No where in the Immigration and Nationality Act, or in decided federal court cases, or government agency rules does it explicitly* state that a U.S. citizen must earn a stated amount of money or have assets totaling a certain amount as an ultimate prerequisite for filing the K-1 visa petition. So the short answer to the above question—of course not!
However, when you factor in the actual cost of fulfilling the 5 basic requirements for going forward with the K-1 visa process, one’s income and as a result the ability to pay the government filing fees, legal fees, medical fees, international travel fees, international postal fees, document retrieval fees, administrative fees and the upfront “requirement fees” that I address below— can most certainly be a barrier to a low-income couple’s ability to unite in the United States on the K-1 visa.
Let’s consider each requirement and associated costs in turn:
- The person applying for a foreign-born fiancé must be a U.S. citizen.
There is generally no upfront cost, unless, before filing for your foreign-born fiancé, you as the petitioner must first become a naturalized U.S. citizen. There are government filing fees, possible legal fees and outside costs that are associated with becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
- The U.S. citizen must have met in person with their foreign-born fiancé within the prior 2 years before filing the K-1 visa petition.
International travel can be very expensive. Visa fees, airplane fares, hotel accommodations, car rentals, “spending money,” gifts to your future in-laws, etc can be cost prohibitive for many lower-income U.S. citizens seeking to file a K-1 petition. If your foreign-born fiancé is able to travel to the U.S. to visit with you, the same costs must be met by him or her.
- The U.S. citizen and the foreign-born fiancé must be in a sincere relationship.
On the surface it appears as if there are no associated costs. You both are truly in love and you wish to marry. Simple. Right? Well, unfortunately the government will not just take you and your foreign-born fiancé’s words of undying love at face value. If you are a subscriber to the FianceSpouseVisaLawyer.com’s [FREE] Newsletter (and you should be!), you already know that you must prove that you are in a sincere relationship. Proving a fact can be rather expensive! International travel (see #2), international communication fees, the purchasing of an engagement ring, and other accompanying proof of a sincere relationship can be cost prohibitive to lower-income U.S. citizens seeking to utilize the K-1 petition.
- The U.S. citizen and foreign-born fiancé must [both] be “free to marry.”
Again, this requirement seems straight forward. However, if you (or your foreign-born fiancé) are currently separated from your spouse or “practically” single, you must file for a divorce AND the divorce must be finalized (as evidenced by a final divorce decree) if you wish to file the K-1 visa petition for your foreign-born fiancé. Even in the most amicable divorce proceedings, legal fees, other professional fees and court fees can add up quickly.
- The U.S. citizen must be able (and is legally required) to financially support the foreign-born fiancé in the United States for a K-1 visa to be granted.
Here we are directly talking about the U.S. citizen petitioner’s finances.
There is a West Indian saying that I was introduced to very early: “no money, no love.” The U.S. government (in an effort to prevent foreign-born fiancés from becoming public charges) subscribes to the same school of thought. If the U.S. citizen petitioner cannot demonstrate on paper with federal tax returns, bank statements, an employment letter; proof of assets that he or she is able to financial support their foreign-born fiancé in the U.S. (along with the other children or adults that the U.S. citizen must financially support), then the K-1 visa will not be issued, period! If the foreign-born fiancé has children that will be accompanying them on a K-2 visa, then the U.S. citizen must also demonstrate the ability to financially support those children as well.
On first blush I know that the above costs are daunting. If you [erroneously] believe that your income prevents you from filing the K-1 visa petition do not be discouraged. There are legal, ethical and practical strategies and solutions that I use to overcome these financial red-flag issues.
If you wish to discuss your personal circumstances, send me an email and let’s talk!
*Annually the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues federal poverty level guidelines. The income levels are used to determine the minimum income requirements necessary for certain immigration filings.