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Minimizing Immigration Separation by Maximizing Social Distancing

Ordinary travel and social gatherings are on hold due to the Coronavirus, but true love knows no borders. Recently engaged couples around the world may be reassessing their wedding plans, but for U.S. citizens who hope to marry their foreign national (FN) fiancé(e) in the U.S., now is a great time to discuss and begin your immigration journey.

The U.S. immigration process for the K-1 fiancé(e) visa requires couples to provide detailed documentation to multiple agencies over many months. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still accepting applications as usual, so applicants can still file new cases, but this could change as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.

At McEntee Law Group, we are seeing couples use this time to gather evidence and documentation needed for their applications in order to minimize separation. If you’re already separated from your fiancé(e) due to travel restrictions and you’re spending a lot of time at home, now is a great time to get started.

Here are some things you can do now:

1. Find a qualified U.S. immigration attorney.
The K-1 visa process can look simple on its face, but we would never recommend going it alone. U.S. immigration is very complex and constantly changing. Small oversights can have big consequences, from delays to denials. Some consequences may not be evident until it is too late. A licensed attorney who regularly files K-1 visa cases can spot the issues, address them proactively, and help you navigate the process more efficiently. Immigration counsel is a worthwhile investment in your future as a couple.

2. Get on the same page.
The U.S. immigration process requires both fiancé(e)s to disclose personal information that you may not normally be comfortable discussing, from prior arrests to financial and health challenges. When you hire an immigration attorney, the same attorney can represent both fiancé(e)s as long as interests are aligned and there are no secrets. If secrets come to light or a conflict develops, your attorney may have to terminate representation.
To successfully navigate this process, you will have to be completely honest with your fiancé(e) and your attorney so they can properly advise and represent you. If you and your fiancé(e) have not discussed personal finances yet, you should have that conversation soon. It’s not advisable to wait until you’re in front of a USCIS or Consular officer.

3. Gather your personal documentation.
If the quarantine has you both spending more time at home, now is a great time to organize the documents you’ll need for the K-1 application. Dig through your attics and basements to find your original personal documents. Get clear copies of your passport, prior visas, birth certificates, and divorce decrees, if applicable. Keep the originals somewhere safe. You will need them for interviews down the line.

4. Document your personal history.
The K-1 visa and green card process requires detailed personal information from both fiancé(e). You will each need a complete employment, education, and address history for the last five years before the date of filing. This means every job, school, and address, even the server job you quit after two weeks and the college you transferred out of after a semester. Double-check your address history online. It goes further back than you think.
Later on, the FN fiancé(e) will need to list their group affiliations. This means listing every “organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group” you have ever been a part of inside and outside the U.S. You will need to provide the name(s) and your dates of involvement. Organizing this proactively will save you and your attorney time in the long run.

5. Gather your financial documentation.
The K-1 visa is intended for U.S. citizens who want to bring their FN fiancé(e) to the U.S. to get married within 90 days of entry. The end goal is to get married and gain permanent resident status by getting a “green card”. In late February 2020, USCIS implemented a new rule that substantially increased the work and documentation required to get a green card.

The Public Charge Rule (PCR) requires green card applicants to show that they will not become dependent on state assistance in the U.S. by providing extensive documentation about their household’s finances. The FN will not receive work authorization for 4-5 months after applying for the green card, and the PCR is primarily focused on the U.S. citizen’s finances. The U.S. citizen fiancé(e) will need IRS tax transcripts for at least the most recent tax year, and ideally for the last 3-5 years. If you were not required to file taxes in a specific year, or you have yet to file, you may want to reach out to an accountant to get written confirmation. The document requirements vary based on your individual situation, especially if it changed due to COVID-19. A qualified immigration attorney is in the best position to help you meet these onerous requirements.

6. Order outstanding documentation.
If you are missing essential documents like tax transcripts, court records, or original birth certificates, order them sooner rather than later. Different agencies are operating on different timelines due to COVID-19, so leave some room for delay.

The K-1 visa process can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. An experienced U.S. immigration attorney can help you through this newly-charted territory in unprecedented times. If you would like to discuss the process with a member of the McEntee Law team, we would be happy to hear from you.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
773 828 9544

Fiona McEntee is the Founding and Managing Attorney of McEntee Law Group, an immigration law firm located in Chicago with a national client base. Fiona has over 12 years of experience practicing immigration law. Originally for Dublin, Ireland, and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, she is in a unique position to provide sensitive, compassionate, and comprehensive advice to all her clients.

 Alex George is an Associate Attorney at McEntee Law Group. She started working in immigration law as a Law Clerk in 2017, and has been a member of the McEntee Law team ever since.

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