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K1 FIANCEE VISAS from Thailand
INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGE BROKER ACT
Cross-border Love – it just ain’t easy
By Chaninat & Leeds
Guys with high hopes of bringing a Thai fiancée to the US may encounter obstacles associated with IMBRA – the International Marriage Broker Act.
IMBRA falls under the umbrella of US immigration law, specifically a subsection of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 – legislation intending to provide well-deserved protection against human trafficking and abuse against foreign women.
One highly controversial aspect of IMBRA is its draconian controls (for better or worse is left for another discussion) of ‘marriage-brokers’ operating international Internet-dating sites; as well as those US individuals attempting to meet foreign women via these websites, some of which are referred to as ‘mail-order bride’ services.
However, even in cases where a female from Thailand and an American guy originally met completely ‘off-line’, IMBRA imposes certain obstacles for well-intentioned US citizens applying for a K1 fiancée visa for their Thai loved-one.
FIRST STEPS: K1 FIANCEE VISA THAILAND
Compared to a tourist visa, the K1 fiancée visa obtained in Thailand is a better option for love-struck Thai-American couples intending to marry in the US.
Yet certain aspects of the K1 visa application process are designed to guard against ‘sham marriages,’ cases of ill-intentioned foreign nationals looking for a quick US green card ticket in order to gain benefits through legal, permanent US residency.
On the other hand, hurdles set-up by the International Marriage Brokers Act associated with K1 visas applications are designed to provide safety from abuse of the foreign immigrant by the US petitioner. These protection barriers have grown from high-profile, violent cases of domestic abuse and human-trafficking cases connected with ‘mail order brides’ who had immigrated into the US.
To this effect, IMBRA:
1) Requires full disclosure of specific personal details pertaining to the US citizen petitioner (to be scrutinized by US Citizenship and Immigration Officers)
2) Limits the total number of allowable visa petitions filed (as well as number of filings within certain timeframes).
A detailed background-check information about the US citizen petitioner includes full disclosure of all criminal convictions – including homicide, kidnapping, domestic abuse, human-trafficking, and sexual assault.
Convictions for more than two offenses related to controlled substances or alcohol must also be disclosed.
IMBRA then requires US Immigration Officers to clearly reveal these criminal background details to the foreign national fiancée.
Second, IMBRA sets strict restrictions on how many K1 visas can be filed. Filing K1 visa multiple times is not a realistic option. IMBRA limits a maximum of two K1 visa sponsorships for a US citizen petitioner.
In situations where the petitioner has previously gained two K1 approvals – and is now filing for a third – USCIS is required to notify the foreign national. Those US citizens filing for a third fiancée visa are highlighted in a 'special visa database' – created to guard against those possibly intending to abuse the process.
IMBRA also requires USCIS to track ‘serial-petitions’ for K visa applications.
For example, if the US petitioner has filed two or more K1 visa petitions at any time in the past; or has filed within the last two years, a US visa waiver must be obtained in order to file for another K1 visa.
Furthermore, if in the last two-year period a K1 visa petition has been approved, the US sponsor must wait for another two-year period to expire (from the time of the original filing date of the last visa approval) in order to file for another K1 fiancée visa.
US petitioners may submit a request for a discretionary waiver of these K1 visa limitations. Justification for a US visa waiver from Thailand would include only very exceptional cases – possibly a petitioner convicted as a juvenile of a single violent offense, but has since retained a ‘squeaky-clean’ record for several decades. Those with a not-so-distant history of violent offenses will usually not be approved for the K1 visa waiver.
Certain US males petitioning for a K1 Visa in Thailand for their Thai fiancée may be affected by well-meaning, but complicated IMBRA restrictions. It is easy to be confused by just how many K1 visas can be filed.
In order to ensure accuracy and avoid unnecessary delays – such as in cases of filing K1 visa multiple times – it may be wise to utilize the services of an experienced US immigration lawyer in Thailand to assist in the process.
The Practical Side of Visa Denials and Waivers of Inadmissibility
Sham Marriages and US Marriage Fraud: Thailand
K1 or K3: Which is Better for my Thai Girlfriend?