December 2023: USCIS K1 Visa Processing Times

Review and processing by USCIS is the first hurdle for a K1 Fiance Visa application to overcome. As of December 2023 here is how long the various USCIS service centers are taking to approve an I-129f K1 Fiance Visa application before forwarding it to the US State Department for the next and last hurdle.

To apply for your Fiance Visa, you first submit it to USCIS. USCIS processes the application and when they are done, USCIS forwards your case to the State Department for further processing and final interview at a US embassy or consulate in your partners home country. 

The initial and currently slowest stage your case needs to pass through is processing and review by USCIS. USCIS stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. 

To submit your application you mail it to USCIS’s Dallas lockbox. 

ALL cases are mailed to the same place, regardless of where you live, or which Service Center you would like to work on your case.. 

In Dallas mailroom clerks, sort all applications and decides where each should go. They are assigned to one of 5 possible processing centers scattered around the USA. The theory behind this is that the sorting clerks can “balance the load” between centers. 

Sorry, you can’t choose your preferred destination. It is completely up to the clerks at Dallas.

Here are the expected timing for these five processing centers. 

For each center I provide you with two time estimates The first is how long it takes for that center to complete processing on 80 percent of the cases it is assigned, and the second is the earliest date USCIS allows you to contact them to chase the progress of your case If it is still pending months after the majority have been completed. 

 

As of December 2023: 

At the California Service Center,  I-129f, 80% of k1 fiance cases are taking 15.5 months Earliest time allowed to chase is 19 months after submission

At the Nebraska Service Center 80% are at 5.f months earliest complaint at 9 months

At the Potomac Service Center 14 months and 14.5 months

At the Texas Service Center 12.5 months and 17 months

At the Vermont Service Center 8 months and 23 months

USCIS Spouse Visa Processing Times

USCIS I-130 CR1, IR1 Spouse Visa Processing Times: October 2023

To apply for your Spouse Visa, you first submit your Application to USCIS. USCIS processes the application and when they are done, USCIS forwards your case to the State Department for further processing and final interview at a US embassy or consulate in your partners home country.

The initial and currently slowest stage your case needs to pass through is processing and review by USCIS. USCIS stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

To submit your application you mail it to either USCIS’s Elgin, Illinois or Phoenix, Arizona lockboxs.

Which mailbox you should send your case to depends on what State you reside in.

At the respective lockboxes, USCIS mailroom clerks, sort all applications and decides where each should go. They are assigned to one of 5 possible processing centers scattered around the USA.

The theory behind this is that the sorting clerks can “balance the load” between centers.

Sorry, you can’t choose your preferred destination. It is completely up to the clerks.

Here are the expected timing for these five processing centers.

For each center I provide you with two time estimates. The first is how long it takes for that center to complete processing on 80 percent of the cases it is assigned, and the second is the earliest date USCIS allows you to contact them to chase the progress of your case, if still pending, a few months after their expectation of when the majority of similar cases submitted the same time had finished their processing.

At the California Service Center,

80% of Spouse Visa cases are taking 14.5 months
Earliest time allowed to chase is 19 months after submission

At the National Benefits Center
54.5 months and 91 months

At the Nebraska Service Center
13.5 months and 18 months

At the Potomac Service Center
14 months and 20.5 months

At the Texas Service Center
14 months and 17 months

At the Vermont Service Center
15 months and 19.5 months

 

2023 K1 Fiance vs CR1 Spouse Visa Which is Better?

2023 K1 Fiance vs CR1 Spouse Visa Which is Better?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “what should I do, apply for a fiancé or for a spouse visa, which one is better?“

Well, the answer is not a simple one, there are a few factors that each couple should consider, and make their best choice for their own unique personal situation.

 

 

Each year US immigration receives about 30,000 spouse visa applications and at the same time receives about 30,000 fiancé visa applications. There is no clear-cut winner in this race.

Here I will try to list the most important factors that each couple should consider to make their choice.

Processing Speed

Historically, the fiancée visa had a significant speed advantage. Currently in 2022 this advantage has been minimized. Currently USCIS is taking a few months longer to process a fiancé visa, compared to how long they take to process a spouse visa. What this means is that by the time your partner arrives for his or her interview the time difference between one or the other path is pretty slight, currently I expect a spouse visa to take only about three months more than a fiancé visa. And as there are so many factors that speed up or delay a case, this difference in time I believe is not material, and basically a tie for the two different cases.

One or Two Immigration Applications

A spouse visa is “regular immigration”. This means your partner from
the start, is
applying to come to USA,  and remain here permanently. At the same time the visa is granted, permanent residency is granted as well, and the green card is waiting for her or his arrival. A Fiance visa is not regular immigration, instead it is a “non immigrant” visa. This is very similar to a visitor, student, work visa, where the applicant is allowed to remain in the USA only temporarily and eventually is expected to leave.. A Fiance Visa allows your partner to visit for up to 90 days. The hope is that within that time you marry. If you do then in order for your new spouse to remain permanently, a second application must be submitted to US immigration. This is called petition to “Adjust Status” from a K1 visa visitor to that of a permanent resident So a spouse visa requires a single application to obtain permanent residency, a fiance visa requires you to apply twice

Total Costs (through to green card)

A spouse visa includes approval for permanent residency for your partner. So for a fair comparison to a fiancé visa we should add the cost that is added to a fiancé visa for the adjustment of status process for your fiancé who became your spouse after arrival in the USA to get his or her green card.

In practice if you add up all fees for a spouse visa, filing fee, medical fees, green card fee, and Visacoach fees your total cost would be around $3,100

For a Fiancé visa, combined with adjustment of status, the combined fees for filing, medicals and Visacoach would be around $4,500.

So the spouse visa will give you about $1,400 in your pocket.

Work after Arrival

The Spouse visa includes approval for permanent residency. This means your spouse can work immediately upon arrival to the USA. In the case of a fiancé visa the ability to work is only approved around a year after arrival.

Travel outside USA

The Spouse visa includes approval for permanent residency. This means your spouse can travel in and out of USA immediately after initial spouse visa arrival to the USA.  In the case of a fiancé visa your new spouse will not be able to leave the USA for about a whole year after arrival.

Eligibility of Children

If your partner has children, depending on their ages, you can apply for them at the same time you apply for your partner. In the case of a fiancé visa her or his children are eligible to be granted visas if they will be still under 21 years old by the day they arrive on their K2 visas to the USA. In the case of a spouse visa you may only apply for a child, as your stepchild, providing the child was under 18 years old on the day you married their parent.

What if a Joint Sponsor is needed?

In case your income does not meet the eligibility level, you might need to enlist
the support of a financial cosponsor. All spouse visa applications may use a
financial joint sponsor. However The US Embassy depending on the country, might
require a fiancé visa sponsor, must stand alone, and must the financial requirements
on his/her own without assistance from a cosponsor. For example: Philippines, Vietnam and Nigeria do not accept cosponsors for fiancé visa cases.

Criminal History 

In the case of a fiancé visa, due to laws that have been enacted to protect a fiancé from potential spousal abuse, all records of previous arrests, citations, convictions as well as restraining or protection orders must be included as part of the fiancé visa application. Prior incidents involving such issues as domestic abuse, drugs or alcohol might also make an American ineligible to apply.

A spouse visa does not require any disclosure of previous arrests, etc, and only one type of past incident, that of child abuse would be a disqualifying factor.

When can application be submitted 

For a fiancé visa, you can apply immediately after your in person meeting, and up to two years afterwards. For the spouse visa you can apply immediately after the wedding if it was in person, or if you married online, immediately after your first in person meeting after the online ceremony.

Happy spouse, happy life

The most important consideration is “what makes your spouse happy?”.
If your spouse always dreamed of a wedding in a particular church or chapel,
surrounded by her or his family, friends and neighbors, you are best served
regardless of all other factors, to choosee the path that makes your spouse
the happiest.

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