, but before I go through the pros and cons of do I need a lawyer, I will tell you what my wife (finance the time) and I decided with regard to this matter and why we came to the decision that we did. 

Basically, we decided against getting a US Immigration lawyer for three reasons. 

  • Firstly, I have several years of experience of working with immigrants to the UK, which is not the same as US immigration, but similar enough to give me confidence in dealing with the USCIS procedures. 
  • Secondly, we would have struggled to afford the expense of a lawyer, even if we wanted to. 
  • Thirdly, there were no particularly difficult complications that we could foresee, for example, I do not have a criminal record, I’d not been turned down for a US visa previously, and we felt able to demonstrate that we were in a genuine relationship.
Pros of getting a Visa Lawyer

  • If the visa lawyer is any good, he or she will know the procedures and legislation inside out.  They will also have experiences of dealing with glitches and major problems.
  • The lawyer can give you general advice on things such as time schedules and filling in the application forms, collecting evidence for your I 129 etc.
  • The visa lawyer can help you with complications, such as past criminal records, concerns over medical conditions, or visas being refused in the past.
  • The lawyer can deal with the USCIS authorities on your behalf.
Cons of getting a Visa Lawyer

  • The expense is the main thing that puts people off getting legal advice.  Getting a lawyer can be expensive.  You might need one, however, if there are complications, such as a criminal record, or there have been visa problems in the past.
  • It is possible that having a visa lawyer might slow the process down slightly.  For instance, if you send your application forms to them to be checked before they are sent on to the USCIS, it might several days onto the overall processing time.  They could also save you time, however, by preventing mistakes!
  • If you are in doubt, you can always enquire to find out how much a visa lawyer is likely to cost you and what services they offer in return.  You can always say no.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting a UK Police Certificate for Immigration Purposes

What is a police certificate

Some visas now have a requirement that if you are a British citizen, then you must supply the country you are traveling to with a UK Police Certificate for immigration purposes.  The Police Certificate lists what, if any, criminal convictions that you have on your Police National Computer record and gives details of them, if they have not been “stepped down”.  If you have convictions that have been stepped down, the Police Certificate may use terms such as “No Live Trace”, or “Stepped Down”, or “Further Information Stepped Down” (see further down for more information on the terminology).  Some countries require a Subject Access request rather than a UK Police Certificate (more on Subject Access requests below).

Why did I need one?

I personally needed a UK Police Certificate for immigration purposes basically because it was a requirement of my K1 Fiance Visa application, which I was applying for so that I could marry my American girlfriend and live in the USA.

How did I go about getting a UK Police Certificate?

The UK Police Certificate application form was available on the ACPO website.  I downloaded it, filled it in and sent it off.  Along with my filled in UK Police Certificate Application form, I also included a passport photo signed on the back by a teacher friend, a photocopy of the details page of my passport, plus copies of an electric bill and bank statement, as requested, to prove my identity.  I then sent everything to ACRO at Fareham along with a cheque for the fee of £35.

Just over two weeks later, I received my UK Police Certificate for immigration purposes.

What do the terms ‘No Trace’, ‘No Live Trace’, and ‘Further Information Stepped Down’ on my Police Certificate mean?

‘No Trace’ means that you have no convictions, reprimands, final warnings, or cautions held on the Police National Computer.

‘No Live’ Trace means that there is criminal record information held on the Police National Computer but it has been “stepped down”.  Anyone who sees this, including an embassy or consulate, can see that you have a criminal record from your past, even if they can’t see details (that effectively means that you might as well come clean).

“Further Information Stepped Down” means that only some of the information on the Police National Computer has been stepped down.

How do I know what might show up on my Police Certificate?

You can do a Subject Access request at any time.  The Subject Access request tells you everything that is on the Police National computer with regard to any criminal records that you have on there.  If there’s information on there that is incorrect, you can then dispute it.  I had actually submitted a Subject Access request a couple of years prior to applying for a K1 finace visa and getting my UK Police Certificate.  I enquired at my local police station in Leeds to set the ball rolling regarding my Subject Access request.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My K1 Fiance Visa Medical Exam

My K1 Fiance Visa Medical Exam

This is an account of my personal experience of the K1 Fiance Visa medical exam.  It’s not an official guide but does tell you what I went through on my way to getting my K1 fiance visa.  The medical examination is compulsory if you want a K1 Fiance Visa, as far as I know.  As I am British, my medical exam took place in London, my understanding is that the medical exam is the essentially the same wherever you take it, however.

Booking the K1 Fiance Visa Medical Exam

The K1 Fiance Visa medical exam comes near the end of the K1 Fiance Visa process.  When the US Embassy in London contacted me to tell me the date for K1 Fiance Visa interview, they also informed me that I should book a medical before the interview.  I had to telephone the medics and book a place.  Generally you need to give the medics a few days to pass on your medical examination documents to the embassy or consulate after your fiancé visa medical exam has taken place.  As far as I’m aware, as long as you’ve booked the fiancé visa medical exam beforehand, you can still attend your K1 fiance visa interview, even if the date of the actual medical examination is after the date of the K1 fiancé visa interview.

This wasn’t the case with me, however, as my K1 Fiance visa medical exam took place about 10 days before the K1 Finance Visa interview. 

What did I take to the Fiance Visa medical exam?

I took my vaccination records.  I had my vaccinations done at my local health centre in advance.  That meant that I got them done by the NHS for free. If the fiancé visa medical exam doctor decides that you need vaccinations then you can end up paying thirty pounds per shot, so I wanted to avoid that!  I also took my passport as proof of ID, some passport style photos, and my bank card so that I could pay the fee for the medical examination.  I also had with me the questionnaire that I was instructed to fill out in advance.

What happens at the K1 Fiance Visa medical exam?

There were two parts to the medical.  The first part was just a chest x-ray and was pretty straightforward really.  I think they were mainly searching for signs of tuborculosis but I could be wrong.  The second part was the k1 fiance visa medical exam proper and involved a full physical medical examination by a doctor followed by the doctor asking me questions.  They did make me drop my trousers at one point, which was a bit embarrassing!

What Questions did they ask you at the Fiance Visa Medical Exam?

The questions were pretty much a repeat of half a dozen or so ones from the questionnaire that I’d written answers to previously.  My impression was that the main thrust of the K1 Fiance Visa medical exam was to find out if I was bringing infectious diseases into the USA, rather than concern about personal ailments or health problems.  They were also interested in whether I had ever taken recreational drugs (I hadn’t!)  I am guessing that was as much to do with assessing the quality of my character and whether I’d been involved with criminality in the past, as my physical health, but I could be wrong.


The doctor told me that as far as the K1 Fiance visa medical exam went, no news was good news, and indeed I heard nothing more about it subsequently.  At the K1 Fiance Visa interview they mentioned in passing that they had received my K1 Fiance Visa medical examination documents and that was it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

7 Tips for dealing with the Fiance Visa Interview Questions

These are my own personal tips based on my own personal experience, so I can’t say for sure that they’ll work for you, only that they served me well.  As the non US citizen member of the couple, it was me who had to undergo the interview for US visa and answer various fiance visa interview questions.  Anyway, here are my K1 interview tips.

  1. Do some advance research about the sort of fiance visa interview questions that you might be asked well in advance.  (See part 6)
  2. Also check up on all the instructions before you travel to the embassy or consulate.  For me going to the US Embassy in London, there were no electronic devices allowed, but many people failed to read that in advance and were sent to a local chemist/drugstore where they had to leave their devices for a (not small) fee.
  3. Make sure that you take your bank card with you and there’s money in your bank, as may have to pay a large fee for the fiance visa.  I did.
  4. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the embassy or consulate for your fiance visa interview.  For me, I had to go to the US Embassy in London which is in the city centre.  This presented a variety of potential difficulties and in the end I traveled down from Yorkshire in advance and stayed with my brother in Brighton, so that the journey on the morning would be a bit easier.  Once you’re there, the truth is they’ll almost certainly keep you waiting around, but you still don’t want to be late.
  5. Once you’re inside the embassy, try to remain calm and alert while you’re waiting around to be called.  I took a book to read, but didn’t read much of it as I was paranoid that I’d miss my number being called.  When they do eventually call you up, be polite and courteous, even if you feel frustrated.
  6. Here are some examples of the sort of K1 fiance visa interview questions that you might be asked.  What is the date of your fiancee’s birthday?  How did you two meet?  What does your fiancee do for a living?  Do you have any brothers or sisters?  Do you know the date that you will travel to the USA?  Did you have a party to celebrate your engagement?  As you can see, the questions aren’t too difficult if you’re in a bona fide relationship.
  7. Be prepared for the fact that you’ll have to book and a pay for the delivery of your K1 Fiance Visa by courier.  I hadn’t thought it through and I told them to deliver the K1 Fiance Visa to my home.  However, I realized later that as you have to sign for it in person with ID and the couriers don’t give you an exact time and date for delivery, it made more sense for the documents to be delivered to my workplace.  So I had to ring them and change the deliver address later.

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.

The Fiance Visa Processing and Wait Time

One of things that I wish we’d known when Abby, my wife (fiancee at the time) and I decided to get our K1 Fiance Visa was roughly how long the entire K1 Fiance Visa processing time would take in total, as well as the fiance visa wait time for each individual stage.  Of course, one can never predict an exact timescale for any application as it varies according to how busy the authorities are at any one time.  Plus security concerns and events such as terrorism and organized crime may occur and may lead to a slowdown in the K1 Fiance Visa processing time in some or all areas.  Note therefore that all I can give is my own personal experience and timescale.  Having said that, however, I don’t believe that my own experience was untypical.

(NOTE: If you want to see a simple and straightforward breakdown, showing all the relevant dates, see my K1 Fiance Visa timeline)


I am not going to go too much into the period before Abby and I sent in our first form, the I129 F, but obviously we spent time making sure that we met the requirements of the K1 visa (such as my wife being a US citizen and us both being in a bona fide relationship) and also collecting all the necessary evidence to send in with our I129 F and related forms.

Stage 1: The I129 F Petition

Abby sent in her I129 F Petition in March.  We weren’t prepared for the long wait time that occurs with K1 Fiance Visa processing at first and naively hoped that they would process the fiancé visa quickly.  We then got frustrated when nothing seemed to happen for a long time.  However, after just over a three month long wait, Abby received her I797, telling her that the petition had been accepted and our documents were being forwarded to the US National Visa Centre.

Stage 2: The National Visa Centre

The National Visa Centre did whatever they do with our documents then contacted the US Embassy in London, as I’m a British citizen and was living in England at the time.  About a month after Abby received her I797, the K1 Fiance Visa Application Forms were sent out to me, or rather I was told where to get them on the internet.  It took me over two weeks to gather my evidence and submit the forms.  I had already done some preparations, however, getting documents such as my Police Certificate together well in advance.

Stage 3: The K1 Fiance Visa Medical

When I received the letter about the K1 Fiance Visa, I was also informed that I needed to book my K1 medical exam and given instructions on how I should go about this.  It’s best to have it done at least 4 or 5 days before the K1 Fiance Visa, so that they have time to process the medical documents and send them on to the US Embassy in London.

Stage 4 The K1 Fiance Visa Interview

My K1 Fiance Visa interview took place towards the end of October.  I arrived at the US Embassy in London early and spent the entire morning there, not leaving until around .  Everything went well, although there was a lot of waiting around involved and you are not allowed to take any electronic devices such as mobile phones or ipods inside.  You can read a more detailed account of how my interview went here.

Stage 5: The K1 Fiance Visa was delivered by courier

My K1 Fiance Visa arrived in early November, five days after the visa interview at the US Embassy in London.  All in all, the entire K1 Fiance Visa processing time from start to finish for me had taken nearly 8 months.

I was in Florida for Christmas!

You can read a full overview of my K1 Fiance Visa experience here.