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K Visa FAQ - K1 Fiance Visa, K3 Spousal Visa and other Marriage Based Immigration Questions
A Complete guide for obtaining a K1 and K3 (plus derivitive) Visa, immigrating, and becoming a US Citizen.


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Section 5.0...ENTERING THE UNITED STATES ON A K-1 VISA

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Frequently Asked Questions:

5.1)... The airline staff ask if I need a visa waiver or if I'm traveling on a visa. Which form should I ask for?
5.2)...What happens when we get off the plane?
5.2.1...Does anyone know exactly what happens to this wad of papers in the brown envelope (after) the USCIS (INS) at POE goes through them?
5.3)...How about employment? When can my fiance(e) begin working?
5.4)...What do we do if my fiance(e) does not receive a temporary work authorization?
5.5)...Is there any way I can make absolutely, positively sure that my fiance(e) will receive work authorization so that they can go to work and help to pay the bills right away?
5.6)... We were wondering if anybody could tell us where to enter the U.S. from Canada to get the proper work authorization stamp for her visa. We want to bring her car over.
5.7)..How do we apply for a Social Security Number?
5.8)...How can my fiance(e) or K2 child open a bank account or file income tax returns without a Social Security number?
5.9)...My fiance(e) has a lot of household goods which are being shipped over. Will we have to pay "duties" on these things?
5.9.1)..(email) .What process is required to bring firearms into the United States?
5.10)...I hear the beer is really lousy in the US? Is this true?
5.11)...General Comment about registering for the Selective Service...males aged 18-26
5.12)...Is it okay for us to go to the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico on our honeymoon without Advance Parole?
5.12.1)...What about visiting Canada or Mexico prior to filing for Adjustment of Status?
5.13)...My fiance had to return home because of a family emergency just a couple weeks after arriving. Due we have to go through this entire process again in order for him to come back to the US?




Answers:

5.1)... The airline staff ask if I need a visa waiver or if I'm traveling on a visa. Which form should I ask for?
A.. You are entering on a visa. You will need to fill out the "white" form. This should be filled out at the departing airport or on the plane. Don't wait until you arrive in the US to fill it out or it may delay you.
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5.2)...What happens when we get off the plane?
A..You will queue up with all the others going through Immigration. You might be directed to a waiting area until the other passengers are gone. Your sealed envelope will be opened, your passport will be stamped, and your I-94 is issued electronically. The officer may ask a few questions, and may say "Welcome to the United States". It doesn't take long. You leave the Immigration area, and then proceed through Customs.
Although your actual processing may not take long, if you must make a connecting flight then you better allow plenty of time, maybe as long as 3 or 4 hours at a major airport where the queues may be long, and the distance between terminals even longer.

If you are flying in from Canada, the Immigration/Customs procedure will occur before you get on the plane in Canada. If you are driving into the United States, the procedure will occur at the border crossing.

About the X-ray you have been carefully guarding...No one will take your X-ray, the USCIS (INS) doesn't care about it. If you like you can give it to your new physician in the US, you can hang it on the wall in your new US residence, or it can become part of your first load of trash in your US garbage can.
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5.2.1...Does anyone know exactly what happens to this wad of papers in the brown envelope (after) the USCIS (INS) at POE goes through them?
A..It is sent to the USCIS (INS) district office closest to where you will reside, which will be the office handling your case once in the USA.
(NOTE: the envelope may "transit" through one of the Service Centers, but it will end up at your local office at some point in your adjustment of status process - i.e. when you apply to be a permanent resident)
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5.3)...How about employment? When can my fiance(e) begin working?
A..(generalized statement).. To work your fiance(e) will need to get an Employment Authorization Document. While a K-1 holder can technically obtain an EAD prior to getting married, the practical wait involved makes this option unfeasible (the validity of the EAD will expire before it can even be processed in most cases). Practically, a K-1 holder will need to wait until they file for Adjustment of Status (after getting married) and will co-file for an EAD (which should arrive on average within 90 days from the filing date. As a note, in order to be employed, it is required to have a Social Security Number which can be obtained by a K-1 holder after they arrive in the US (you should wait 10 days after entry to the US and no later than 10 days prior to the K-1 expiration date to go to the Social Security Office in your area to file for this; if you miss this time frame you must wait until after you are married and file for Adjustment of Status).
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5.4)...What do we do if my fiance(e) does not receive a temporary work authorization?
A..If your intent is to put your fiance(e) to work as soon as possible, then get married immediately. Apply for "Adjustment of Status" (I-485) with an application for work authorization (I-765) -- the EAD once issued will be good for one year. You will apply using category (c)(9), "adjustment applicant". Since the official policy is to apply via mail for your Adjustment of Status Package (which your EAD application will be submitted with) the EAD application will be processed in about 60-90 days (the typical processing time for filing via mail). The fiance(e) will be notified to appear in person to be photographed and fingerprinted at some point (a biometrics appointment) for the EAD processing to be completed. Your EAD will be generated and mailed to you shortly after.

The "official I-765 procedure" for obtaining a 90 day EAD based on K1 status (category (a)(6) on the I-765), involves sending the application to your USCIS (INS) Service Center. This 90-day EAD expires when your 90-day K1 expires. The processing times at the Service Centers make this option worthless, and no one has reported getting an EAD in this manner.

See this Guide for more information.
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5.5)...Is there any way I can make absolutely, positively sure that my fiance(e) will receive work authorization so that they can go to work and help to pay the bills right away?
A..No.
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5.6)... We were wondering if anybody could tell us where to enter the U.S. from Canada to get the proper work authorization stamp for her visa. We want to bring her car over.
A..She can bring her car across the border as long as she can provide proof that it meets US emissions and safety standards for its model year. Contact the company's head office in Canada for a letter to that effect. Every border post will give your fiancee the I-94 form to complete. They might also be able to furnish her with her Employment Authorization card, although I'm not 100% sure. They should certainly provide her with the I-765 form to complete which is the application for employment authorization.
(FAQ Note: see the link in the references section for info on bringing a car from Canada)
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5.7)..How do we apply for a Social Security Number?
A..Upon entry, a K1 is eligible to obtain a SSN upon presentation of a valid Electronic I-94 Copy or (for older entries) a copy of a valid paper I-94 (front and back of form). See this link for specific details on how to get your SSN.
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5.8)...How can my fiance(e) or K2 child open a bank account or file income tax returns without a Social Security number?
A..You can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service using IRS form W-7. "Any individual who is not eligible to obtain an SSN and whose taxpayer identification number is required to be furnished to the IRS must apply for an ITIN on form W-7" (information taken from the instructions to form W-7). You can apply in person or by mail. You may use either the original or certified copy of passport, drivers license, birth certificate, identity card, or US Immigration documents when applying. Like the SSN, the ITIN is a 9-digit number.

Many K2 children will be too young to obtain a work authorization document (EAD) which is required for them to obtain a Social Security Number. You can get them an ITIN which they can use instead, for school purposes, opening up a bank account, or for being listed on an income tax return.
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5.9)...My fiance(e) has a lot of household goods which are being shipped over. Will we have to pay "duties" on these things?
A..If the goods are really just household stuff (and more than a year old), there will be no tax or duty. If you show up with a lot of brand new stuff still in the original boxes and call it "household goods" you probably will pay some tax or duty. Your shipping company can answer questions regarding specific shipments and items. The shipping company will be familiar with the procedures and forms required to bring household good into the US.
A..Your shipped goods won't pass Customs in the United States prior to your entry as a K1. If you shipped your belongings prior to moving, then after entry, you will send or fax copies of your passport, visa, Electronic I-94 Copy or (for older entries) a copy of a valid paper I-94 (front and back of form), and the "date of entry" stamp you received at the POE to the shipping company.
..When I made a list of my belongings from Canada to US at the Fort Erie/Buffalo crossing, I called the border official and asked about this. They told me that items such as linens, dishes, clothing don't have to be itemized, but just say 2 boxes clothes, 1 box dishes, 1 bed etc. What they want itemized with serial #'s are electronics and items of significant monetary value.
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5.9.1)..What process is required to bring firearms into the United States?
A..If you wish to include firearms in with your personal possessions, you must have an ATF permit (Form 6-Part 1, 5330.3A) approved in advance. This includes shotguns and hunting rifles (even those manufactured in the US). Application forms are available through The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (Washington, DC, 20226, attn. Firearms and Explosives Branch) allowing 30-60 days for approval. The firearms will be inspected at the Port of Entry.
(FAQ Note...Some types of firearms cannot be imported into the United States, and individual states and cities have laws regarding firearm possession, so it is worthwhile to research this subject in advance. Most unmodified shotguns and hunting rifles will not be a problem.)
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5.10)...I hear the beer is really lousy in the US? Is this true?
A..Folks from the UK will complain about the beer, the Swedes will complain about the coffee, and the grocery stores have only tiny areas devoted to various ethnic groups. There may be some "culture shock" involved in transplanting yourself to a completely new life in the space of 24 hours. But you and your spouse will be a "team". Hang in there.
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5.11)...General Comment - Selective Service (military draft) Registration...males aged 18-26
A....Men aged 18-26 residing in the U.S. must register for Selective Service (after adjustment of status). This applies to the younger K1 and K2 men. The Selective Service System is the military draft system. You can pick up the Selective Service Registration Form at any U.S. Post Office and send it in the mail.
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5.12)...Is it okay for us to go to the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico on our honeymoon without Advance Parole?
A...Maybe not a wise thing to do. Even though these islands are US territories or possessions, you may have to deal with Immigration and Customs to get back to the United States. You might have trouble getting back home if you encounter an insane USCIS (INS) inspector, plus, there are too many opportunities to "technically" leave US jurisdiction (by visiting the adjacent islands, for example). Best to take the honeymoon somewhere in the 50 States, where there is plenty to see and do.

A..Let me make it as clear as it was explained to me and which the regulation bears out: So long as the K-1'er does not depart ("depart" is also defined in the reg.) the US after making a legal entry s/he can travel to any other location which includes the USVI, PR, Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska.
The inspector I spoke to gave clear examples. (My alien fiancée) can enter the US and we can fly directly from the mainland to the USVI. We can go wherever we want on the islands so long as we don't "touch" ground or water not under US jurisdiction. When we leave she shows her K-1 and Electronic I-94 Copy or (for older entries) a valid paper I-94 to immigration (which shows she legally entered the US) and off we fly directly to the mainland. However, if while we are there (USVI) we decided to take a trip to the British islands then she would be denied re-entry. I know I used "directly" in this example but we could fly "outbound" mainland-PR-USVI and "inbound" USVI-PR-mainland without fear because in this case she never "departs" the US.
Inspectors (both mainland and USVI) told me that this is not an unusual occurrence. They see K-1'ers all the time.
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5.12.1)...What about visiting Canada or Mexico prior to filing for Adjustment of Status?
A...There is a way for a K1 visa holder to do this, but only if you are not married yet. After marriage, you must have Advance Parole.
If you DRIVE into Canada or Mexico (not fly), and if you do NOT surrender your I-94 (if it is an older paper version and not the newer electronic version), you can re-enter the United States before the expiry date on the I-94. One newsgroup participant did that in early 1999, when he was required to take his K2 kids back into Canada in order to comply with child visitation requirements. He received conflicting answers from USCIS (INS) when researching the issue. He left and re-entered the US at the same POE (Detroit, Windsor Tunnel), and consulted with the USCIS (INS) folks there before doing it.
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5.13)...My fiance had to return home because of a family emergency just a couple weeks after arriving. Due we have to go through this entire process again in order for him to come back to the US?
A...Hopefully not. A K1 visa may be re-validated by the Consulate if the fiance is not yet married. The re-validated visa will still expire the same date as the original, and you must be married and file for Adjustment 90 days from the original first entry. As part of this process, you will probably fill out another OF-156 non-immigrant visa application and pay another visa application fee.

FAQ Note: Revalidating a K1 has been done only once in the newsgroup experience, early in 2000. The Consulate was unwilling to cooperate, and help from the US Citizens Congressional Representative was required to achieve success. The Representatives office contacted the State Department to verify the situation regarding revalidation. Correspondence between the Representatives office and the Consulate helped assure the revalidation. The revalidation process took about two weeks.
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This FAQ is located at http://www.visajourney.com/faq/k1faq.htm