Until relatively recently, Thais and their American partners had to endure long waits for immigrant visas to become available before they could reunite in the US. Today, the K1 and K3 Non-Immigrant visas offer opportunities to expedite the procedure.
The K3 visa Thailand is a spousal visa for couples who have been married outside of the United States. Its features and procedure differ slightly from those of its sister visa, the K1. Benefits include fewer restrictions on the spouse and lower costs but its chief disadvantage is chronological. The fastest way to bring a Thai partner to the United States is the K1 fiancée visa.
The K1 visa Thailand is a dual intent visa for fiancé(e)s of American citizens. It requires the couple to marry within 90 days or the foreign fiancée must leave. Once married, the foreigner may adjust his or her status to become a lawful resident of the United States.
Petitioning for a K1 visa is an intricate, multistep process that requires careful attention to detail and a lot of patience. The procedure is as follows:
The U.S. citizen collects information, finalizes forms, and submits the K1 visa petition (form I-129F) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Centers in either California or Vermont depending on the state in which the citizen resides (or last resided for those currently living abroad). Americans who can prove (using passport visa stamps, work permits, etc.) they have resided in Thailand for over one year to date may be able to submit the forms to the Bangkok USCIS office, which usually has a shorter processing time than the U.S. Service Centers.
Upon receipt of the visa application, the USCIS will send the petitioning citizen Notice of Action 1. Notice of Action 1 indicates acknowledgment of the petition and initial processing. If the U.S. citizen uses a US immigration attorney, the USCIS will send the petition directly to the attorney (your appointed representative) who will then forward it to the petitioning citizen. NOTE: Petitioners using representatives should take care to ensure that they are being represented by licensed attorneys and not “providers” or “facilitators”.
In the intervening time between Notice of Action 1 (NOA1) and Notice of Action 2 (NOA2), the USCIS processes the petition. It is essential that the petition documents are carefully organized and completed correctly. Mistakes, omissions or errors can seriously delay or jeopardize the application process. At this stage, the USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (more proof of a genuine relationship).
When the USCIS approves a petition, NOA2 is sent to the petitioner. NOA2 indicates that the petition is being forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC conducts background checks on the Thai fiancée over a period of 3-4 weeks (on average) before sending the petition on to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand.
Once the U.S. Embassy in Thailand has received the petition, it will notify the Thai fiancée of his or her visa interview date and the documentation required for visa issuance. This is called Packet 3. The fiancée (or licensed attorney) will need to collect documents, get legalized translations and go over interview questions to prepare. The Embassy may request more information ( a “221 [g]”) which will entail a return trip to the embassy for the Thai fiancée (or attorney).
Once any 221 (g) requests have been satisfied the visa will be granted and the Thai fiancée can usually pick up his or her passport with the visa stamp within a few days.
The average time between the initial application submission and visa issuance for the K1 visa is six months, but anywhere from 4-8 months is common. This compares with 8-12 months for the K3 visa and longer for the IR1 and CR1 (Immigrant) visas.