Fiance Visas Under Attack

Fiancé Visas have been around for quite a while. Today, the fiancé visa process seems under fire.

On December 2, 2015, there was an attack by a married couple on a holiday party in California. The woman was a recent immigrant who entered the United States as a fiancé, married and became a Green Card holder. As the investigation has gone on it has unearthed information that seems to indicate that she likely entered the United States with bad intentions toward the United States.

Many, even presidential candidates, have spoken of harsh restrictions on entry into the United States. They have even spoken of restricting entry based on national origin or religion. Most recently, there had been talk of a pause in the fiancée process (see New York Times “U.S. Visa Process . . .” http://nyti.ms/1Z5d6tp ). Others have pointed out the popularity of the fiancé process (Politico “ ’ Fiancé visas’ off limits . . .“ http://www.politico.com/story/2015/12/congress-fiance-visa-republicans-marriage-216570 )

While the New York Times article speaks affirmatively about the review of the last 2 years of Fiancé Visas that have been issued, it spoke in ‘maybe’ terms about a pause. In my office, we have a fairly steady flow of fiancé cases. We have not seen any signs of them stopping or being all sent to “administrative processing.” I will post again, it a trend seems to be developing.

When Congress created Fiancé Visas it was to speed up the unification of couples that intended to marry and to lower the monetary cost of the process. My perception of the process is that in many ways it is identical to the process for an Immigrant Visa, where the spouse enters as a Permanent Resident with a Green Card. In most respects, the are treated as Immigrant Visas, as the Beneficiary is not expected to return to the home country – they immigrate.

For some couples, the fiancé process is substantially faster and works well. For other, it is more or less the same as the spouse IV process, but with substantial risk of having to re-do and change to a spouse visa. Young people without prior marriages, children or immigrations histories do well and usually transit the fiancé process quickly. Age, age differences, past marriages, immigration histories all add to processing time.

With a fiancé visa, if the Embassy says ‘no’ and sends the case back, there is virtually no chance of reviving that fiancé petition. While an approved fiancé visa past its validity dates can be revalidated by a Consular Officer, once it is returned to the USCIS service center, it is USCIS policy not to revalidate or reaffirm. Immigrant Visas for spouses do not expire the same way and can be reaffirmed by USCIS.

Usually when someone comes to my office, the decision to do fiancé or spouse is clear. Perhaps the weight will change with these new developments, perhaps it will not.

Tom