My K1 Visa Experience and 13 Helpful Tips to Get Through it

1/29/2019

Receiving the "Eligibility Letter" is both never-racking and exciting at the same time.

After I moved to New Jersey with my husband, I have a few friends asking me for tips or help on processing the K1 Visa. So I thought it would be nice to share with you all my K1 Visa Timeline and a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way while processing it.

The K1 visa is the type of visa issued by the United States to the fiance or fiancee of a US citizen to enter the country and get married there within 90 days of entry. K1 Visa is an option for those who want to bring their fiance and get married there the soonest. It is different from the 'spousal visa' or CR1 where the couple chooses to marry outside the US and then eventually decides to bring the spouse to the US in a later time. This process takes a little longer to be done, meaning the foreign spouse would have to wait at least one year before he/she could have the visa (CR1) to enter the US.

For some couples, especially to the Filipino Fiancee, filing K-1 Visa could be an overwhelming task, considering the hundreds of website that offer tips and tricks that makes the processing look more complicated and mind-boggling. On top of that, some agencies offer help but charge the couple-client a very unreasonable amount.

We honestly didn't know where to start either, but we just followed what the USCIS website requires us to compile. Indeed, it was a complicated matter that tested our relationship and patience further.

Tip 1- Check out the General Overview of Fiance Visa Processing at the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/family/family-us-citizens/visas-fiancees-us-citizens)
Tip 2: Rely on and always go back to the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/) and other government-issued websites like Travel.State.Gov (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html) because these are all the references you need to go through all the process. 

Here is my timeline: 

Dec. 10, 2017.  Form I-129F Petition Packet Sent.  This packet is to be filled by the petitioner (US Citizen). In my case, my fiance (the US Citizen) included the following papers:
  • Evidence of US Citizenship
    • A Copy of his Birth Certificate
    • A Copy of his Naturalization or Citizenship Certificate
    • A Copy of his unexpired U.S. Passport
  • One color passport style photograph of him and I taken within 30 days of filing the petition
  • Evidence of intent to marry within 90 days of admission to the U.S. as K-1 immigrant or Letter of Intent
  • Evidence that we have met in person within two years of filling. This included our pictures together and with the family as well as letters, travel tickets we had together and chat or text messages we had.
  • Paid the USCIS fee amounting to $535.
Tip 3: If your fiance doesn't know what to do and you, the beneficiary, doesn't have any idea either, review the requirements at the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/i-129f). For any specific details that you need help with, join a helpful Facebook Group like this - K1 Visa - Visa Journey (https://www.facebook.com/groups/61405522650/). It is an active group with people who will respond to your inquiry quickly. It is different from visajourney.com, which is an agency website, and I DON'T recommend it. 

Dec 14, 2017. Form I-797C Notice of Action (NOA) 1 Email Received. This was a simple letter stating that the Department of Homeland Security, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received the Petition Packet. However, it didn't mean that they had processed the Petition Packet yet. 



Dec. 20. 2017. Form I-797C Notice of Action (NOA) 1 Hardcopy Received - This letter informed us that the Packet was already in the process and we should wait for further notice. This was the part where we should expect if we have RFE (Request for Evidence), in case we missed to send out some more important papers. Thankfully, no RFE sent to us, and the waiting just went on.

The waiting time between this letter and when we sent the Packet, was a little nerve racking for me because my fiance and I only met twice in person and I felt like the pieces of evidence ( photos and whatnot) we sent out were not enough. I found out later on that there were even worst-case scenarios from other couples, especially those who just met through an online dating platform. I was so relieved that no RFE came.

Between this date and the next letter received, we were planning our church wedding in the Philippines, and that somehow eased my anxiety. I poured my attention on the preparation and in some ways, that made the waiting time seemed shorter because I knew I'd be seeing him again. We did the wedding without filing or signing any papers in the Philippines so that it will not affect the K1 visa processing. We did this also because we wanted our families on the Philippine side to come together to witness our togetherness without spending a trip the other side of the world.

Tip 4 - It is cheaper to do a fancy wedding in the Philippines. So if you and you're fiance are up for that and are both Filipinos by birth, it would cut so many expenses on your budget if you do it there. That way, relatives can witness you too as you unite in marriage. Just don't file your marriage license in the Philippines or else that will void your K1 visa petition process. Do another small ceremony in the US once you arrive under the K1 visa. Remember: K1 Visa is for an unmarried couple, CR1 or IR1 is for the married couple;  K1 visa notably shorter in process time than CR1 or IR1 visas.

June 27, 2018. Form I-1797 Notice of Action (NOA) 2 Hardcopy Received. After six (6) long months, we finally received the final Notice of Action stating that USCIS approved our Petition and that they were now sending it over to the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC). This also ended the USCIS's part of the process and that further inquiries should be directed towards the NVC. 

I was super excited at this point because finally, we could proceed to the next step. Frankly, though, I was mentally-stomped because of the excitement that I couldn't figure out what the next step would be. This was the time that I turned to Facebook Groups for help. My husband though was as calm and cool as a cucumber which totally didn't help me at all! :) 

During this time, I was temporarily in the US under a Tourist (B1/B2) Visa, which was issued to me ten years ago, and was there for a couple of months until we received the next letter.

Tip 5 - It is an advantage for you, the beneficiary if you have an existing US Tourist Visa before filing the petition. That way, you can still visit fiance in the US during the waiting time. However, if you don't have an existing Tourist Visa and is planning to get one to visit fiance somehow, you might encounter complications in the process because technically, you are already in the process of getting a FIANCE VISA. I strongly suggest NOT go to the risk of getting a TOURIST  VISA AT THIS POINT and, merely wait for the whole process to be over. 

July 24, 2018. National Visa Center (NVC) Letter with Case Number Received - This letter stated that the NVC has received the Petition Packet approved by the USCIS and that the NVC would now forward the Packet to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 

I was still in the US when I received this letter and was still definitely dumb-founded. I wasn't sure what the next step would be so was just frantically googling and facebooking information, absorbing everything I could get.  I also had to fly back to the Philippines to start the next phase of the process soon.

Aug 26, 2018. Eligibility Letter / Packet Received. This packet contained the letter of my eligibility to schedule an interview at the US Embassy in Manila. It also includes the next step to be done. Attached to it was a copy of my approved petition form, signed and stamped by the USCIS officer.

So there you go, after days of googling and facebooking, they actually sent me the next step. I should have relaxed myself a little bit all this time. However, since I already had an idea of what do next, I already paid and filled the application for the Embassy interview before I received the letter. Thankfully this came in time before my actual interview date.

Tip 6 - Some applicants complained that they never received or received too late this letter/packet. I was adviced that it is ok to proceed to the following steps as long as I have the Case Number with me (attached in the NVC letter.) So I did the following steps: 
  • Paid Embassy Fee or the "Machine Readable Visa Fee" amounting $265 or PHP 14,575 (depending on the current exchange rate at that time) at BPI

Tip 7 - It might come confusing to you when you notice that under Travel.State.Gov, K1 Visa fall under "Immigrant Visa" and you're being asked to fill up a "Non-Immigrant Application Visa (DS 160)" on the CEAC website. Just remember that, technically, you would be entering the US under K1 Visa and it doesn't guarantee your permanent stay in the US. Keep that in mind so you won't get confused. 


Aug 28-29, 2018. SLEC Medical Exam. After I got the date for my Embassy Interview, I went on and applied for the required medical exam at St. Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic (http://slec.ph/), where all the K-1 Visa applicants were checked and examined for illnesses before entering the US.

I had no other complication was able to get my results the second day. During this step, I've met three awesome girls who were also K-1 applicants and was able to sympathize with them about all the worries we encountered so far in the process. We agreed to update each other about the next step we were going to take. 

We now live in the US in different states, and we still contact each other for updates about our lives.  Meeting new friends was, by far, one of the coolest things I've experienced in this journey.

Tip 8 - Make sure to bring all the applicable requirements at this appointment, better yet, bring your whole compilation of requirements you have so far, And be at the clinic early. I was there before 6 am, and there was a long line already. Come earlier to get an early spot. 

Sept 10, 2018. US Embassy Interview!! I had all the reason to be nervous at this point. I've read a lot of horror stories from Facebook groups that said it all depends on who the Consul would be. My Friends and Family tried their best to calm me down saying that I've already been interviewed before and the fact that I've been in the US before and have talked to Americans should make it easier for me to pass it.

The interview went on well. I took the oath and just answered basic questions about me and my fiance. Thankfully, I knew all the answers to the questions and was able to understand the Consul clear enough without having to repeat what she said. I had with me a thick book of my compilation of all the requirements as well as the pictures that some said are required, just in case they asked. I showed the Consul the papers they asked for, and that was it! She didn't even look at the thick photo album that I brought with me!

As haggard as I might have looked at that time, I was so relieved to pass the interview! I immediately texted all my three new friends and updated my Facebook as well to thank everyone who prayed for me.

Tip 9 - It's not completely necessary to bring a thick photo album as I did. If you do want to bring photos for additional evidence of your relationship, make sure you compile it neatly in a "clear book" or binder that will easily slip into the slot of the interview window in the embassy. And I tell you, it's not that big! So don't make it too bulky, as  I had. 

Sept. 7, 2018. CFO Seminar. CFO or Commission on Filipinos Overseas (https://www.cfo.gov.ph/) holds basic seminars educating immigrants on what to do in the US in case problems in the process would occur. They offer tips, pieces of advice and contact information of organizations when help is needed.  This seminar is a requirement for everyone who applies for an immigrant visa. They explain here what could be your life's worst scenario in case your US Citizen spouse does something terrible to you.  This is especially helpful for those who don't have any idea what life in the US would look and feel like. Even I, though I've been in the US several times before us a tourist, got some useful tips here in case of emergency. 

Tip 10 - CFO Seminar would require you to bring your passport and K1 Visa to get the CFO Certificate that you would need to show to the immigration officer at the port of exit. This seminar can be done before or after the Embassy interview. For me, I did it before the Embassy interview and came back to get the certificate. So, my advice, it is much convenient to do this after the Embassy interview to save on trip fares.



Sept. 19, 2018 - Visa on Hand. One of the happiest moment in your life is when you get something you have worked hard for. In my case, having the K1 visa right on my fingertips made me feel like I was the most accomplished person in the whole world. Of course, not to mention the fact that I'll be with the person I want to be for the rest of my life, this moment felt like the pinnacle of all my successes in life. 

I know, I am over exaggerating. But it's true. That moment, that feeling that you will be out of the country soon and be with your loved one, in a strange big land could be the grandest feeling of all.

Tip 11 - Visa can be picked up on authorized courier's office or mailed straight to your house. I did the former to make sure the package won't get lost.

Sept. 20, 2018 - Claimed CFO Certificate and Stamp. Two days before my actual departure date, I went back to CFO office to claim the CFO certificate and have that CFO stamp that would be checked the immigrant officer once I depart.



Sept. 22, 2018. Fly to New Jersey via JFK. And then it suddenly dawns on me that I'll be leaving my birth country for good. I'll be moving on from the life I used to live in an experience I've only dreamed off. A combination of excitement and anxiety hit me at this point in time as I boarded the plane, knowing that it might take a long while before I can go back to the country I called home for such a long time.  I wanted to cry, but at the same time, I wanted to jump up and down for sheer exhilaration and anticipation of what's ahead.

Tip 12 - Pack light as much as possible. This would eliminate delays on your baggage check-in and, besides, I'm pretty sure you'll be buying your stuff in the US anyway. 

I am in the States now and as I am writing this, I can't help be grateful for this kind of experiences. I made me test my patience and faith in God as well as strengthen my prayer life for the better.

Final Tip - Although it sounds tempting and easy to hire an agency or 'lawyer' to do this whole process for you, I totally recommend to do it your own. You and your fiance can work together to fix this, improve your relationship and you would be saving money too! 
As a side note, this is not complete detailed information about the K1 Visa application. I am merely sharing my experiences and what I've learned throughout the whole process. If you need help and have questions for me, please contact me through email (contact@jenamaen.com) or leave me a message below.

Hopefully, reader, this might be a help and encouragement to you. If you're a new applicant for K1 Visa, stay calm, pray on, and follow the requirements down to its tiniest details. If you're one like me, who passed through this hellfire already, congratulations and I pray for your happy marriage with your spouse. 

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