What can the fiancés do if they never met before in person?
The single most important condition taken into account when applying for the Fiancé(e) Visa is the one about the two fiancés having physically met each other within the past 2 years (prior to filing the Petition for Alien Fiancé).
- Meetings online (via Zoom, chat or other apps) are not considered face-to-face.
- If the last time the couple met in person was more than 2 years prior to applying for a K-1 visa (for example 26 months before filing the petition), they are not eligible to apply and the application will be denied.
- Even if the couple meets physically after filing the Petition for Alien Fiancé, the application will still be denied.
The two-year meeting requirement is strictly enforced by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While waivers of this requirement are technically available, USCIS will grant such a waiver only in extremely limited (and unusual) circumstances.
Waivers for the physical meeting requirement
In a few situations, petitioners and beneficiaries are able to get a waiver of the two-year meeting requirement. However, these exceptions are extremely rare, so it is best not to hope for a waiver.
Waivers are available for cases where complying with the meeting requirement would either:
- result in extreme hardship to the petitioner or
- violate strict and long-established customs of the beneficiary’s foreign culture or social practice, namely where marriages are traditionally arranged and the bride and groom are prohibited from meeting prior to the wedding day.
It is important to keep in mind that the first of the above listed impediments refers to the petitioner, aka the fiancé(e) who is a U.S. citizen. However the second exception mainly refers to the beneficiary of the petition, aka the fiancé(e) who is a foreign citizen.
The bar to demonstrating extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen is high. Typically, the only time this sort of extreme hardship waiver would be approved is in a case where the petitioner was absolutely unable to travel anywhere, due to extreme illness or permanent physical disability. Proving this would also require substantial medical documentation.
The second basis for a waiver, that meeting the future spouse would violate strict marriage customs, is also difficult to obtain. Even if your fiancé(e) comes from a culture where marriages are ordinarily arranged by parents, most cultures do allow some level of in-person meeting between the potential bride and groom. If there is any precedent within the culture of allowing in-person meetings, then the waiver will be denied.
Requesting a Waiver Adds Time to the Application Process
If you do ultimately seek a waiver, the process will take significantly longer than with a normal fiancé(e) visa application (likely an extra five to 12 months, or more). Overall, a waiver is extremely difficult to obtain and likely to be denied. Even if you have a strong case for a waiver, USCIS will likely deny your initial application, forcing you to go through the appeal process, which may take even longer.
Requesting a Financial Hardship Waiver Can Undermine Eligibility for the Visa
One of the most common complaints with the fiancé(e) visa is that traveling abroad is extremely costly. Unfortunately, not only does USCIS not view financial hardship as a justification for a waiver of the two-year meeting requirement, but the very request could make USCIS think the petitioner (aka the fiancé(e) who is a U.S. citizen) is in no financial position to sponsor an immigrant at all.
This is because the U.S. consulate will require the foreign fiancé(e) to demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge (dependent on government assistance in the U.S.). A likely public charge becomes “inadmissible.”
What if your plans to meet were affected by the COVID-19 crisis?
As for the unprecedented restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, which have prevented many couples from meeting in person during these two years, there may be grounds for exceptions under certain conditions. We have already helped many fiancés in this position.
Are you interested in finding out more about the Fiancé Visa and how you might apply even if you don’t meet this critical requirement? Click here to schedule a call and one of our U.S. immigration experts will map out the process based on your particular case – with no further purchase obligation. However the initial $ 49 consultation fee will be deducted from our final service fee if you accept our offer and continue to employ our help.
We are eager to learn more about your story!