The K-1 visa has a 2-year meeting requirement. Are there any exceptions to it?

Here is more of the story: As of February 2015, my girlfriend and I have known each other since 2008. I bought airplane tickets for her to come visit me under the visa waiver program (VWP) on multiple trips between 2008 and January 2013. Each time she stayed for the full 90 days. We have kept in contact (video chats and telephone calls) and still do but I have not seen her in person since the beginning of 2013. During the past two years I was unemployed for a while and she was also unemployed in her home country so we could not afford flights to see each other. I am employed again and we are ready to live together. Supporting her is not an issue anymore since I have a job. Do I really need to see her again before I can apply for K-1 visa? Plane tickets are very costly in addition to the costs of the K-1.

Response: There are exceptions to the two year meeting requirement. As a matter of discretion, the petitioner may be exempted from the 2-year requirement only if it is established that compliance would result in extreme hardship to the petitioner or that compliance would violate strict and long-established customs of the K-1 beneficiary’s foreign culture or social practice, as where marriages are traditionally arranged by the parents of the contracting parties and the prospective bride and groom are prohibited from meeting subsequent to the arrangement and prior to the wedding day. In addition to establishing that the required meeting would be a violation of custom or practice, the petitioner must also establish that any and all other aspects of the traditional arrangements have been or will be met in accordance with the custom or practice.

Most of the time financial hardship alone is not considered enough to waive the two-year meeting requirement. It is probably a good idea to speak with a lawyer about your best options, but without knowing more I would suggest paying the travel expense to see your girlfriend in person.

If you have any questions regarding immigration, please feel free to call me, immigration attorney Shawn Mesa at (813) 679-5780.

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on this information is taken at your own risk.

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