Once your I-129F petition is approved by USCIS your case is heading off to the Department of State (DOS) and to U.S. consulate in your fiancee’s home country. In this section I’ll give a high-level overview of what this looks like from a procedural standpoint. Most of the nitty-gritty details that you will need to handle are the same in fiancee- and marriage-based visa cases. So I’ve consolidated that advice in a chapter later in this resource – “National Visa Center & U.S. Consulate.”
Understanding where you are now.
Your initial petition is now been approved. This essentially means that you have demonstrated the minimum qualifications for your fiancee to apply for a K-1 visa. It’s like you’ve managed to run a fast enough time to qualify for the Boston Marathon… but that just gets you to the start of the Boston Marathon, which you still have to run. The consular stage is where the your fiance submits her actual visa application via the online Form DS–160. In terms of getting your fiancee to the U.S. you are – roughly speaking – 2/3 through the process in terms of time and 1/3 in terms of effort.
Before you can file anything for this step of the process, USCIS has to transfer your Form I-129F packet over to DOS. The packet will be bundled up and physically shipped over to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is a massive document clearinghouse for DOS. Once the NVC has the packet, it forwards it to the appropriate U.S. consulate. Unlike marriage-based visa cases, you do not have to deal directly with the NVC in fiancee cases. With that being said, there are frequent delays in the transfer of files to the NVC. If that happens in your case please review the section, Dealing with delays at the National Visa Center (NVC).
<<Immigration lawyer tip: Don’t wait for your I-129F to get approved before starting your work. You can do most of the legwork for the consular step of your case long before you are actually able to file anything. Using our DS-160 prep sheet you can be ready to complete the online form. And you can begin collecting the required documents. Be mindful that both police certificates and medical examinations expire after 12 months, so you do not want to request these too far in advance. Likewise – depending on the consulate – you may be unable to request those two items until you have a “live” DS-160 visa case with the consulate. But do what you can to prevent a last-minute sprint when your petition finally goes through.>>
Once the U.S. consulate has your case file they will send you a copy of the consulate’s current K-1 visa application instructions. These will include guidelines for completing the DS-160, scheduling your interview, obtaining a medical exam, and submitting your supporting documents.
Major action items for the step.
Here are the main things that will demand most of your time at this step. As explained below, the procedures for completing these various items vary significantly between different consulate.
1 – DS-160 visa application.
The fiancee visa application is fully online. That’s great news for you, because it makes the process faster and easier than it used to me. The application asks both for information that was included on the Form I-129F and also for a significant amount of new material. The application is quite time-consuming so get started as soon as feasible.
2 – Medical examination.
Your fiancee will need to complete a medical examination with the doctor certified by the Department of State. Because the doctors licensed to perform these evaluations may be inconveniently located, you will want to plan ahead. I have written an entire section on medical examinations later in this resource – take a look at it now.
3 – Police certificates.
Your fiancee is required to provide criminal background reports from everywhere she has lived since age 16. These reports, called police certificates, can be time-consuming to obtain. In the procedures for requesting the certificates depend on the place where the records are held.
How to submit documents for the DS-160.
For most consulates, before you can actually schedule your interview you will need to submit the required list of supporting documents. That will include the police report on medical examination described above.
Scheduling the interview. After completing all of your legwork, the consulate will allow you to schedule your interview. Again, the procedure will depend on the consulate. Normally, interviews are available within the span of a few weeks so this is nothing like the time span of many months that you become accustomed to.
Getting started with the consular work.
First off is an important step that most resources fail to tell you about: you need to locate the application instructions for your specific consulate. These will eventually be sent to you after the consulate receives your case. But they are publicly available on consulate websites, so you can easily access them ahead of time.
First, navigate to https://www.usembassy.gov and search for the website for your consulate.
All U.S. consulates have official websites with domains such as https://ph.usembassy.gov/embassy/ (for the Philippines). In the top navigation bar, select “Visa” then “Immigrant Visa.” Even though fiancee visas are technically classified as non-immigrant (temporary) visas, they are processed by the immigrant (permanent) visa sector of the consulate. There will then normally be a page with a short menu, with fiancee visas as an option. This will link to instructions on such things as scheduling interviews and checking case status.