Entering the U.S. on a K-1 Fiancé Visa

If you are reading this after the U.S. consulate has approved your K-1 fiancé visa, congratulations! But you still have an important step ahead of you: Entering the United States. Keep reading for some tips on making sure this goes smoothly.

Deadline for U.S. Entry

Once you have received the K-1 fiancé visa, you will have six months within which to enter the United States. If any children received K-2 visas along with you, they can enter at the same time or later. (Just make sure they remain unmarried and are still under the age of 21.)

If they weren't part of the original application but later decide to follow you, they will need to contact the U.S. consulate. The consulate will verify your initial visa approval, ask your children to fill in the same forms that you did, interview them regarding their admissibility, and hopefully grant them a visa. Or, if they would just like to come for the wedding ceremony, they may be able to obtain a tourist visa. Talk to the local U.S. consulate about the application procedure.

U.S. Border Officials' Powers

The officers who staff the U.S. borders, airports, and other points of entry work for a governmental division called Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. They have the last word on whether you are allowed into the United States. Even if you been granted a visa by the U.S. consulate, the CBP officer can decide, for example, that the visa was fraudulently obtained, or that you are inadmissible on some ground that was not revealed during the previous application process.

In fact, the CBP officer can exercise "expedited removal" powers, meaning that you would not only be denied U.S. entry, but be forced to return on the next available plane (or whatever form of transport you arrived in). You would have no right to a lawyer or a hearing. This is equivalent to having been ordered deported, and it means you would be ineligible to return to the U.S. for a number of years.

Getting Through the CBP Inspection Smoothly

Assuming you are not hiding anything, your inspection by the CBP officer is not something to worry about. Nevertheless, you will want to be as awake and alert as possible for this part of the process, just in case.

The CBP officer will examine the contents of the visa envelope and ask a few questions. Answer honestly and (to the degree you can) calmly. Avoid speaking more than is necessary. That often causes more trouble, or raises more questions. The officer may also search your bags, and your person.

Assuming all goes well, the border official will stamp your passport with your K-1 fiancé status, and may give you a small white I-94 card showing the 90-day duration of your K-1 visa. After April 2013, Form I-94 has been automated for many U.S. visitors. If so, you can download this information from the CBP website.

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