Disclosure of K1 Petitioner's Criminal History Under IMBRA
Most of the topics I write about are based on inquiries from clients or prospective clients. Today I received an email from a foreign national who was concerned about her U.S. citizen boyfriends criminal record because they were considering applying for a K1 fiance visa. While a criminal record can, in some circumstances, create an insurmountable obstacle for an intending immigration or K1 visa applicant, the criminal record of the U.S. citizen petitioner, on its own, cannot be grounds for the denial of a K1 visa.
This question arises because Part 3 of the USCIS form for a K1 petition, Form I-129F, asks whether the petitioner has ever been convicted of certain crimes including domestic violence, homicide, assault, stalking, rape and certain other crimes. These questions were put on Form I-129F after passage of the International Marriage Brokers Regulation Act or IMBRA. That law requires that all petitioners for K1 visas disclose whether they have been convicted of the specified crimes. IMBRA also requires the USCIS to conduct a background search of its own and include any information discovered with the K1 petition. If the petitioner has been convicted of any of the specified crimes the Department of State must disclose this information to the K1 visa applicant.
However, the fact that a U.S. citizen petitioner has been convicted of one or more of the specified crimes is not, on its own, grounds to deny a K1 visa application. This requirement is there solely for the protection of the foreign national visa applicant and was enacted to protect foreign (women mainly) visa applicants from violent or sexually deviant U.S. citizens.
While a U.S. citizen's criminal history cannot be the basis for denial of a K1 petition, if the K1 applicant is unaware of the criminal history it could call into question the bona fide nature of the relationship and result in a denial on those grounds. This recently happened to a client whose financee's K1 visa was denied in Manila. The U.S. citizen petitioner failed to disclose something on his criminal record to his fiance and the consular officer in Manila denied the application on that basis.
If you are considering applying for a K1 finance visa or have other U.S. immigration law questions, please feel free to contact me.