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19 Secrets to Speed the Process

After almost 30 years of working with couples, helping them get Fiancee and Spousal Visas I have developed this "do and don't do list".  When properly followed these "secrets" should help you avoid the common mistakes that slow the process, and identify the right steps to take to help speed the process.

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1. Don’t attempt to "game" the system by applying for a tourist, student or employment visa for your partner. Not only does this waste time waiting to hear that the application has been rejected, but it serves to flag your Fiancee/Spouse as someone probably attempting to enter the U.S. under false pretenses. All marriage visa applications are initially viewed skeptically by USCIS and U.S. State Department as historically this is an area where much fraud has occured. The officials  view their mission is to catch fraud, not bring happy couples together.  Applying for a marriage visa after unsuccessfully applying for other visas subjects your Fiancee/Spouse to extra scrutiny and delays at best, outright rejection at worse.

   2. Don’t try for a waiver to avoid the requirement to meet your Fiancee in person. Unless it is incontrovertible that you are not physically able to meet her, attempting to avoid the meeting reflects poorly on the sincerity of  the relationship. The Fiancee Visa eligibility rules require that you have met your Fiancee in person within the two years prior to your filing your application. The regulations provide a loophole allowing a waiver to the physical meeting. This waiver has been written to allow couples with special circumstances to skip the meeting, specifically if the meeting will cause “unusual hardship” or violates strict cultural or religious practices. If your religion arranges marriages and the bride and the groom are not allowed to see each other till the wedding day, or if you are in an iron lung, then by all means apply for the waiver. However, hating to fly or not wanting to pay for a plane ticket or having a busy work schedule will NOT result in a waiver being granted. Remember, USCIS needs to be convinced of the seriousness and sincerity of your relationship in order to approve the visa application.  They expect a sincere suitor to show he has taken every opportunity to be together with his lover.  Attempting to avoid any meeting altogether will attract unwanted suspicion.

   3. Don't let too much time pass between visits to meet your Fiancee/Spouse.  Officially the minimum requirement for a Fiancee Visa is at least ONE face to face meeting within the past two years. Regardless of whether you are engaged or married, the longer it has been since you last met your lover "face to face", the more suspicion there will be that your relationship may NOT be genuine.  Try NOT to allow more than 6 to 9 months to pass between visits . The more you act like a couple that can't bear to be separated, the more likely your petition will be smoothly approved.

   4. Do include with the petition package, abundant, relevant, carefully selected documentation offering proof of your relationship and intention to marry. Copies of letters, emails, faxes, telephone logs, proof of travel travel, engagement announcements, and a wide variety of photos of you both together,  are all beneficial.  Just be sure that the documents are neatly presented, bound or stapled and organized in a logical fashion.

   5. Do include a typed letter describing in full detail the nature, history and planned future of your relationship. Describe where and when you met, the situation, what happened, how the relationship developed, the proposal, wedding arrangements, what are your plans immediately after she arrives for the 90 days, what are your long term plans for your future life together.  Couples planning a life together have long conversations and make detailed plans. Share these plans in your letter. This serves to confirm the sincerity of the relationship.

   6. Do include a typed COVER SHEET. As you have attached many documents to the I-129F, sort these out in a logical order, then type a cover sheet as an index to list all of the documents submitted. This will make it easier for the USCIS officer to review your file, to find the documents he is looking for. A neat, easy to examine package gives the impression that yours is a serious and sincere application. The less doubt the examining officer has regarding the sincerity of your application the faster it will be processed.

   7. Do check the consulate's website to see if they have posted their appointment instructions and document requirements (known as Packet 3 and Packet 4). Or if you can not find it, email them asking to have it emailed to you. Get a head start, by preparing the documents needed to be presented at the consulate in advance, send them to your Fiancee/Spouse.

   8. Do Update your complete set of evidences of your genuine relationship, starting with the set you included with your petition package, and send a copy to your Fiancee/Spouse. She should be intimately conversant with their contents. She should bring all of these documents to her interview at the consulate. For some documents she may be required to present originals, or certified copies of originals, make sure she gets these well in advance of her interview.

   9. Do practice with your Fiancee questions she may be asked at her interview. Help her to practice her answers until they can be answered authoritatively without hesitation.  Remember: the officer needs to feel confident that the relationship is sincere and genuine. A bride-to-be should have tons of details to share about her plans for and after her wedding.

  10. Do try (if allowed) to attend the interview at the consulate. Email the consulate in advance to "ask permission", as the policies regarding who is allowed to enter the consulate vary with time. Attending the interview clearly confirms you in the role of a sincere and concerned future husband. Even if your request is denied entry, you going on record to ask to attend, will reflect positively on your sincerity.

  11. Do send in ALL requested forms. When in doubt submit. Each consulate has their own procedures and practices. If you have a form and you are not sure that it is needed, fill it out and send it in anyway. If it is not needed they will discard it. But if it is required, and not presented, the process could be delayed.

  12. Don't violate the terms of the Fiancee Visa. Sometimes after the Fiancee Visa is granted, couples think to marry twice, once among her family and friends in her country, and then a second time later with his family and friends in the U.S. They plan to "game" the visa process. This is a bad idea. When entering the U.S. the Immigration officer will ask her  "Are you single?". If the Fiancee admits she is in fact already married to the Sponsor, she will be refused entry to the U.S. and sent back.  The application process would then need to be started completely over this time with the Husband now petitioning for a Spousal Visa.  Enjoy an informal engagement party with her family and friends, but never enter what would be considered a legal marriage before she enters the U.S.  Only as a single woman may she travel  to the U.S. in compliance with the terms of her Fiancee Visa.

  13. Do use the Power of the Press. Send an Engagement or Wedding Announcement including a photo of you and your fiancee/spouse to your local newpaper. Include the clipping with your visa petition. The newspaper is a credible authority confirming that your relationship is genuine, and your willingness to "broadcast" your plans with family, friends, neighbors and local community helps confirm sincerity.

  14. Do throw away your Phone Calling card. To demonstrate your genuine relationship, it is necessary to show immigration you have been regularly talking with your Fiancee/Spouse.  Only Itemized call records have any value to do this. Most calling cards do not provide itemized records. But some do. Change to one that does, today.

  15. Do demonstrate you are a serious suitor and really engaged. Give her an engagement ring. Take photos of you placing it on your Fiancee's finger. Include the receipt with your petition package..

  16. Do host an engagement or weddng celebration. Follow local and cultural customs, as to size, expense, guest list etc. Take photos, save receipts, include with petiton package..

  17. Do confirm if you are financially eligible to petition for the Visa you are applying for. The Fiancee Visa eligibility is 100% of the poverty level, Spousal Visa and Adjustment of Status is 125%. The amounts required are updated annually at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/  If your income is below the required level, you can always use a joint-sponsor when appling for a Spousal Visa or Adjustment of Status, but NOT ALL consulates permit a joint-sponsor for a Fiancee Visa. For example, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria are consulates that require the fiance sponsor to rely solely on his own income and/or assets.  If you think you may need a joint-sponsor to support your Fiancee Visa petition, contact the consulate before proceeding to confirm if the use of a joint-sponsor is permitted.

  18. Do travel to meet her every 6 to 9 months until her visa is granted.  Once you have declared your love and intention to marry your fiancee, it looks odd to immigration if you allow too much time to pass between trips to meet her. One expects a sincere suitor to take every opportunity available to travel to be with his lover as frequently as possible.The official eligibility requirement is a meeting within the past 24 months. Un-officially, once you have been separated for over 9 months,  the chances for the consulate officer to not believe you are genuine and to reject your petition, rise exponentially.

  19. Do plan and book your next trip to meet your lover and include a copy of your reservation with your petition.  Describing in detail your past trips is a very powerful way to demonstrate your relationship's bona fides. Demonstrating your intention to travel again, is also a powerful way to show your sincerity. And since you had included as part of your petition evidence that you were planning a trip, your Fiancee/Spouse should be permitted to bring photos from your trip and present them when she attends her interview. Some consulate officers refuse to allow to be presented any proof of a relationship unless it was included as part of the original petition sent to USCIS. By including evidence of your INTENTION to make the trip, you have opened the door to allow photos and a description of your visit to be allowed during the interview.

Bonus Secret.

20. Do tell her about the "skeletons" in your closet. Had a run in with the law? Bad previous marriage? Don't let the consular officer be the one to break the news to her. She should know the story, so if asked, she can confirm she is well informed, and does not expect your past to cause any problems in your and her future.

By Fred Wahl

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