This is not a typical travel post, but since many people are asking me about my US visa application experience, I’ve decided to finally share it. Because each stage in the K1 Fiancee Visa application is very critical, I will be posting a series of detailed guides to give you an idea of what to expect. To be quite honest, I have been toying with the idea of making a guide for months, but I wasn’t sure if I’m comfortable sharing this stage in my life. Only loved ones and cIose friends at the time knew that Chad and I are applying for a visa. It was an extremely nerve-wracking experience for us, due to the fact that it will ultimately dictate our future together.
About 2 years ago, I shared that Chad and I got engaged, and a year after that we decided to begin the I129F, Petition for Alien Fiancee–also called the Fiancee Visa (K1)–application process, so we can finally get married and start our lives together.
Chad and I knew each other since we were kids, so we never had the “adjustment phase” most new couples go through. We talked on Skype and Facebook daily. But we also allotted time for our respective passions, which I guess made the relationship less stressful. Aside from that, our personalities complement so well. I’m extremely temperamental, while he’s the laid-back one. He’s a writer-photographer; I’m an editor-blogger. We push each other to be better and we’ve never had that in our previous relationships. All these and our love for each other convinced us that it’s time to take the next step in our relationship.
Why File for K1?
Being in a long-distance relationship isn’t easy, and maintaining communication for 5 years is definitely not a walk in the park. I can’t even count how many people told us our relationship wasn’t gonna last. But we’re not like many couples. We’ve been through so much and we knew we couldn’t handle another year of being apart so we decided to apply for a K1 Fiancee Visa instead. It’s the faster and more economical route, compared to a CR1/IR1 spouse visa.
With the K1 Fiancee visa, the process can only take four months to a year in most cases. Once the I129F petition of your US citizen fiance is approved and forwarded by the National Visa Center (NVC) to the US embassy in your country, the ball is in your court. Once you, the applicant, receive your case number, you can now:
- Make sure you have all the requirements, original and lots and lots of photocopies.
- Pay the non-refundable visa fee of $265 (or Php 12,985 during my time) at your embassy’s accredited bank.
- Schedule an interview appointment through telephone or online. (For Filipinos, interview is at US Embassy – Manila).
- Undergo medical exam (at St. Luke’s Extension Clinic).
- If you passed the medical exam, you can now proceed with your interview at the embassy. But if you failed, you will be requested to move your interview on a later date.
- Once your visa is approved by the consuls, schedule and attend the mandatory Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Guidance and Counseling Program (GCP) Seminar.
- Book a flight to the US and get your affairs in order.
- Finally, fly to your new home before your visa expires.
Please note that there is no exact way of going about the process. Some people I’ve talked to paid the visa fee well before they got their case numbers. You can do that, but make sure your interview is scheduled within one year of payment. Otherwise, it will be voided and you won’t be able to get your money back. Some also booked their CFO seminar before the interview, but I wanted things to be certain first before proceeding to the next step.
A word of caution: The visa application process will definitely test your relationship, your patience, and your bank account (lol). You will encounter problems and delays, but never ever lose sight of the reason why you and your fiance/e are doing this. I say this because ours took so long, there were times that we almost lost hope that we will be able to proceed (see the big gap between receipt of letter from NVC and payment of visa fee below). We had small arguments and tense moments, which inconveniently coincided with my existential crisis phase haha!
So here’s a timeline of every milestone we achieved throughout the whole K1 visa process:
July 22, 2015 – Chad Filed I129F, Petition for Alien Fiancee and Paid $340 Filing Fee
July 24, 2015 – Petition Received by USCIS (Notice of Action [NOA] 1)
October 19, 2015 – Petition Approved by USCIS (NOA 2)
November 10, 2015 – Received Letter from NVC
March 2, 2016 – Paid Visa Fee of $265
March 3, 2016 – Scheduled Medical and Interview Appointment Online
March 8, 2016 – Took Medical Exam (Cleared the Next Day)
March 22, 2016 – Had Visa Interview
March 23, 2016 – Scheduled CFO Seminar
April 1, 2016 – Received K1 Visa via 2GO, Booked Plane Tickets
April 8, 2016 – Attended CFO Seminar
May 14, 2016 – Arrived in the United States
June 3, 2016 – Applied for Social Security Number; Filed Marriage License
June 25, 2016 – Wedding
During the first phase, Chad enlisted the help of their family lawyer. He panics whenever he has to fill out forms so we thought having a lawyer do that for him would be beneficial for us. I completed the second phase all on my own though. I couldn’t believe it only took me 1 month to complete the second phase when I had to wait 4 months for the eligibility letter to arrive (which didn’t arrive by the way, much to our dismay)–this explains the wide gap between receipt of NOA2 and my medical exam.
I read every forum and resource website available on the internet (my favorites were Visajourney, Immihelp, Mrs. Presson, and Esteytsayd) to make sure I’ve prepared all the requirements and ready to face the consuls at the US Embassy – Manila. When it comes to visa application, you can never have too much information. 🙂 Those sites helped me a lot so I’m also posting my own experience to pay it forward, so to speak. If you want to learn more about my experiences during each stage, stay tuned for my next posts.
TOTAL NUMBER OF MONTHS UNTIL RECEIPT OF VISA: 9 Months
TOTAL EXPENSES FROM PETITION TO ARRIVAL IN THE US: Approx $2500