K-1 visa denied? Here’s what to do next

Receiving a denial for a K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé(e) visa, can be a disheartening experience for couples eagerly awaiting the start of their lives together in the United States. If you have faced such a setback, it’s crucial to understand the common reasons for denial, the appeal process, and the options for reapplying.

Common mistakes leading to denial

Understanding the specific reasons for your visa denial is the first step in determining your next course of action. The denial notice should indicate the grounds for denial, ranging from lack of evidence to inadmissibility based on past actions. The K-1 visa application process is intricate, and simple errors can result in denial. Common mistakes include:

  • Administrative errors: Minor mistakes on Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé, such as missing signatures or incorrect information, can result in a denial.
  • Insufficient evidence of relationship: Failing to provide convincing evidence that your relationship is genuine and not solely to obtain a visa can lead to suspicion and potential denial.
  • Ineligibility issues: The application may be denied if the US citizen or the foreign national partner does not meet the requirements, such as income thresholds or proof of a bona fide intent to marry.
  • Non-Compliance with IMBRA: Violations of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, which include failing to disclose criminal history or applying for multiple K-1 visas without waivers, can result in denial.
  • Inability to marry: If either partner has a previous union that has not been dissolved by divorce, annulment, or death of the spouse, it is impossible for them to marry legally.
  • Failure to meet deadlines and timeframes: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with other involved agencies, have set specific deadlines at various stages of the K-1 visa process, from petition filing to interview scheduling and eventual entry into the United States. Failure to comply with these deadlines can result in delays, denials, or the need for reapplication, complicating and potentially lengthening the process for the applicant and their US citizen sponsor.
  • Health issues: Health-related grounds for refusal of a K-1 visa, or any visa to the United States, are primarily based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which outlines specific health-related conditions that can make an individual inadmissible. These conditions are intended to protect public health, ensure that individuals do not become a public charge due to health reasons, and safeguard US residents from transmittable diseases of public health significance. 
  • Incoherent claims or lack of credibility: Incoherent claims are statements or pieces of information provided by the applicant that do not logically fit together or contradict each other. This can also refer to information that does not align with known facts or lacks a clear, understandable explanation. Incoherence can arise in various parts of the application, including failing to provide specific details about the relationship, such as how communication is maintained, conflicting dates or timelines, lack of future plans, or details about each other’s lives.

Increased fraud cases in K-1 visa applications have led immigration services to scrutinize applications more closely. Factors that could indicate a non-genuine relationship include significant age differences, failure to provide sufficient evidence of a bona fide relationship, no common language, visa interview failures, contradictory statements, professing different religions, a short courtship period, and discrepancies in publicly available information or social media.

K-1 visa appeal process

If your K-1 visa application is denied, you may have the option to file a legal motion to have your case reviewed a second time. There are two types of legal motions:

Motion to Reopen

A Motion to Reopen in the context of a K-1 visa denial is a formal request to the USCIS to reconsider a previously denied case based on new facts or evidence not presented at the time of the original decision. This process allows applicants to introduce new information that could potentially change the outcome of their case. 

This could include but is not limited to:

  • New evidence proving the genuineness of the relationship between the US citizen and the foreign fiancé(e).
  • Documentation that addresses the specific reasons for the visa denial that were cited by USCIS.
  • New information that could affect the eligibility for the visa.

For example, If an applicant is found inadmissible on health-related grounds, there are steps they can take to address the issue:

  • Treatment: For infectious diseases, undergoing treatment and providing documentation showing the disease is treated or under control may help overcome inadmissibility.
  • Vaccinations: If the refusal is due to missing vaccinations, getting the required vaccinations and providing proof can resolve the issue.
  • Waivers: In some cases, applicants may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. The availability and requirements for a waiver depend on the specific health-related ground of inadmissibility.

A Motion to Reopen must be filed within 30 days of the decision (some exceptions may apply). Adhering to this timeframe is crucial, as late submissions may not be considered. The motion must be filed using Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, and the appropriate filing fee, currently $705. The form and the payment are subject to change, so it’s important to verify the current requirements on the USCIS website.

The motion must be based on new facts or evidence. Simply reiterating previously submitted information or arguing against the decision without new evidence is insufficient. The new facts or evidence must be material and substantially impact the case. They should directly address the reasons for the denial. While not required, it’s often beneficial to seek the assistance of a reputable immigration attorney when filing a Motion to Reopen. An experienced attorney can help ensure the motion is prepared correctly, and the new evidence is presented effectively.

If the Motion to Reopen is granted, USCIS will reevaluate the case considering the new evidence. This does not guarantee that the visa will be approved, but it allows the case to be reviewed in a new light. If the motion is denied, the decision will explain the reasons for the denial, and depending on the circumstances, there may be further options for appeal or legal action.

Motion to Reconsider

A Motion to Reconsider is specifically used when it is believed that the evaluating officer’s decision to deny the K-1 visa was incorrect based on an incorrect application of law or policy. The motion must establish that the decision was wrong at the time it was made, based on the evidence already on record and the laws or policies applicable to the case.

The Motion to Reconsider must be filed using Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion. As of the latest update, the filing fee for Form I-290B is $705. This fee is subject to change, so it’s important to verify the current amount before filing. The motion must be filed within 30 calendar days of the date of service of the original decision. If the decision was mailed, an additional three days is allowed, making it 33 days in total.

The motion must be supported by citations to appropriate statutes, regulations, or precedent decisions. It should clearly articulate why the decision was based on an incorrect application of law or policy. Unlike a Motion to Reopen, a Motion to Reconsider does not allow for introducing new facts or evidence. It strictly deals with the legal and policy interpretations made in the original decision. Generally, only the petitioner (the US citizen sponsor) may file an appeal or motion regarding a denied or revoked visa petition. 

Given the complexity of legal arguments and the need to accurately cite laws and policies, it’s highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney can help ensure that the motion is prepared correctly and that the arguments are compelling and relevant. 

If the Motion to Reconsider is granted, USCIS will review the case again under the correct legal or policy framework. However, there’s no guarantee of a favorable outcome; the motion ensures that the case is reviewed based on the correct application of law and policy.

Reapplying for K-1 visa

If appealing is not a viable option or if your appeal is unsuccessful, you may consider reapplying for the K-1 visa. Before reapplying, address the reasons for the initial denial. 

For example, if your K-1 visa was denied due to insufficient evidence of a genuine relationship, here is an approach to strengthening your application:

  1. Photographs: Include a variety of pictures taken at different times and locations, showing you and your fiancé(e) together. These should ideally cover the entire span of your relationship and include captions with dates and locations.
  2. Evidence of traveling together: Provide documentation of visits, such as airfare tickets, hotel bookings, and any other travel itineraries. This demonstrates the effort made to spend time together.
  3. Communication logs: Submit detailed records of your communication, including emails, text messages, call logs, and social media interactions. Highlight the frequency and depth of your conversations. 
  4. Affidavits from family and friends: Collect signed and, if possible, notarized statements from family, friends, or coworkers attesting to the legitimacy of your relationship. These should provide details on how they know about your relationship and their perspective on its genuineness.

If your K-1 visa was denied due to insufficient evidence of financial stability, here are some suggestions to avoid a second denial:

  1. Affidavit of Support (Form I-134): Ensure the US citizen fiancé(e) fills out this form accurately, demonstrating the ability to support the foreign fiancé(e) above the poverty line. Include the most recent tax returns, employment letters stating salary, and pay stubs.
  2. Bank statements and savings: Present recent bank statements showing healthy savings or a stable income that meets or exceeds the minimum income requirements for the K-1 visa.
  3. Employment evidence: If employed, include a current employment verification letter, recent pay stubs, and any employment contracts. For self-employed individuals, provide business registration documents, tax returns, and client contracts as proof of a stable income.
  4. Assets as financial support: If income alone does not meet the requirements, you can also include evidence of assets. This could be property deeds, car ownership documents, or investment accounts, showing their value is sufficient to support the financial requirements.
  5. Joint sponsors: If the US citizen fiancé(e) does not meet the income requirements alone, consider adding a joint sponsor who meets the criteria. This person must fill out an Affidavit of Support and provide their financial documents as evidence.

By addressing the reasons for your initial denial head-on and providing comprehensive, well-organized evidence, you can significantly improve your chances of a successful K-1 visa application on your second attempt. When reapplying, clearly label and organize all evidence to make it easy for the reviewing officer to understand your relationship and financial stability. Include a detailed cover letter summarizing the evidence and explaining any discrepancies or weaknesses in your previous application. Consider consulting with an immigration attorney to review your application before submission. They can provide valuable insights and help address any potential red flags.

Alternatives to a K-1 visa

In some cases, reapplying for a K-1 visa may not be the best strategy, especially if the reasons for denial cannot be easily addressed. Alternatives include marrying abroad and applying for a CR-1 visa. If you marry outside the US, you can apply for a CR-1 visa, which allows the spouse of a US citizen to enter the United States as a permanent resident. You can also explore other visa categories you may qualify for, such as family-based visas.

A K-1 visa denial is not the end of the road. With careful planning, additional evidence, and possibly the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney, you can address the issues that led to your denial and improve your chances of a successful application. Remember, each case is unique, and what works for one couple may not work for another. It’s essential to tailor your approach based on the specific details of your situation and the reasons for your visa denial.

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