"We waited until the two-year anniversary of our courtship to apply for a fiance visa because that is the earliest time we became eligible"
Sadly I hear a statement like this pretty often. What it means is that a couple who wanted to be together, put their plans on hold, and delayed the start of their married lives together, because they misunderstood the immigration process.
The so called "two year rule" is one of many eligibility requirements for a fiancee visa and is often misunderstood. The "two year rule" regarding eligibility for a K1 Fiance Visa is as follows::
"the couple must have met in-person within the two years immediately preceding the filing date of the petition"
The two year rule is about when was the last time you met your fiancee face to face.
It is NOT about how long the relationship has lasted. Let's break it down.
"The couple must have met in-person"
first, To be considered eligible, a couple MUST have actually met each other, in-person, face to face. This literally means being in the same space, breathing the same air. Video chats, facetime, google hangouts, telephone calls are not considered in-person, face to face.
The rule does not refer to how long the couple has known each other, or how long they have been dating, it only refers to meeting, in-person, face to face.
There is no eligibility requirement that requires any specific length of time that a couple must know each other before applying. The requirement is a face to face meeting. I worked with one couple who were fated to sit next to each other on a three hour flight to Singapore, and who were in love by the time the aircraft landed and they sadly parted, going separate ways boarding separate connecting flights to different countries.
They were eligible to apply right then.
The second part of the rule is "within the two years immediately preceding the filing date"
This means you and your fiance should have had your most RECENT face to face meeting no LONGER than 2 years ago. For example if the last meeting occurred within 2 years, the couple is eligible. If the last meeting occurred 2 years PLUS one DAY or more, then the couple is not eligible.
A couple could wait till day 729 after their last face to face meeting to apply, and by the "the two year rule" be fully eligible. That is not a smart move however.
But, "Eligible to Apply" does not mean "Likely to be Approved"
There is still the interview ahead, and at the interview the consular officer will need to be convinced that your entire relationship is "bone fide"
Your fiance will be interviewed (read interrogated) by a consular officer whose job is not to "pass out visas", but whose job is to "catch fraud". In order to pass his review the consular officer MUST be convinced your relationship is sincere, genuine, "bone fide".
But Long Separations are not consistent with Bone Fide Relationships
It may be quite difficult to convince him of your sincerity, when it has been such a LONG LONG time since you bothered to travel to be with the one you claim you can't live without, who you want to spend the rest of your life with. To paraphrase Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, "a man is never too tired to travel to meet his lover"
Consular officers agree with this concept. The longer it has been since the last time you were with your fiance in-person, the more skeptical they are regarding whether or not they feel your relationship to be bona fide.
One of the most powerful demonstrations of sincerity, a couple can produce, is to commit time, money and effort in order to spend time together in-person. If at all possible I suggest to all couples that you should demonstrate your sincerity by meeting each other face to face as often as you can. Go ahead book your flight.
Of course there might be reasonable financial, medical or family reasons for long absences and infrequent travel.
When I prepare a couple's front loaded petition, in addition to evidences of a couple's bone fides, I also help draft a letter addressed to the interviewing consular officer.I introduce the couple to him by describing their history and plans for the future. I do this in order to help bring the consular officer closer to deciding to say yes.
Whenever a couple has issues or red flags, I also include within the letter persuasive explanations of why these issues should be ignored, and not cause the petition to be denied.
If the red flag is a lengthy gap since the last face to face meeting, and I write the letter to address their situation in hopes that we can reduce any negative effects. .
By Fred Wahl