As I enter my seventh year of practicing fiancee visa law I have a number of observations to share with prospective and current clients.
# 1 MOST FIANCEE VISA RELATIONSHIPS ARE LEGITIMATE
There is a common misconception that marrying a foreign woman is somehow unseemly or less real than marrying an American woman.
We have all heard the term "mail order bride" which would describe a situation in which the American man has not met his foreign fiancee but rather has picked her picture out of a catalog and ordered her to be delivered. Immigration law does not in fact allow for "mail order brides." A chief requirement of the fiancee visa is that the American petitioner and foreign beneficiary have met in person within the two years prior to the filing of the fiancee visa petition. Opponents of the fiancee visa who speak of mail order brides are only revealing their ignorance of the law and procedure of the fiancee visa.
In my experience the relations between foreign woman and American men are every bit as real as any relationships involving American men and American women. Furthermore, the divorce rate among my clients is negligible as compared to the typical American divorce rate. I am in contact with many of my early clients and I know that they are happy with their marriages. My clients, both the men and the women, tend to be loving and sincere. Contrary to myths about the fiancee visa the men are rarely abusive and the woman are rarely fraudulent or dishonest.
# 2 THE FIANCEE VISA PROCESS IS LONG AND STRESSFUL
It is exhilarating for my clients when I file their petitions and they get the receipt from the USCIS showing that their case is under way. The exhilaration is infectious. Even after all these years of practicing immigration law I still excited for my clients when we get the initial USCIS receipt. Unfortunately, the filing of the petition is just the first step in a long and complex journey.
People need to be realistic and manage their expectations when they file their fiancee visa petition. The process is long. You will be very happy and disappointed if you expect that your fiancee will be here within a few weeks of filing the petition. Some USCIS Service Centers are faster than other and some foreign consoles are faster than others. With the right combination of a fast USCIS service center and a fast foreign consulate a fiancee visa can be obtained in 4-6 weeks.
A case filed at the Vermont Service Center and processed at the American Consulate in Mexico would be the fastest combination. A fast time line is not, however, typical. The USCIS California Service Center can be slow and complex processing in China is very slow. I have an attorney who works for me in China and helps my clients navigate consular processing in China and still the process is very slow. Consular processing in the Philippines is faster than China but still the process can take several months. If you have realistic expectation of the time line of the fiancee visa process you will be facilitated when the visa is granted. The process is slow, but if the case is done correctly the fiancee visa will be granted.
# 3 IMBRA IS LARGELY IRRELEVANT
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2006 was designed to eliminate the exploitation of foreign women by American men. In my opinion IMBRA is a solution to a non persistent problem. I have never seen the type of exploitation and abuse IMBRA was designed to remedy. Furthermore, as a practical matter IMBRA does not effect the vast majority of cases. It only really affects American men with serious criminal records and American men who have filed previous fiancee visa petitions. At the time IMBRA was empowered people feared that it would eliminate the fiancee visa. That has not happened.
# 4. LOVE IS COMPLEX AND WONDERFUL
Yes, a beautiful 25 year old foreign woman really can fall in love with a 55 year old American. I have seen it happen many times. Foreign woman tend to be less concerned with privileged attributes than American women. Most foreign woman are looking for a loving and stable man. They are not as concerned with the age of the man as they are with the quality of his character. The successful marriages my clients have built stand as a rebuttal to the cynical critics of the fiancee visa.
# 5 THE AMERICAN MEN AND FOREIGN WOMEN COME FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE
My American clients are completely normal people from all walks of life. My clients have included multi-millionaires, doctors, accountants, car salesmen, plumbers, truck drivers, pilots, members of the military, Business owners, nurses, dentists, corporate executives, artists, senior government bureaucrats, waiters, card dealers, engineers and scientists. There is no typical fiancee visa petitioner. The foreign women are also completely normal and from all walks of life. The foreign fiancees I have obtained visas for include doctors, dentists, senior government bureaucrats, engineers, Business owners, waitresses, nurses, students, and lawyers.
# 6 MOST UNUSUAL CASE I'VE HANDLED
My observations would not be complete if I did not write about the most unusual case I've ever handled. This case involved an American man who was released from prison after serving a long sentence for the passion killing of his first wife. During his incarceration the man had begun corresponding with a foreign woman and they became engaged after he was released from prison. I must add that this type of case will never again come up because under IMBRA this American petitioner would not be allowed to do a fiancee visa. The drafters and supporters of IMBRA would reasonably say that this is exactly the type of case IMBRA was designed to prevent. I'm sure that many of you are reading this have an image of the foreign fiancee in this case. Rest assured the foreign fiancee was nothing like you might imagine. She was an extremely intelligent and sophisticated Western European engineer who held a very responsible and important job in Europe. The American man was completely reformed and actually very nice. This couple was very much in love and anxious to get married. I obtained the fiancee visa for the woman and last I heard the couple was married and living very happily. I actually was very hesitant to take this case until I determined for myself that the American man was really reformed. This case goes to show how unusual and unexpected love can be. No matter how unusual anyone thinks their fiancee visa case is I do not think will ever find a more unusual case than the one I just described.
# 7. SIGNS THAT A FOREIGN WOMAN MIGHT BE A FRAUD
Every American man who begins a relationship with a foreign woman has concerns about the legitimacy of his foreign woman. As I said previously most foreign woman are honest and sincere, however, there is a small sub group of foreign woman who are only interested in stringing along an American man for the purpose of obtaining money from him.
Fortunately, it is reliably easy to determine if a woman is a fraud if you know what to look for. Below are the five red flags that a women might be a fraud:
A. She always wants you to be sending her money. This type of woman lures from one family catastrophe to another. Her relatives are constantly needing surgeries and / or dying. Alternately she may claim she is being evicted from her apartment and needs money for a new place or that she just lost her job. You should not be sending a woman money in the early stages of a relationship. If you are in a relationship with a woman who always asks you for money you need to be very concerned about her sincerity. A typical American man would not give large sums of money to a new American girlfriend and either he should give money to a new foreign girlfriend. If you have met your foreign girlfriend and are convinced of her sincerity it is okay to help her out financially. You should not, however, be sending money to a foreign girl until you have become convinced of her sincerity.
B. She is unable or unwilling to meet you in person. This type of women typically has more than one American boyfriend. Also, this type of women typically always wants money from you. Beware the women who says she loves you but is unable to meet you.
C. She addresses you by a different name. Believe it or not I have actually seen this happen a few times. This type of women is corresponding with so many different American men that she gets them confused. You would not tolerate a serious American girlfriend being unfaithful to you and you should not tolerate unfaithfulness from a foreign women.
D. She is uncooperative with you or your attorney after you stay the fiancee visa process. This type of women does not actually want to come to America and does not want to marry an American. This type of women wants you to send her money so that can live comfortably in her home country. She is frequently very attached to her family abroad and just does not want to leave them. This type of women does everything she can to delay or disrupt the fiancee visa. Another tactic of this type of woman is that she tells you that she can get a tourist visa if you send her $ 5,000. Of course she can not get a tourist visa, she is only trying to get yet more money from you. Beware of women who do not cooperate with the fiancee visa process.
E. She is not available to email or talk to you. This type of woman has so many American boyfriends that she simply does not have the time to email or talk to you. Beware of women who become unavailable to you.