Before getting into detail on what an extreme hardship waiver is and the requirements that need to be met, we should take a step back and understand what a K-1 visa is.
K-1 Visa For Your Foreign Fiancé
If you are a US national engaged with a foreign partner or have met someone special through physical meeting/online dating, you must file a K-1 visa to bring them on a fiancé visa to get married in the US. The K-1 fiancé visa is your partner’s first step to becoming a lawful permanent resident ( green card holder), leading to US citizenship. The US citizen petitioner can apply for their fiancé’s work authorization and living status.
Once a K-1 visa has been granted to your overseas fiancé, they are legally eligible to enter the US territory and marry their citizen fiancé within 90 days of arrival.
All the applicants need to meet the requirements set by The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for the K1 application process. One of the requirements is that the foreign national applicant (k1 visa) should have had a physical (in person) meeting with their future spouse ( U.S citizen petitioner) within the past two years of the application filing date. This is also commonly referred to as the two-year meeting requirement.
The Two-Year Meeting Requirement
As per USCIS, in order to meet the immigration process for a foreign fiancé visa (Form l-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance(e), the applicant needs to fulfill the ‘two-year meeting requirement’ that states
“the couple must have met in person within the two years immediately preceding the filing date of the petition within the two years immediately preceding the filing date”
Physical meeting requirement is laid down to minimize failed marriage or a partner using a U.S citizen petitioner to obtain a green card. If you have met online or have been online dating your future spouse, the USCIS wants to make sure that your decision to marry is the right one since you will be living with your foreign fiancé physically every day after marriage.
In order to fulfill the eligibility criteria, a couple must have physically met each other ( could be in the US or abroad) in person, face to face. Video chats, facetime, google hangouts,and telephone calls are not considered in-person, face to face.
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How to Prove an In-Person Meeting?
When you submit your k 1 visa application, you need to fulfill the time period of physical meeting with your fiance, which should be within 2 years of the filing date. While submitting your application, here are a few documents you could submit as evidence to fulfill your physical meeting requirement
- Travel itineraries
- Photographs of you together
- Plane tickets
- Passport stamps of exiting and entering the country/state
Passport stamps carry underlying importance and the most weight in proving that you and your potential bride or groom physically met and should definitely be included in the paperwork submitted to the USCIS. Technically, stamps are essential due to the fact that a picture can be forged or could be two years or more years older. Similarly, a plane ticket is not conclusive evidence that you actually visited a place, just that you purchased a ticket.
If you apply for a fiance visa without fulfilling the meeting requirement, your application for a k1 visa will be denied. You can expect a denial in the beginning, even at the interview stage or through an administrative processing notice (which will likewise ultimately lead to a rejection).. therefore, it is better to complete the required criteria before applying.
#Does Meeting After Filing For a Visa Count?
If you are planning to meet after filing a visa for your foreign national spouse and haven’t met or don’t have evidence to prove any meeting prior to filing your application within the two-year meeting requirement, your foreign national fiance’s visa will get denied.
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#Do You Fulfill The Meeting Requirement if Your Physical Meeting is Abroad?
The short answer is YES; you can meet them anywhere to fulfill the criteria for a marriage-based green card, including the beneficiary’s home country.
It is advised to be careful about asking your partner to visit you in the United States. There is a possible chance that they might be refused entry or be accused your partner to be entering the US just to obtain United States citizenship if an intention is found to stay permanently by the immigration authorities.
Eligibility Waiver of Meeting Requirement For a Fiance Visa
It is possible to get a waiver for the requirement that the couple should have physically met before filing a fiance visa in limited circumstances. However, as an immigration service, it is advised by our firm not to place reliance on getting a waiver as it is
Under 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(k)(2), an extreme hardship waiver can be applied where complying with the meeting requirement would;
- Cause extreme hardship to the foreign national or US citizen petitioner
- Be contrary to religious or traditional long-standing customs of either party’s culture or social practice. For reference, in some countries around the world, the groom and bride are prohibited from meeting before the date of the wedding.
It is generally extremely difficult to prove extreme hardship to the U.S citizen petitioner. Normal inconvenience or simply showing that a physical meeting with the citizen petitioner was expensive would not suffice for an extreme hardship waiver.
The extreme hardship waiver is granted in situations where the petitioner could prove that due to any circumstance, it was impossible to travel anywhere. This could be due to an extreme sickness or a permanent physical disability and would require the petitioner to submit substantial medical documentation to back as evidence.
Other Possible Grounds for Waiver
There is a rare possibility that a petitioner is successfully granted an ‘extreme hardship’ waiver on the grounds of dangerous country conditions. Generally, despite proving that your foreign national fiance is residing in their home country that has unsafe living conditions, USCIS will deny the US petitioner’s extreme hardship waiver request on the grounds that you (a U.S citizen) and your fiance could have had an in-person meeting in a third neutral count.
Applying for an extreme hardship waiver on the grounds of religion or cultural traditions is also hard to prove. In most cultures where marriages are arranged and decided by parents, in-person meetings are allowed on some level. A waiver might be granted in extreme situations where both parties could not meet.
Let us put our skills to work for you. We can analyze your case, identify the available options, and help you decide the safest, most cost-effective, and quickest route to success. Seek out counsel from the Herman Legal Group, a U.S. immigration law firm with over 25 years of experience in representing individuals, families, and companies providing all aspects of immigration services, in all 50 states and around the world
Extreme Hardship Waiver claim on Grounds for Financial Hardship
As a U.S citizen petitioner, if you apply for an extreme hardship waiver on the grounds of financial hardship, it is not an argument that would succeed. While it may be claimable in other circumstances or visa waiver types, financial hardship is not applicable as far as an extreme hardship waiver is concerned.
If the financial position of a U.S citizen petitioner is not strong enough to plan a physical meeting, it is unlikely that the petitioner will be able to sponsor their foreign fiance and sponsor later for them to become a green card holder (permanent residence)
Can I Qualify For an Extreme Hardship Waiver If I Was Not Able to Meet My Fiance Due to COVID-19 Physically?
To apply for a fiance visa, you must prove that you have physically met your foreign national fiance within a span of two years before filing for a K 1 application. Due to a global pandemic, countries all around the world imposed stricter travel measures and bans, creating difficulties traveling.
Alongside others, Fiances could not physically meet and thus failed to fulfill the physical meeting requirement for a K 1 visa. If you faced something similar, you might wonder whether you could apply for an extreme hardship exception.
Since the pandemic is a recent turn of events, there have not been applicants who have applied for an extreme hardship on the grounds of COVID-19. However, it is indeed an unfortunate event that has rendered couples unable to meet face to face and might be relied upon to apply for a waiver.
It is essential to frame your meeting requirement waiver to be applied accurately and strategically, conveying how you could not adhere to the appropriate time period to meet the criteria for a K 1 Visa.
There is a rare chance that you will be able to get an exemption due to COVID restrictions. Extreme hardship exceptions are granted in limited circumstances, and since the pandemic is a global crisis, an exemption can not be awarded to the whole world.
The status application processing time for a K-1 visa is about six to eight months. Even with strong evidence of the conditions making it impossible to meet before the application, there is a possible chance that the borders would have opened during the visa processing, allowing you to travel and meet your foreign fiancé.
If you think you have a solid case to get an extreme hardship exception for K 1 visa, it is advised to reach out to an experienced immigration attorney. Sit down with the Herman Legal Group, experienced immigration lawyers, and let them analyze the facts and come up with the best legal strategy.
Is The Processing Time Same If A Waiver for K 1 is Applied?
If you have decided to apply for an extreme hardship exception, be aware that it might take more time to process than an average K 1 visa. Expected delay if you apply for an extreme hardship exception tends to be between six and twelve extra months.
Moreover, if the USCIS denies your application and you plan to go through an appeal process, it might take even longer.
Why Hire a Law Firm To File a K 1 Visa For Your Foreign Fiance?
If you are a citizen petitioner applying for a K 1 visa to make your partner a lawful permanent resident in the US and have not met them before, we can help you prepare and document strategically to file for an extreme hardship exception.
Let us put our skills to work for you. We can analyze your case, identify the available options, and help you decide the safest, most cost-effective, and quickest route to success. The Herman Legal Group, founded in 1995, can help. The law firm is AV-Rated and has been awarded designation of “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News & World Report. The firm serves clients nationwide and from around the world.