If you are a U.S. citizen engaged to a person who lives in a different country, you might want to file a fiancé visa for that person to come to the United States. You would do this by filing a I-129F petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which starts off the application process for a fiancé (K-1) visa. (Here’s how to fill out that petition.)
But engagements do not always work out. What happens if you have to cancel your I-129F petition? And then what if you later meet someone new, and want to file another petition?
Many U.S. citizen petitioners don’t realize that a previous petition on file can make it more difficult to file again. The immigration officers will examine your petition closely to make sure that your relationship is legitimate. In some circumstances you might need to ask for special permission, or a "waiver" to go forward in spite of your multiple filings.
Exactly what you need to do, procedurally, depends on how many previous petitions you have filed, how recently you filed them, when you realized that the relationship wasn’t going to work out, and where that I-129F petition was in terms of U.S. government processing when you canceled it.
A fiancé visa goes through several stages before being approved: a U.S. citizen files an application for his or her fiancé, USCIS approves that application and sends it to the U.S. embassy or consulate overseas, the embassy interviews the fiancé, and the fiancé then uses the K-1 visa to come to the United States.
Once the foreign-born fiancé arrives in the U.S., there are additional steps to follow. First, the couple must marry within 90 days. Then, the fiancé may (if desired) file for lawful permanent residence (a green card) based on the marriage, and USCIS will interview the couple again before approval. In most cases, the foreign-born spouse applies for the green card immediately after getting married.
If the marriage is less than two years old when USCIS approves the application, that person will receive a conditional, two-year green card, and will need to apply to remove conditions on residence and make it truly permanent. This application must be filed with USCIS just before the person has had the green card for two years.
Filing a petition for a second or third foreign-born fiancé is going to be more or less difficult depending on when, within this process, you cancelled the prior application.
If you filed two or more previous I-129F petitions for a fiancé—or if you filed a petition for a fiancé within the last two years—you will need a waiver of your multiple filings in order to go forward with a new petition. In other words, if you submit a new I-129F petition without asking for a waiver, USCIS is likely to reject it and send it back to you, or accept it and send you a request for evidence, thus delaying the process.
This is required by the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) and is meant to protect both you and the foreign fiancé—meaning that USCIS wants to make sure your relationship is legitimate and free from abuse. It sees multiple I-129F filings as a red flag; a pattern possibly indicating attempted sham marriages.
The actual filing of the waiver is simple. You must select the correct box on Page 9 in Part 3, Sections 5.a-5.d of Form I-129F. Which box you select will dictate what you need to provide for the waiver.
If you have no prior criminal history, and no one has ever filed a restraining order against you, check box 5.a. for a “general waiver.” Provide an explanation and evidence to show why the U.S. government should give you the waiver. This can include evidence of any unusual circumstances, like the death of your previous fiancé. But you should also provide evidence that the relationship was legitimate and the reasons that it did not work out.
If you canceled the petition before the K-1 visa was approved, then you can explain why, and submit evidence of your cancellation. If your prior fiancé actually came to the U.S., then it is important to explain where that person is now and why you didn’t get married. If you filed any complaints against your previous fiancé, provide copies of those to USCIS.
If you have any violent criminal history, check box 5.b. for a “extraordinary circumstances waiver.” You must prove to the government that there are extraordinary circumstances in your fiancé visa case. This is difficult but not impossible. You will need to submit evidence of the prior crime, evidence of rehabilitation, letters from community members, and other evidence that shows you deserve a waiver. If the violent crime was drug or alcohol-related you should submit evidence of completing a rehabilitation program. Submit evidence of the prior application, a detailed statement, and any evidence showing why the previous relationship failed.
There is a third type of waiver, which is intended for victims of domestic violence. If you have a criminal history, including a violent crime, but it is related to a situation where you were being battered or abused, check box 5.c. for a “mandatory waiver.” USCIS must grant the waiver as long as you meet the conditions. You must have been a victim of battering or extreme cruelty, and show that either: (1) the order you violated was intended to protect you, (2) it was self-defense, or (3) the crime did not cause a serious injury. Support the waiver by providing records of the crime and evidence, including a detailed personal statement, about the abuse. Letters from a psychologist, counselor, or police officer are particularly valuable for a mandatory waiver.
If you are not a “multiple filer” as defined by USCIS, check box 5.d. for “not applicable.”
Even if you don’t need a waiver, you should describe to USCIS any previous marriage-based or fiancé visa application and give an explanation. USCIS takes marriage fraud very seriously. This means that the immigration officers look closely at cases where people have applied multiple times for a spouse or fiancé.
Applicants in this situation often receive requests for evidence from USCIS, asking them to provide a statement about the prior marriage or fiancé visa when they are petitioning for a new fiancé.
Along with the general evidence for your application, you should write a letter to the USCIS officer, describing what happened in the prior case. Include your account of why the relationship ended. Have several people read the letter before you finalize it, to make sure that it appropriately explains all of the circumstances in your individual case.
Also submit affidavits from people who know you and who knew about the prior fiancé visa case, with their own personal observations in support of your explanation.
The U.S. government will issue approve the fiancé petition (and ultimately the visa) if it is satisfied that you meet the legal requirements and that your relationship is genuine.
Do not get discouraged if you need to apply for a waiver, or if you have previous applications. Remember that it is up to you to explain to the government why it should issue the visa in your case. Whether you need a waiver, or have just filed a previous petition, the most important thing is to provide detailed information showing why this was personal circumstance as opposed to an instance of attempted marriage fraud.