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Cyrus D. Mehta: Will the San Bernardino Attack Make Marriages to Foreign Spouses More Difficult?

December 14, 2015 (1 min read)

Cyrus D. Mehta, Dec. 14, 2015 - "Even if the K-1 visa is not curtailed by Congress (and hopefully that will not be the case), there is bound to be more scrutiny after the shootings. To be eligible for the K-1 visa, it is important that there be no legally valid marriage as the applicant must remain a fiancé. Even religious marriages that are legally recognized as marriages may disqualify the applicant.  The authorities will try to ferret out cases if they discover that the parties got married prior to the issuance of the K-1 visa. In traditional cultures, a marriage is generally preferred, and if an applicant is not permitted to be with the prospective US citizen spouse without a marriage, one should not file the K-1 visa and directly file for a spousal immigrant visa. In fiscal year 2014, only 4 K-1 visas were issued in Saudi Arabia as compared to 7, 228 K-1 visas in the Philippines.  Still, even if there is no marriage, the authorities will look more closely after the San Bernardino shootings to see whether this is a bona fide relationship, which is harder to prove when there is no marriage. There will also be more security checks and delays relating to the K-1 visa, although even in the past, delays as a result of security checks were extremely frequent.  The essential point that must be made is that terrorism is separate from immigration. While additional screenings for K-1 visa applicants will be inevitable, they must not in effect nullify the K-1 visa. By the same token, beneficiaries of marriage-based I-130 petitions should also not get excessively delayed as a result of additional scrutiny. Both the K-1 and I-130 procedures take upward of six months, and fiancés as well as spouses from countries with predominant Islamic populations have in any event been impacted since 9/11."