What qualifies for the K-1 I-129F hardship waiver?

In order to be eligible to petition a K-1 fiancée visa for a foreign national, the US government requires the United States citizen to physically meet the foreign fiancé within the past two years. This requirement is often proven by plane tickets, photos, and social media posts.

However, probably one of the most common questions regarding the fiancée visa eligibility, who is eligible for a waiver of this physical meeting requirement based on “Hardship.”

Why is a physical meeting important to the US government?

Marriage is a big step, and the US government wants US citizens to know the exact kind of person they are marrying. A long-distance relationship can be beautiful, but a marriage would be completely different. Once married, the relationship would be in-person, day-to-day.

Additionally, with the rise of online dating, a physical meeting would help prevent catfishing.

What exactly is hardship?

Hardship can generally be described in one of three categories:

  1. Emotional hardship
  2. Physical hardship
  3. Financial hardship

Only the hardship of a US citizen can be recognized by the US government. Any hardships of the foreign national are usually ignored.

Additionally, US immigration would only recognize the hardship that rises to the level of extreme. The hardship must be so extreme that it prevents the US citizens from physically meeting the foreign fiancé within the past two years.

Financial hardship is rarely a qualifying argument. If the ability to meet each other in person is hindered by the lack of finances, the petitioner would likely fail their ability to sponsor the foreign national for a visa and to sponsor the future spouse for a green card. The US citizen unemployed has a greater chance of the foreign national going on welfare in the United States, which would likely impose an immigration bar on the foreign national ever being permitted to come to the US due to the possibility of becoming a Public Charge. Thus, although financial hardship can exist for “other waiver filings,” Financial Hardship is not applicable to the I-129F waiver of the Physical Meeting within the past 2 years requirement.

Would Government Interest constitute a Hardship?

This category of hardship generally applies to Active-Duty Service Members in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. A Reservist or Veteran does not usually qualify since they are not deployable. Deployability and anything that negatively affects deployability could be considered in the “Government’s Interest.”

However, the US Military and the US Immigration System would only consider the relationships to Spouses, Children, and Parents to be able to affect deployability, and thus in turn rise to the level of Government Interest. A Girlfriend/Boyfriend and Fiance are NOT a strong enough relationship to affect deployability.

For instance of a Civilian Independent Contractor working for the US Government, such as the DOD, do not have “deployability” issues and the government is only interested in the “contractor” they offered the contract to. A Girlfriend/Boyfriend and Fiance are NOT a strong enough relationship to affect the government contract.

For purposes of security clearance (for both service members and civilian contractors, although “any relationship with a foreign national” can affect security clearance, disclosing the relationship and starting an immigration process usually resolves any issues the government may have. Since disclosing resolves the issue, a hardship would not be created.

What would qualify for this waiver?

To help visualize what constitutes “extreme hardship”, something that is outside of the normal aspects of hardship, the following  hypotheticals situation would be able to help visualize:

  • The US citizen is medically disabled to the point where they are unable to fly, drive, or take any other means of transportation in order to meet the foreign fiancé abroad in their home country or in a more convenient country closer to the United States. This would constitute a physical hardship.
  • The US citizen suffers from a psychological disorder, such as extreme fear of heights, claustrophobia, xenophobia, faints when in new settings, becomes illogical when around unfamiliar people, etc. Due to the psychological disorder, boarding a plane would trigger a psychological event that would either make the US citizen unable to fly or the airline would be unable to permit them to remain on the plane. This would constitute a physical and emotional hardship.
  • The US citizen is homebound due to their excessive weight. The US citizen is unable to leave their home due to their inability to walk, maybe the doors of the house are not large enough to permit their travel, and a wheelchair is unable to facilitate movement. This would constitute physical hardship.


Related Posts:

Proxy Marriage and US Immigration: Clarification on the Consummation Requirement

I-129F Fiance Visa: How to prove your relationship to USCIS



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