|Consulate Review: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Review Topic: K1 Visa
|Review Date :
||November 22, 2011
|Embassy Review :
||When I first started the K-1 visa process seven months ago, I had no idea exactly what it would entail. I figured that I’m obviously not trying to fraud the system, so I’ll definitely get a visa easily and quickly. WRONG-O. While I have many thanks to give toward the angels at visajourney.com, I never encountered ONE place where I could locate exactly which requirements I needed for everything in the interview, including all the tiniest fine print minutiae. Because it’s the details that can drag you down for months (and what feels like eons). After all this time, you don’t want to screw up the interview, right? So here goes. I hope that someone accidentally stumbles upon this entry when searching for “K-1 Visa Interview Requirements” on Google. I’ve been there, friend. Ohh, have I been there.
Get yourself ready for a looong list of tiny details, based on my experience at the US Consulate in Guayaquil.
1. Until you get the NOA2, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the USCIS. How cruel. (FYI: I signed up for email notices, but I never got an email when it was processed—only a letter was sent to my home.) It took almost exactly 4 months from NOA1-NOA2, and there isn’t a dang thing you can do about it. But for some countries, there exists a fantastic trick. Supposedly, we are supposed to wait for the USCIS/NVC to transfer our case to US consulate in the fiancée home country. The home country will then mail out a packet (sometimes called Packet 3 or 4) to the fiancée’s address in that country. This contains forms to fill out and instructions to follow. But if you’re living in a country like Ecuador, you can actually get this information before all that stuff happens. On the Guayaquil Consulate’s website that there is a list of people to whom Packet 4 supposedly was sent to, under the heading “Packet 4 Appointments.” And just under that heading is a button which says “Download Packet 4 here.” In truth, I never even received Packet 3 or 4 in the mail, chalk it up to the great mail system here, but I found my fiancee’s name on this list only 2 weeks after we received our NOA2. Knowing that the consulate had a record of me in the system, I could download Packet 4 AND make an appointment. (Your case number is the number given to you on your NOA2.) When making the appointment, I simply clicked the button that said “The consulate has asked me to make an appointment.” Easy peasy, and better than waiting forever (?) for Packet 4 to not arrive.
2. Pictures and original passport: As well, I copied the entirety of my fiancee’s most recent passport, just for good measure. Pictures are standard 5cmx5cm with white background and no glasses, etc. They are very particular about the size of the photo—I brought two different photo sizes with me, and the man initially rejected the first size. If you bring the wrong size, a photo store across the street can take new ones, but it’s simply easier to get it done right the first time. You will also need every single US visa ever issued to your fiancée, and I found it easiest to bring all of my fiancee’s passports ever given to him. I put sticky tabs on the places where he had received a US visa, and wrote the title and date of the visa on the tab. This was helpful because they needed to search for all the visas, and without sticky tabs they would have been searching for awhile. (My fiancée has had lots of visas)
3. Original birth certificate. In Ecuador, unless your birth certificate was filed in the Corporacion Registro Civil de Guayaquil, you need a HANDWRITTEN copy of your birth certificate, stamped and signed by an official in the Civil Registry Office. They DO NOT accept typed versions—whether on computer or typewriter. It must literally be a copy of the certificate in the official books. Also, you will need a copy & a translation of your birth certificate for Adjustment of Status when in the US. I suggest you get it now, with a signed note at the bottom reflecting the translator’s abilities. They never asked for the translation at the interview, but it’s easier to do it all at once.
4. Original Divorce / Death certificates. I admit that I didn’t need these, but they also have to be the hand written copies and divorce decrees, all with official stamps from the government office. I would translate these as well, with a sign off from the translator. If you have a child, I believe you must also get DNA records for each one.
5. Police records: From every place lived for over 6 months. These certificates expire after one year, and some (like the Ecuadorian certificate) after a few months. If you need to get a certificate from another country, I advise to start as soon as you file the 1-129F because it could take a long time to get an overseas letter. If it’s not in English or Spanish, I would have it translated. Also, Packet 4 says that US police records are not necessary, but if there have been arrests, bring the original court documents and copies in case they want to see if the charge was acquitted, etc. To err on the safe side, I would bring court documents from any arrest in any country, to prove that the cases have been closed.
6. Medical Exam: There are only a few doctors that are permitted to do a medical exam—their contact details are in Packet 4. I would get this done after you get the NOA2 document. My doctor’s visit was scheduled within only 1 week, and the results given to me 24hrs later. I wouldn’t suggest submitting a 7 month old medical exam to the consulate. At the interview, I saw that some people had copies of X-rays, but I was never given any (only a CD and a sealed envelope), and they never asked for them. DO NOT OPEN YOUR ENVELOPE. ALSO! Although you don’t need them for your K-1 visa, you will need to have a record of all immunizations for the Adjustment of Status. It is most likely easier and cheaper to get them done in your home country. Regardless of what the doctor says (ours was very insistent that we didn’t need immunizations), get those shots beforehand! Ask your doctor to fill out a DS-3025 (in English) entirely to act as proof of immunizations. You can then bring this to a Civil Surgeon in the US, and he will simply sign off on it, rather than having to make an appointment, get shots, pay, then wait for the results.
7. Evidence of Financial Stability (I-134 form): Don’t mess this one up! To fix it, you could be in for a few months’ wait. In order to bring your fiancée over, you have to prove that he will not be a public charge on the USA. Aka, if he screws up, it’s your fault financially. This takes awhile to get, so start while you’re waiting for the NOA2. You will need a bank letter stating the amount of money you have, when your account was opened, and how much was deposited in the last year. Make a nice color copy of this because you’ll need the letter for Adjustment of Status, too. Likewise, you also need a letter from your employer stating for how long you’ve been there, the start date, salary, and if you’re full or part time. Color copy it as well. Additionally, if you claimed any other income generating items (property, etc), bring a copy of the original documents, and/or a letter from a company verifying the results. You will need a copy of your last 3 years of taxes for Adjustment of Status, so you might as well gather that in there as well. If you are unemployed, you still must fill out this document as the primary sponsor and gather supporting materials (bank letters, etc). However, you must find someone else who can fill out their own I-134 who has sufficient annual income. The I-134 form follows the same income guidelines as the I-864, which is the Affidavit of Support form that you will file for your Adjustment of Status. You can look on the I-864P to find out exactly what the guidelines are. Lots of K-1 visas are severely delayed for this. If you don’t have a family member who can co-sponsor with you, ask a friend in the US. Or 6 friends. Who cares. Our good friend filled out our Affidavit, and the interviewer did not question us about the fact that he’s not related and not a US citizen. Just make sure the annual income and assets are high enough.
8. FORMS! DS-156 (in duplicate), DS-156K (in duplicate). Other visas require other documents. We DID NOT have to fill out a DS-230 for the K-1 visa.
9. Proof of relationship: For me, this was the most fun. Start early by printing pictures of you two together and putting them in a photo album, photo copying both passports and highlighting any joint trips, bringing an original and copy of any joint bank accounts, joint leases, joint insurance, pretty much joint anything. Some people bring birthday cards and print Facebook posts as well. I don’t think the cards weigh much—my interviewer looked at a birthday card from a different applicant and rolled her eyes to her officemate. In my case, photos, legal documents, and proof of trips were the most convincing. Anyone can falsify a birthday card with lovey phrases and fake dates. Also, only bring documents and photos—stuffed animals and gifts will be confiscated (and perhaps tossed) at the door. The embassy allows only documents and photos.
10. Fulfill any outstanding requirements from prior visas. I think the most glaring instance would be a fiancée who has not fulfilled the 2 year requirement on a former J-1 visa. For this, you must get a waiver and letter from USCIS (which is a totally other ball game). I suggest that you bring the original waiver to the interview, even if it has been more than 2 years since you were in the US. Better safe than sorry. Start this sucker ASAP! Sometimes it takes a year to get the waiver, depending on the country. India and China are supposedly the hardest, given the amount of students who come to the US for education under the J-1 visa. We did ours in about 2 months from Ecuador. Still, start now.
11. Fee! You must pay your fee when making the appointment on the website. (http://usvisa-info.com/en-EC/selfservice/login)
12. And the appointment. For every single person applying for a visa in Ecuador, I urge you sincerely to read the additional info under this website for my experience making an appointment. http://www.visajourney.com/consulates/index.php?ctry=Ecuador&cty=Guayaquil
Keep in mind that things have hopefully changed with the system since 2011, when it was first put in place. But the background theme is the same: The consulate here will not help you, except in the rarest of circumstances. They will allow your application to be delayed as long as possible, and they will have zero sympathy throughout the process. If you have questions, they probably won’t answer them. You must be persistent and you must call them. Their answer to any email will inevitably be “We can’t help you,” even if there are critical problems with your application. I suggest that the US fiancée call, since it will give you more weight when talking to them. Some of them don’t speak English very well—if you’re not fluent in Spanish, ask for someone who does. The number for the Guayaquil consulate is:
From abroad: 593-4-232-3570
From other Ecuadorian Provinces: (04) 232-3570
From Guayaquil and other cities within the Province of Guayas: 232-3570
And FINALLY, what to expect on your big interview day:
We arrived at the Consulate at 7:30 am to be greeted by an enormous line that wrapped around the building. I was nervous, since our appointment was at 8:30 and the line was literally a block long. However, most people in the line are applying for non-immigrant visas (mostly tourist), and the actual number of immigrant visa applicants is very small. Once we got to the head of the line, after about 30 minutes of waiting, the security guard at the front asked us for our DS-160 confirmation. I told him that we didn’t have to fill one out, since we’re applying for a K-1 visa, and he very matter-of-factly told me that everyone has to fill out a DS-160. I very politely informed him that K-1 visas do not need to fill out this form, and I showed him our DS-156. He apologized, and let us through. If they stop you at the gate and tell you the same, whip out your Packet 4 and prove that you’re right. He was very willing to make us find an internet café and search for a document that we didn’t need. He didn’t speak English, so if you can’t hold your ground in Spanish, ask your fiancée to do it. Once inside the metal fence, we were put into the immigrant visa line, where we were the very first ones. We were immediately frisked by security, who took our cell phones and combed through our documents. Do NOT bring purses, liquids, food, drinks—they will be confiscated. Leave them at your hotel. We then entered the Consulate where a second round of security guards frisked us, took our cell phone and put it into a cubby hole, and told us to sit down. We initially sat down in the main, large waiting area downstairs where the TV blasts the same repeated USA propaganda video. We sat there for about 30 minutes until we were told by the security guard that we were in the wrong room—the K-1 visas are processed in the back room on the ground floor. The room is tiny and cold. Bring a sweater. The advantage of being early is that you can listen to all the visas being processed, since the counters are literally 2 feet away from the chairs. We waited in that little room until 12:00, when our name was finally called. The initial man took ALL of our documents, including old passports, support forms, photos, application forms, etc. They all speak English, and some actually prefer not to speak Spanish (some are a little shaky with their language abilities), so if you can speak English well, do it. We spoke with the first man about where we met, who is supporting my fiancée in the US, where we’ve traveled together, etc. Very basic things. He asked us to sit down after about 5 minutes. At 12:30, my fiancée was asked to give his fingerprints. At 12:45, the first interviewer called us up and explained that they were having problems with their system, and asked us to return at 1:30. That gave us some time to pick up a quick lunch, which was quite a nice break from that tiny windowless room. We returned at 1:30, sat in the chairs again, and were called at 3:00 for the final interview. The woman was incredibly nice, making jokes and laughing. She definitely preferred to speak in English, and seemed relieved when we both walked up with a hearty, “HI!” She asked us many of the same questions as the first interviewer, asked us when the wedding will be, if my fiancée had met my parents, and more general relationship basics. She did not ask any questions that I felt uncomfortable answering, or were difficult to answer. After 5 minutes at that window, she informed us that the visa had been approved, and that we could check with DHL about the status of the case.
In general, things went very smoothly, aside from the security guard at the door who tried to turn us away. It appears that K-1 visas are handled last, since almost everyone was gone by the time we were even called at 12:00. Although you will have to wait for hours, it is definitely worthwhile to get there at 7:30-7:45, because sitting downstairs makes all the difference when you’re waiting for hours. I always felt like I knew what was going on because I was watching and listening to the appointments before my very eyes. It’s also quite interesting to eavesdrop on other cases. Simply be sure to have all of your documents in order—not ONE document can be missing or half-done. They asked for EVERYTHING and if ONE document was wrong, we would not have been approved. We saw lots of people turned away. And lastly, I would bring a paper and pencil or something to keep your mind off the waiting. We were in one room from 7:30—3:30 without a TV. Lots of hangman was played. And super lastly, don’t worry. If you have everything in order and are not trying to fraud the system, it will most likely work out for you. If you’re sweating bullets and missing documents, you might as well go home and try again later. Good luck.