Evidencing a Bona Fide Relationship in a K1 Fiance Visa Petition
Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying this but K1 visa applications are won and lost based on the strength of the supporting documentation. One of the most common reasons for the denial of K1 visas at the consular level is failure to establish that the relationship between the U.S. Citizen petitioner and the foreign national fiance or fiancee is bona fide. In simple terms, this means that the applicant didn't convince the consular officer that the relationship was legitimate and not simply for the purposes of obtaining a visa to the U.S.
I have reviewed several cases that were denied at the consular level on these grounds. In most cases, I felt that the relationship was legitimate and did not suspect any fraudulent intent. What I do find, in 99% of these cases, is a lack of compelling evidence regarding the legitimacy of the fiance/fiancee relationship. The oral or written statements of the applicant and the petitioner and a few pictures are not sufficient to establish a bona fide fiance relationship. This is especially true at post such as Manila, Kiev, and Ho Chi Minh City where allegedly high levels of fraud have resulted in increased scrutiny of all K1 cases.
So how do the applicant and petitioner establish that their relationship is legitimate? Before I address this question it is important to discuss and understand the types of things a consular official will look for when evaluating this issue. Here are some common factors a consular office may consider when trying to determine if the relationship between the applicant and U.S. Citizen petitioner is bona fide:
Common Considerations of Consular Officers
- Correspondence & Communication. Whether or not the applicant and petitioner correspond or communicate regularly. Typical couples who are planning to marry communicate regularly.
- Cultural Tradition. Whether or not the legitimacy of the relationship is evidenced by the couples following of relevant cultural traditions. In the U.S., it is traditional for the fiance to give the fiancee an engagement ring. In some countries, it is traditional for the man to ask the bride's father for permission to marry his daughter. Engagement ceremonies are custom in certain cultures. Strict adherence to every possible custom is not a requirement but these issues should be considered.
- Wedding Plans. While wedding planning is somewhat complicated because of the uncertainty and timing of the K1 visa process, typical couples who are planning to marry have plans for their wedding ceremonies.
- Family Involvement. It is fairly common for family members (especially parents) of engaged couples to have met or corresponded with their future in laws. Evidence of family involvement or relationships between the applicant, petitioner and the respective family members can go a long way to establish the legitimacy of the relationship.
- Courtships. While all relationships are different, most engagements are preceded by a period of courtship or development of the relationship. Providing evidence of how the relationship developed is good evidence of the bona fide nature of the relationship.
While this is not an exhaustive list of factors a consular officer may consider in determining the bona fide nature of the fiance relationship it covers most of the major points.
Now that we understand some of the principle factors that a consular officer is going to consider when trying to determine if the relationship is legitimate, we can move on to discuss how these factors can be establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer.
Documenting the Legitimacy of Your Relationship
- Evidence of Regular Correspondence & Communication. Provide copies of email correspondence, online chat transcripts, mail correspondence or phone bills. It is important to provide enough of this type of evidence to show a pattern of regular correspondence and communication.
- Evidence of Adherence to Cultural Tradition. Provide photographs and receipts for the engagement ring; include photos or invitations from an engagement party; provide a letter from the fiancee's father attesting to his approval of the engagement; include copies of any engagement announcements; or other documentary evidence of adherence to other applicable traditions.
- Evidence of Wedding Plans. Provide copies of information or brochures from churches or other venues you are considering for your wedding; provide copies of correspondence between you and your fiance about your discussions, plans or preparations for your wedding; provide a letter from the priest or other official who you have selected to officiate your wedding; or provide copies of receipts for purchases made in preparation for your wedding.
- Evidence of Family Involvement. Provide photographs of you and/or your fiance with your family members along with written description of what is captured in the picture; include copies of correspondence between your fiancee/fiance and family members; or provide letters of support from family members discussing your relationship with your fiance/fiancee.
- Evidence of the Courtship. Provide a detailed letter describing how you met your fiance/fiancee and how your relationship between you and your fiance/fiancee developed; and provide pictures or other documentary evidence related to important events in the development of your relationship.
Because all relationship are different the nature and type of supporting documentation required for any particular case varies greatly. This article is intended only to identify some of the factors a consular officer may consider in determining the legitimacy of a fiance/fiancee relationship and to provide some examples of how to document and evidence these factors. Supporting documentation is the key to success for K1 visa applications. An experienced K1 fiance visa attorney can assist you in preparing and properly documenting your relationship with your fiance/fiancee and ensure that your case will not be denied.
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