K-1 Fiancé Visa Denied—Can I Appeal or Refile?

Options when the U.S. consulate denies a K-1 fiance visa.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

At a K-1 fiancé visa interview at the U.S. Embassy, your case could be denied even if you have all your paperwork together and are truly planning to marry a U.S. citizen for all the right reasons (that is, for love or to establish a life together, not as a fraud to get a green card). Sometimes, the U.S. embassy officer just isn't convinced that it's a real relationship.

Here, we'll discuss how this could happen, and whether you can appeal or somehow get a second chance at the interview?

Common Reasons Why K-1 Visas Are Denied

If your K-1 visa request has been denied, you are facing the same situation as many applicants have. The main issue could either be a fundamental lack of eligibility or your failure to convince the U.S. government that you truly meet the criteria.

The most likely issues of concern are:

  • Failure to prove bona fide intent to marry. Part of the K-1 application process is demonstrating, through documents and personal statements, that you really intend to marry and form a life together. One of the biggest concerns is whether your relationship is "bona fide," as opposed to a fraud or sham to try and get the would-be immigrant a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence).
  • Indicators of possible marriage fraud plans. Perhaps the U.S. government observed red flags in your case, such as an unusually large age gap, lack of a shared language, and so on.
  • Insufficient income shown by U.S. sponsor. Although the K-1 visa is technically a temporary (nonimmigrant) one, the government looks ahead to the strong possibility that the immigrant will apply for a U.S. green card, in which case the U.S. citizen needs to prove an ability to support that person. See How Much Income a K-1 Fiancé Visa Applicant's Sponsor Needs to Show for details.
  • History of fraud among K-1 applicants from your country. The K-1 denial might not be entirely your fault. If you are from a country where many people have filed fraudulent fiancé visa petitions (Form I-129F) in the past, the U.S. State Department official who met with you might simply have taken a harder look at your application than is usual, and remained unconvinced.
  • Failure to meet in person within the last two years. Although this is a basic requirement for a K-1 visa, some applicants mistakenly believe that an online meeting will suffice, or do the math wrong and rely on a meeting that took place over two years ago, or try to get a waiver of the meeting requirement but fail to convince the U.S. government that they deserve it. Learn more about the two-year meeting requirement.

Even if one of the reasons for denial was unfounded, it's possible that gaps or issues in the forms and documents you provided were the main problem. If, for instance, you supplied only enough evidence to show that you had one brief meeting at a coffee shop, wrote each other a few polite emails, and don't plan to invite anyone to your wedding, the U.S. government will have cause to question whether this is a real relationship.

No Appeal Procedure for K-1 Denial; Though Denial Might Not Be Issued Right Away

Unfortunately, you cannot file an appeal (for a K-1 or any other type of nonimmigrant visa decision). There is just no procedure for this.

One interim possibility is that the U.S. embassy that denies the K-1 visa could send the I-129F petition back to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS then would send the U.S. citizen fiancé a "Notice of Intent to Revoke" the petition (an "NOIR") and afford an opportunity to overcome the basis for the visa denial overseas, usually with a deadline of 30 days. If successful in overcoming the basis of the denial, there eventually will be a new visa interview.

The timing of this can be unpredictable. It might be several months or up to a year or longer before hearing from USCIS and then several more months for the new interview.

Option of Starting Over With a New I-129F Visa Petition

Starting from the beginning with a new I-129F fiancé petition is a possibility. You would need to redo all the same paperwork and pay a new set of fees. This would, of course, lead to another visa interview, probably at the same U.S. embassy as before. This can create a fresh start if you truly deserve the visa but didn't do a good job of showing it, at first; or if you've overcome the initial issue since the denial (for example, by the U.S. petitioner getting a better job).

However, no matter what embassy or consulate you are scheduled to go to, a record of the earlier denial will remain in your file, possibly leading to another denial if the information contained there is sufficiently damning. So this strategy might or might not work.

Option of Marrying First, Then Submitting I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition

For some applicants, the best thing to do is to get married overseas and apply for an immigrant visa. An actual marriage shows a higher level of commitment by both the would-be immigrant and the U.S. citizen, and is harder for U.S. State Department officials to dismiss when making the visa decision. Besides, more time will have passed by then, making your case look more convincing. (See the articles in the Marriage-Based Visas and Green Cards section of Nolo's website for more on this.)

If you had your heart set on a wedding in the United States, there is nothing to stop you from having a big ceremony there even after you have already legally married in your home country.

Getting Legal Help

You might wish to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for a full analysis of what went wrong with your case and how to correct it and succeed in your request for a U.S. visa. The attorney will know the approach taken by the officials at the U.S. embassy you visited, and may be able to spot problems in your application of which you were unaware.

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