End to consulate backlogs:K1 Fiance Visa + CR1 Spouse Visas

US Immigration to clear K1 Fiance Visa + CR1 Spouse Visa Pending Interview Backlogs

Good News, the US Government is taking action to clear Fiance + Spouse Visa applicants who have been waiting on Consular Interviews. After 15 months of curtailment

of consulate services, US immigration has about 500,000 cases on hold pending interviews. To address this issue, $5.6 billion dollars is budgeted by Department of State and $345 million is budgeted by USCIS for manpower and facilities to help clear the backlog.

It has been a rough ride for the past 15 months for Fiancee and Spouse visa applicants.

On March 18, 2020 in fear of the spread of Covid 19, US Embassies and Consulates around the world
locked their doors to the public, cancelling all scheduled visa interviews.

Some of my clients had even traveled long distances to attend their interviews, and without
receiving any warning from the Embassy arrived in time for their interviews only to find the gates to the consulate locked
and were turned away by the guards.

And very sadly some of these clients, who at that time were at their very end of their application process and had only the
interview remaining are still waiting even today.

Normally with a Fiancee or Spouse visa case once it leaves USCIS it goes to the State Departments
offices in New Hampshire called the National Visa Center or NVC. The cases usually don’t stay at NVC
for very long, before being forwarded overseas to the destination consulate for the interview.

Well due to Covid 19, instead of NVC being just a short layover for a case, NVC has become a warehouse.

Cases are being held, stockpiled at NVC awaiting good news from consulates advising that they have resumed normal operations
and are open to the public for interviews.

Some consulates reopened within a few months. some consulates still remain closed..

In February 2017 at the beginning of President Trumps presidency,
there were almost 3,000 cases in process, temporarily on hold at NVC.

this February 2021, due to Covid 19’s throttling down of consulate operations, there are now roughly100 times more, about 300,000 cases
on hold, warehoused at NVC.

So what can be done?

Well, good news. Plans are in the works to address the problem.

And this is the same problem and the same solution we have all experienced at our local grocery store.

You’ve done your shopping and you want to pay. Well the checkout line is long,
and it’s taking forever to finish your transaction and get out of there. So what
does the store management do. Do they let customers leave without paying? No.
What they do is put another cashier on the till and open another checkout line.

US immigration is going to do the same thing. They are not going to let applicants
skip the interview, but what they are going to do is open up more facilities, and
hire more officers to conduct interviews and issue visas.

President Biden’s current budget proposal is to grant the US state department
$5.4 Billion to hire 1,200 officer and expand facilities. Also added to the budget
is $345 million for USCIS to address their backlog as well.

So far already, the State Department has doubled up on interview availability in
Mexico, by now opening up the US embassy in Mexico City to also conduct visa
interviews in addition to the consulate in Juarez, which previously had be the
only location were immigrant visas were issued. I expect that this trend
will continue where additional secure locations are found to help add more
“check out lines” for visa interviews to take place.

This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach,
here to personally guide you on this journey.

Ways to satisfy in-person meeting requirement during Covid

How to satisfy in-person meeting requirement during Covid

 

If you are like most couples planning to apply for a Fiancee or Spouse Visa
you probably have been stymied, stopped, halted, prevented from moving forward with your case, due to Covid-19 and the world wide travel restrictions and quarantines that have kept you home, and your partner also stuck in her or his home.

You have been unable to travel, unable to meet in-person, and because you are unable to satisfy this critical in-person meeting requirement of immigration, you have been stuck. Well I have some good news for you,
and some suggestions on how you may be able to “think outside the box” and can move your case forward and bring forward the happy day when your partner is FINALLY able to join you for a happy life together in the USA.

During 2020, most couples had their lives on hold, unable to apply to bring in their fiancé or spouse because they were unable to travel, unable to meet, unable to meet US immigration’s requirement for a recent in person meeting.

But now, we seem to have come around a corner. A lot of countries seem to have loosened up their quarantine restrictions. Perhaps this is because vaccinations are on the way, or perhaps it’s simply Covid fatigue. But regardless of the cause, now, much more than at any time since Covid came on the scene last year, more and more people are traveling.

Certainly not all countries have yet opened their borders, but many have,
and many that have opened currently have relaxed or no quarantine requirements.  For example Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Turkey have very relaxed quarantine restrictions.

What this means is that couples with partners from those countries could meet, pursue their relationships, and apply for immigration without delay.

This opportunity to meet does not need to be restricted only to those couples with a partner physically present and living in an “open” country.


Many of my couples are thinking “outside the box”. Instead of waiting to meet when their foreign partner’s country opens, instead they push their cases forward by meeting somewhere else. They meet not in their respective home countries, but in a third country.

Often they meet in a country neither has ever been to before. They explore a new country, and have a new experience together, touring, sightseeing and most important, getting to know each other. At the same time they satisfy the final immigration requirements needed before submitting their applications.

Yes, it is certainly true that I always counsel my clients that the best way to demonstrate bona fides is by meeting where your partner lives, works, has ties, has family and while visiting to make the effort to meet everyone important in your partner’s life  (while at the same time taking date stamped photos).

But today’s situation, under Covid 19 is unique. And frankly “needs must”.
So, If it appears to be many, many, many, more, lonesome months before a trip to your partner’s country is likely, then I suggest you immediately “think outside the box”. Go and find an alternate location where you both can meet.

What about the interview? Won’t the officer deny because I didn’t meet my partner’s family?

Well, I think the officer will understand. And my philosophy when working on your case, is that we don’t want to leave anything to chance. So we want to make sure that the officer does understand EXACTLY what you did and why you did it. For each of my applications I always help clients write a history of their courtship. How they met, why they are a good match and what their plans for the future are. We present them to the reviewing officer
as an honest and sympathetic couple.

I also take advantage of this letter, to include clarification on anything about your case that appears out of norm. We ensure the officer understands why you did not meet the family,
by getting ahead of his doubts by presenting your reasonable explanation that you wanted to do this,
but due to travel restrictions during Covid 19 you were unable to.
This defuses the situation before it becomes a problem.

Where can you meet?

In choosing an alternative destination country you have two considerations.
“Which country will allow your partner to enter, either visa free or with an easy to get visa?” and “Which country has relaxed quarantine requirements?”

As always these days, start with Google. Search for countries that allow an American as well as, your foreign partner to travel to with either no visa, or an easy visa to acquire.

Then do a search on countries with relaxed quarantine restrictions.
Compare the two lists for matches. Then choose the country most convenient, and enjoyable for the two of you.

For example when I search for “where can Philippines go without a visa”
a website listing a few dozen countries that welcome Filipinos and don’t require visas.

Then I searched “where can I go without quarantine” and found another website listing many countries that offered easy travel.

I discovered that both Colombia and Brazil would allow a Philippine partner to travel without need for a visa, and have no quarantines. Both appear attractive as destinations, and I have many VisaCoach clients who have recently been traveling to these countries and have already submitted
their applications. More are currently in process.

So I suggest, you take control of your destiny, and if currently unable to travel to your partner’s country, widen your travel choices, think outside the box, and bring your partner to join you life together sooner than later.

This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach

10 Tips for Immigration Success

Going online to USCIS dot gov, and looking at the forms there, it can be
easy to fool yourself, that to file an application all you need to provide is
name, address, social security number, and just like placing an order
with amazon, your partner will be dropped off at your doorstep in no time.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. There are a lot of small details and issues that
must be correctly taken care of in order to prepare a complete and, well most important, persuasive application.

Truly this is a case of ART over Science to do a good job.

Today I will share with you, what we do at VisaCoach, to go the extra mile, to help our client’s
successfully get through the US immigration process.

How to Make your Immigration Application stronger and more likely for success.

Tip #1 Stay Current

Keep Up to Date and current on US immigration rules and procedures. If immigration requirements, Fees, or forms change it’s critical to be on top of it. Take care that correct forms are used, correct fees are paid and whenever possible time submission of your application if possible to save yourself from changed and more difficult eligibility requirements.

For example on February 24, US immigration drastically increased the complexity and evidence requirements to apply for Adjustment of Status. We helped dozens of clients rush to submit their applications before
that big change took affect. Even now many new tougher standards have been proposed by US immigration for future implementation.

Tip #2 Complete all forms Properly.

Each form, each part, each question, should be carefully reviewed, the instructions understood and factually, and properly filled in.

Tip #3 Mandatory Evidence

Depending on the application, many documents are mandatory, they are required and MUST be provided without exception. Such as visa photos,
birth certificates, tax returns, divorce decrees, marriage certificates, criminal records etc. Failure to provide all required evidence will cause an RFE (request for evidence to be issued). And if not promptly provided after this second and last change, will cause summary denial.

Tip #4 Optional Evidence

Not on the government checklists and not officially stated as required as part of the original application. BUT in my opinion, this is what is most important, and most critical for your ultimate success. And the heart of the VisaCoach “front loaded” application philosophy, is to include with the application quality evidence, that demonstrates your relationship with your partner is “bona fide”

US immigration starts reviews of your application for immigration benefits that your application is fraudulent. Then automatically assume you are “guilty, until proven innocent”. So, to be successful you must overcome that assumption and show them that your situation is “bona fide”. You must prove that there is no sham, no fraud. You must go the extra mile to demonstrates that the two of you are a real, authentic, genuine, bona fide couple.

Tip #5 Quality not Quantity

We choose evidence that is relevant, that is material. Only use a logical, reasonable amount, do not be excessive. If corresponding for only a few months it is not helpful to provide copies of each and every dialog, hoping to impress by the number of pages or words. Attempting to “pad” the evidence, to make it appear more than what it really is, hoping to overwhelm the reviewing officer, never works. We select just enough to make a valid point, then move on to the next type of relevant evidence.

Tip #6 Tell your story

With EVERY application at VisaCoach, we ALWAYS include a well drafted letter, that clearly outlines the course of your relationship, how you met, how your relationship developed, why you chose each other, what are your plans for the future. We present the two of you as two sympathetic human beings, entitled to the reviewing officer’s understanding, respect and fair treatment. This helps to set the stage to convince him or her that you are two people with an honest, bona fide a relationship, are genuinely planning to spend your future life’s together. and DESERVE approval.

Tip #7 Explain red flags

If there are red flags in your situation, then as part of the letter telling your story, get ahead of the problem, by clearly identifying the issue, and explaining YOUR side of the story. This way we prevent the reviewer from using his imagination to take your red flag down a dark path. Instead by openly addressing the issue, explaining it, and clarifying why it is reasonable, or not a problem, we successfully defuse this “time bomb” before the consular officer gets locked in to a negative appraisal..

Tip #8 Improve Weak Evidence.

Sometimes, you simply do not have the evidence that is normally expected for your situation. Cameras and cell phones get lost, users get locked out of online accounts, culture or other factors cause your relationship to be less public usual, even storms and natural disasters can sweep away what you had. Yes, all these things have at one time or another happened to my clients. The rising tide for evidence, that usually can be generated, after the fact, are written statements from witnesses. We “fill in the cracks” of the evidence that supports your story, but asking people who the two of you have met along the course of your courtship to explain what they witnessed.
To be effective, do not provide a “John and Jane are nice people and I recommend immigration trust them.” because that kind of letter is useless. Immigration is not interested in advice from someone they do not know or trust. Instead what the letter SHOULD be about are the simple facts. No opinions asked for. Only a simple statement where the writer introduces who he or she is, what the relationship the author has to the couple, and include description of clear, specific instances of personally, in-person witnessing the couple when the couple was in-person, and ( I will repeat cause it is important) when the writer was also in-person with them at the same time. Describe the events, meetings, parties or functions, what was going on, who was there, the date, etc, etc.

The best candidate to write the affidavit is someone who does not have a personal “axe to grind” and does not benefit if the couple gets the visa. For example, someone at arms length such as a minister, doctor, teacher, colleague, boss, coworker. All are deemed more reliable than a close family member.

Tip #9 Practice Interview Questions

Before attending the interview go over and practice sample interview questions with your partner. We provide these to our clients and subscribers to the VisaCoach monthly newsletter. At the interview you must be confident, and that is only possible when can calmly and clearly answer any question thrown at you, about you, your partner, your relationship and plans for married life in the USA. Both you and your partner should agree with the answers, because it sometimes happens sometimes that you will both be separately interviewed, and asked the same question. For best chance of approval, both of your independent answers should be the same.

Tip #10 Consulate’s Requirements

Each consulate has a detailed checklist that is strictly followed of which documents and material MUST be brought to the consulate on the day of the interview. The list varies country by country but normally includes originals of civil documents, police clearances, household or singleness certificates, financial evidence and so on. Before the interview study the list of what is needed, and WITHOUT FAIL bring all that is needed..

Arriving short handed, even if you have a really pleasant and successful interview, even when the officer says “you are approved. just send in the missing items and we will issue your visa”, WILL cause lengthy delays.

The consulate officer and staff at the consulate expects your case to be in order and originally planned to issue the visa immediately, job done, then move on to the next case. If you forgot a required document, you have now upset the flow of your case.  And your case is filed away.

You might promptly submit the missing piece the next day, and then wait many months for your visa. Your case has been filed, and will remain, untouched low priority, waiting for the consular reviewers to eventually “circle back” to re-open and complete processing of your case.

These tips are what we normally follow here at VisaCoach for each and every one of our cases. I hope these tips will be useful to you, and hopefully if you are one of our clients will give you a better idea of what is going on behind the scenes.

This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach

Where Americans Can Travel Without Quarantine

Conditions are changing and will continue to change as the pandemic goes on. The good news for those who are itching to travel sooner than later: The list of where US citizens can go is slowly expanding. As of early September, here’s where Americans can visit right now with no quarantine required.
Note that though a test isn’t required, you may be tested upon arrival (randomly, or if you’re showing symptoms) and asked to isolate until you get your results. If you’re sick and do need to quarantine, it may be at your own expense.

  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Brazil (health insurance covering Covid is required)
  • Dominican Republic (passengers will be randomly selected for a breath test)
  • Kosovo
  • Maldives (confirmed hotel required)
  • Malta (only if you spend 14 days in an approved country first)
  • Mexico (travelers must arrive by plane)
  • North Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • Tanzania (health screening may include a test on arrival)
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
Testing rules are all over the place.

Some countries require a negative test from the last 72 hours while some allow tests that are five days old; some require a test before you board, and others test on arrival. In some countries, a single test is all that’s needed and in others you may need to be tested again depending on the length of your stay.

Bottom line: check each country’s requirements carefully.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Armenia
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Costa Rica (only visitors from select states are allowed)
  • Croatia (with proof of booked accommodation)
  • Dominica
  • Dubai
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • French Polynesia
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya (travelers from California, Florida, and Texas must quarantine for 14 days)
  • Montenegro
  • Rwanda
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Barts
  • St. Maarten
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • The Seychelles
  • Turks and Caicos

Additionally, Belize, El Salvador, and Namibia have announced plans to reopen soon. Unfortunately at this time there’s no word on when other countries, including those in the EU, may begin welcoming Americans again.

K1 Fiance Visas get Priority Interviews during Covid-19 Pandemic

K1 Fiance Visas NOW approved for Priority Interviews (during Covid-19 Pandemic)

Today, there is good news on the K1 Fiance Visa process
during Covid 19.  The US State Department has just announced, that they will now ALSO treat K1 Fiancee Visas as a high priority for interviews at open and partially opened US consulates world wide.

US consulate service shuttered themselves off at end of March 2020, most consulates closed their doors. Scheduled
interviews cancelled without notice. All cases put on hold.
At that time, there were most likely about 3 to 4 months of cases in the pipeline for each consulate. For the next
5 months more cases got through their USCIS approval, and
were added to the backlog, either at the consulate level
or remaining at NVC.

As per a previous update on the K1 Visa Processing timeline during the pandemic, this is good news as we expect things to speed up greatly

In the last few months, some consulates have reopened fully
for business, and some have opened their doors, just a crack. Officially closed to the public, but quietly started to contact some of their pending cases inviting a
select few to enter the consulate for interviews and
visa issuance.

This was good news. It was especially good news for
the spouses and children of US citizens.
Because their cases, but only their cases, were made a priority.

The consulate tackled these cases first, slowly, with
social distancing, interviewing these lucky few applicants and issuing their visas. About
a half dozen of VisaCoach spouse visa clients have been
recently interviewed, approved and on their way to the USA.

Well that was good news for them. But other cases, and remember there now are about 9 or more months worth
are still on hold, and in most cases
hearing nothing from NVC or the Consulate.

But just a few days ago, the US State Department
announced that it’s OFFICIAL policy, world wide
is to now add K1 Fiance visa applicants to the
high priority list.

This means, that good progress has been made
clearing the backlog of spouses and children, and
now they are deciding “Who is next?”.

Well, if you have a Fiance visa case pending, it is
good news for you. Your case will be next.

On August 31, Monday, the State Department posted this announcement at their website.

Now, K1 Visa applications are the newest high priority.

This means you should be hearing from the consulate
or NVC soon, either that the consulate is ready
to interview you or NVC is sending your case
to the consulate.

Finally, light at the end of the tunnel. So watch your email for good news.

Many applicants are worried that their four month, USCIS
approval would expire. I already expected and advised
my clients not to worry, that extension would be automatic. So for clarity, to calm more nerves, the State Departments announcement also mentioned this. The announcement confirms that if processing of your case was delayed due to Covid 19, then the consulate can (read that as will) extend your case’s validity.

This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach