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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (State) collaborate closely on adjudications related to the K-1 visa classification, as they do in many other immigration matters. As directed by the President, and in light of the evolving security environment, DHS and State are undertaking a review of the K-1 visa process.
K-1 Visa Process
What is the K-1 visa? The K-1 visa permits certain foreign national fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens to travel to the United States and marry their petitioning U.S. citizen sponsors within 90 days of admission to the United States.
What is the process for obtaining a K-1 visa? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must first approve a Form I-129F petition. If the petition is approved, it is forwarded to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. At that time, State conducts an in-person interview with the foreign national fiancé(e).
What kind of screening do K-1 applicants undergo? K-1 fiancé(e) screening includes input from interagency partners, including the Intelligence Community (IC) and law enforcement and immigration agencies. It incorporates information based on fingerprints and facial recognition. At each step of the process, the foreign national fiancé(e) is screened against a variety of law enforcement and national security databases, including the terrorist watchlist.
What happens when the foreign national fiancé(e) arrives in the United States? The foreign national fiancé(e) has 90 days to marry the U.S. citizen petitioner. After the marriage, the foreign national is eligible to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. At the time of adjustment to LPR status, the applicant is again subject to screening against law enforcement and security databases, including the terrorist watchlist.
Review of the K-1 Visa Program
Given the use of the K-1 visa by one of the San Bernardino shooters, the U.S. government launched a review of the K-1 visa category, led by the Departments of Homeland Security and State. These agencies already have formed a working group to scrutinize each step of the process for potential improvements, including:
Retrospective background checks and future process improvements – Each agency will run retroactive checks of various subsets of K-1 visa applicants to identify possible patterns of abuse of this visa category, and inform further process improvements.
Review K-1 visa adjudication practices worldwide – Both agencies will review adjudication practices of petitions and of visa applications, to ensure that the highest level of consistent standards is being met.
Interviews – Each applicant for a K-1 visa is interviewed by a consular officer overseas, and USCIS conducts interviews on a discretionary basis for individuals who have entered the United States and are seeking to adjust status to permanent residence. The working group will review both interview processes and assess whether risk criteria can be applied to flag particular applicants.
Social Media – The U.S. government already employs social media vetting in certain immigration benefits programs. The working group is committed to expanding use of social media vetting and is examining appropriate opportunities, in conjunction with interagency screening partners, to do so across the range of visa programs, including the K-1 program.
Information Collection – The working group will evaluate whether there is additional information USCIS or State could collect in the application process that vetting/screening partners could utilize.
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