What is the difference between a 'fiance(e) visa' and a visa for your spouse?
An American citizen files a petition (I-129F) for a fiance(e) visa if the couple plans to marry in the U.S. This visa will allow you to enter the U.S. for 90 days to marry there and apply for legal permanent residence after your marriage.
An American citizen files an I-130 petition for a visa for their spouse if the couple is already married, the spouse currently resides outside of the U.S., and wishes to immigrate to the U.S. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) may file immigrant visa petitions (but not fiance(e) petitions) for their spouses too.
How long does each type of visa take to process?
Processing time for an immigrant may take much longer: the I-130 must be filed with USCIS in the United States, and adjudication may take many months. The cases are then processed at the National Visa Center, and finally an appointment will be scheduled for the alien to apply for the actual immigrant visa at the Post abroad having jurisdiction over your place of residence. The whole process could take 9 – 18 months.
Which visa is "better"?
Both allow the recipient to immigrate to the U.S., that is, to remain permanently. You apply for a fiance(e) visa if it is your intention to enter the U.S., marry your U.S. citizen fiance(e), and remain in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.
You should apply for an immigrant visa if you are already married to a U.S. citizen and want to join your spouse in the U.S.
Fiance Petition I-129F may take 4 – 6 months to adjudicate and then is sent to NVC for data entry and initial processing, and forwarded to Consular Office abroad for visa processing. The whole process may take 6 – 8 months.
My U.S. citizen spouse has to start a new job in the U.S. We can't wait to go through the Immigrant Visa process. What else can we do?
If it is your intention to move permanently to the U.S., you are advised to apply for an Immediate Relative immigrant visa before traveling to the U.S. To qualify you for immigration to the U.S. your U.S. citizen spouse must first file the I-130 petition with USCIS in the United States, download form from website: www.uscis.gov – FORMS. There is also the option of filing for a K3 visa, an interim immigrant-type visa, which may take a little less time to adjudicate and process than the immediate relative visa. Instructions are on the I-129F form for the K3. Also see ITEM 5 below.
If you intend to remain permanently in the U.S., attempting to enter on a non-immigrant visa or the visa waiver program is not advisable and could result in your involuntary return to New Zealand.
My attorney says I should file for the K-3 visa because I can move to the U.S. right away. How can I do this?
Your U.S. citizen spouse must file the I-129F Petition to qualify you for a K-3 visa. This a two step process, requiring the U.S. citizen spouse to file an I-130 and then an I-129F once he receives the Receipt I-797 for the I-130 filing. (See instructions on I-129F form.) However, the I-129F (K3 Petition) will still take several months to adjudicate, and be forwarded to the overseas Consular Post via the National Visa Center. This a two step process, requiring the U.S. citizen spouse to file an I-130 and then an I-129F. (See instructions on I-129F form.)
Married in New Zealand, but my fiance(e) has already applied for the fiance(e) (K-1) visa. What should we do?
Unfortunately, you can no longer be processed as a FIANCE/E and your U.S. citizen spouse must file an I-130 Petition with the U. S Citizenship & Immigration Service for you – see USCIS website: www.uscis.gov to download the petition & instructions.
My fiance(e) is petitioning for me but what about my children - can they go to the U.S. with me?
Any unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for a “derivative” fiance(e) visa with you. The children must be under 21 years of age and unmarried at the time of their entry into the U.S. on such a visa.
Can I work after entering the U.S. on my fiance(e) visa?
Can I enter the U.S. on my fiance(e) visa, depart the U.S. and then re-enter on the fiance(e) visa?
The fiance(e) visa is a one-entry visa. You are required to marry within 90 days of your arrival and to apply immediately thereafter to U.S.C.I.S. for an adjustment of status using Form I-485. You should not depart the U.S. until after you have adjusted your status and have been granted lawful permanent resident status. If you leave the U S before completing the adjustment of status, you will have difficulty in re-entering the U.S. and may have to remain abroad until you qualify for an Immediate Relative Visa, by your spouse filing an I-130 Petition for you. Please see U.S.C.I.S.for further information.
My lawyer in the U.S. has told me to apply for a tourist visa, and then apply for immigration or adjust my status after I arrive in the U.S. Can I do that?
No. If you are intending to move permanently to the U.S. you do not qualify for a nonimmigrant (tourist) visa. Also, many categories of immigrant visas involve long waiting periods before the visa can be issued. It is not possible to spend this period in the U.S.
If you intend to remain permanently in the U.S., attempting to enter on a nonimmigrant visa or under the visa waiver program is not advisable and could result in your involuntary return to New Zealand. In order to be granted admission on a nonimmigrant visa or under the visa waiver program, you must prove that you have a residence outside the U.S. to which you intend to return. It is always at the discretion of the Immigration Inspector, CBP/DHS at the port of entry whether to admit a traveler.
Can I enter the U.S. and wait while the visa is being processed?
Generally not. Many categories of immigrant visas involve long waiting periods before the immigrant visa can be issued. It is generally not possible to spend this period in the U.S.
If you intend to remain permanently in the U.S., attempting to enter on a non-immigrant visa or under the visa waiver program is not advisable and could result in your involuntary return to New Zealand. In order to be granted admission on a non-immigrant visa or under the visa waiver program, you must prove that you have a residence outside the U.S. to which you intend to return, at least temporarily. It is always at the discretion of the Immigration Inspector, CBP/DHS at the port of entry whether to admit a traveler.
Can I enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program while I'm waiting for my visa interview?
You can travel to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program, however, the maximum period of admission under the VWP is 90 days, and this period cannot be extended.. No one can be guaranteed, prior to their arrival at a U.S. port-of-entry, whether or not they would be granted permission to enter the U.S.
Please bear in mind that in order to be admitted, you must still demonstrate that you have a residence outside the U.S. to which you intend to return, if even for a short time.
How long will it be before I'll be given an immigrant visa interview date?
NVC schedules Immigrant Visa appointments. To be scheduled for the immigrant visa interview, NVC must be satisfied that the case is complete. They will then send the applicant an email to advise the date of the appointment at the Consulate General in Auckland, and forward the case file to this office about 4 weeks prior to the scheduled interview. The Consulate General will confirm the appointment by mail, and forward the applicant the medical instructions and forms.
Does the U.S. citizen have to attend the visa interview?
For fiance(e) visa applications, if the U.S. citizen is in New Zealand at the time of the applicant’s interview, we urge him or her to attend the interview with the applicant.
For family-based (spousal or children – unmarried & under 21 years of age) applications, the U.S. citizen does not need to attend the immigrant visa interview, but may do so if he/she wishes. Both parents’ consent is required before a visa can be issued to a minor under 16 years. can be issued to a minor under 16 years. However, if U.S. citizen petitioner is residing in the United States, and the APPROVED petition is already on file at the Consulate, s/he is not expected to come to New Zealand for the immigrant’s interview. However, if U.S. citizen petition is residing in the United States, and the APPROVED petition is already on file at the Consulate, s/he is not expected to come to New Zealand for the immigrant’s interview.
I have sent my checklist and biographic data - when will I be notified of the interview date?
Depending on the availability of visa numbers, all other family and employment based applications will be scheduled within 2-3 months.
Do my children need to attend the visa interview?
Yes, unless your children are already U.S. citizens. Children, regardless of age, who are applying for immigrant or derivative fiance(e) visas, must attend the interview
How long does the visa interview take?
The interviews are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. Waiting times may vary according to our caseload on the day. In general, you should be available to spend up to three hours at the Consulate.
How long after the interview will the visa be issued?
If you are found to be fully documented and eligible to receive a fiance(e) or immigrant visa, the visa will be issued to you within 2 – 3 working days.
If the visa is not able to be issued at the time of the interview, how can I collect it?
Applicants are required to supply a pre-paid, self-addressed courier bag or registered mail envelope. If all your documents are in order, and your application is approved for issuance, your visa will be issued and mailed to you in the envelope you provided.
I live a long way from Auckland. Why do I have to go there for an interview?
The Consulate in Auckland is the only visa processing post in New Zealand. The law requires all visa applicants to make a personal appearance in order to receive their visa.
I need a visa interview urgently because:
I’ve booked airline tickets
I can’t be separated from my spouse/fiance(e)/children
I’ve sold by business
I’ve made wedding arrangements in the U.S.
Each application is important to us, so we schedule interviews on a “first come, first served” basis. That means that when an applicant sends us their biographic data forms, form DS-2001 (for immigrant visa applicants) or form DSL-1076 (for fiance(e) visa applicants) saying they have all necessary documents, and we have received an approved petition for that applicant, we will schedule him or her for the earliest available appointment consistent with their wishes.
I need to change my visa appointment date. What do I do?
Should you need to change your appointment date, please call the Consulate directly on the phone number listed on your appointment letter. We will endeavor to reschedule an appointment for you.
How long is the visa valid?
You may travel as soon as the visa is issued in your passport. NOTE:Immigrant and Fiancee visas are limited to the expiry date of the Medical Report, which is only valid for a maximum of six months. Therefore, you should not undergo your medical too soon, as that will restrict the validity of the visa. You must enter the U.S. prior to the expiry date of the visa.
What if I don't use the visa within six months? Can it be extended?
Immigrant and fiance(e) visas cannot be extended. If the visa is not used within its period of validity, you must return it to this office for cancellation, along with a note explaining the reasons why the visa was not used. Upon return of the visa and explanation, we will inform you as to the requirements needed to have a new visa issued. This will require an updated New Zealand Police Report, a new medical examination and a payment of new visa fee.
How long must I remain in the U.S. after I have entered on the immigrant visa?
U.S. law does not specify how long one must remain in the U.S. after first entering. Immigration officials, at the time of your return to the U.S. after a temporary absence of LESS than ONE year,, will look very closely at the amount of time spent away from the U.S. If they determine that you have been spending more time out of the U.S. than in the U.S., they are empowered to revoke your lawful permanent resident status. You would then have to re-qualify for permanent resident status.
Can a third country national (not a permanent resident of New Zealand) apply for an immigrant visa in New Zealand?
In some cases. First, that person must show that they have permission from the New Zealand Immigration Service to remain in New Zealand for 6 months or longer i.e. NOT just on a tourist visa. Depending on the immigrant visa category involved, it is possible that we would accept that person’s immigrant visa application. In general, however, the person must have some ties to New Zealand; that is, some reason for being here beyond applying for the visa. Alien applicant needs to provide Consulate General with evidence of visa status in New Zealand, also case number, name and date and place of birth and current N.Z. address and phone number. We can then request the case file from another Post or directly from the National Visa Center.
I have a family-based petition pending. I've changed my address. What should I do?
If your file is currently with us, you should email us at AucklandIV@state.gov, giving the details of any changes to your application, including your new mailing address, your full name, date & place of birth, current address, and your case number. If your file is not at the Consulate in Auckland you or the petitioning relative will need to contact the National Visa Center to advise them of the change of address.
The checklist for the family preference/employment based visa sent to me says I have to have a police and medical check done, but I can't find those materials amongst the materials you sent me. What do I do?
Why can't I have the medical check done by my own doctor?
The panel physicians must comply with U.S. health regulations to perform medical examinations for our visa applicants. These panel physicians, when accepted and approved to provide this service, are issued with U.S. medical handbooks. Each country can only have a limited amount of qualified and approved physicians to provide this service for the U.S. government.
I'm pregnant and can't have the X-rays done. What can I do?
You are not expected to have X-rays taken when you are pregnant.
I don't want to have the innoculations/vaccinations. Does that mean I can't have a visa?
Should you not wish to receive any of the required vaccinations, you will be found ineligible to receive an immigrant visa. You may apply for a waiver of that ineligibility, but must establish that compliance with the vaccination requirements would be contrary to your religious beliefs or moral convictions.
To qualify for a waiver you must show that:
- You are opposed to vaccinations in any form;
- The objection is based on religious beliefs or moral convictions (whether or not as a member of a recognized religion); and
- The religious belief or moral conviction (whether or not as part of a recognized religion) is sincere.
Applications for vaccination waivers must be sent to our regional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service office for their consideration. These waiver applications can take several months to process and there is NO guarantee a waiver will be granted.
I haven't been required to file tax returns in the U.S. Can't I use my New Zealand tax returns?
U.S. Immigration laws and regulations require that the petitioning relative or joint sponsor submit the most recent U.S. Federal Income Tax returns – not foreign tax returns. IRS requires Americans and lawful permanent residents who are working abroad to file a return even if most or all of their overseas income is excluded from U.S. taxes. For information on filing U.S. federal tax returns and declaring foreign income check the IRS website‘s Frequently Asked Questions.
I don't understand the I-864. Where can I get help?
I don't understand the concept of 'domicile'. Where can I get help?
Domicile is a complex issue and must be determined on a case by case basis. To qualify as a sponsor, a petitioner who is residing abroad must have a principal residence in the U.S. and intend to maintain that residence for the foreseeable future. Lawful permanent resident (LPR) sponsors must show they are maintaining their LPR status.
Many U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents reside outside the United States on a temporary basis, usually for work or family considerations. “Temporary” may cover an extended period of residence abroad.
The sponsor living abroad must establish the following in order to be considered domiciled in the United States:
He/she left the United States for a limited and not indefinite period of time;
He/she intended to maintain a domicile in the United States, and;
He/she has evidence of continued ties to the United States.
An American citizen or LPR spouse or dependent who has maintained a residence in the U.S. and/or whose spouse/parent works in one of the categories listed below would also qualify as a sponsor.
Please see the I-864 information page for further information.
How can a petitioner re-establish a domicile?
When a sponsor has clearly not maintained a domicile in the United States, he/she will need to re-establish a U.S. domicile in order for him/her to sponsor the immediate relative/spouse. The sponsor may make a number of steps to show that he/she considers the United States his/her principal place of residence. Examples of things he/she can do are given below:
find a job in the United States, or provide evidence of job seeking in the U. S.
Locate a place to live in the U. S.
Register children in U.S. schools, or show correspondence regarding registering children at U.S. schools
Make arrangements to give up (relinquish) residence abroad, i.e. selling house (listing with real estate agent), renting house, selling household effects.
Maintaining a current U.S. bank account
Hold a current U.S. driver’s license
If the sponsor establishes intention to re-establish U.S. domicile, it is not necessary for the U.S. sponsor to go to the United States before the sponsored family members. However, the sponsored immigrant may not enter the United States before the sponsor returned to the U.S. to live. The sponsored immigrant must travel with the sponsor or after the sponsor has entered the U.S.
How do I calculate the number of people domiciled in the household?
Part 4C – ‘Sponsor’s Household Size’ of form I-864 Instructions clearly breaks down how you should calculate household size. Also see Item 36 above.
I need a joint sponsor. What are a joint sponsor's responsibilities?
The joint sponsor’s responsibilities are the same as that of a petitioning relative. The affidavit of support is a legally binding agreement to provide financial support to the person(s) immigrating to the U.S.
Can the U.S. citizen provide a pay slip for proof of employment?
Provided that the pay slip is the most recent at the time of the applicant’s interview, we can accept it. However, it is at the discretion of the consular officer to request additional evidence of employment if he/she requires it.
Can my relatives petition for me to immigrate to the U.S.?
For family sponsorship, only immediate relatives can file a petition on your behalf.Immediate relatives who may petition for a relative are U.S. citizen parents, adult U.S. citizen children, U.S. citizen brothers and sisters, and spouses. Full information of on categories, and how to qualify go to “Visa Types for Immigrants”.
Can my U.S. citizen child petition for me to immigrate to the U.S.?
Petitioning children must have reached the age of 21 to be eligible to file a petition. Therefore, a U.S. citizen child must be 21 years or over to file for a parent.
How else can I immigrate to the U.S. to join my U.S. citizen child?
You must qualify for an immigrant visa in your own right. There are only three ways in which to qualify:
through family sponsorship;
employment and/or investment;
the Diversity Visa Lottery program.
For more information about immigrant visa types, please visit travel.state.gov.
When we immigrate can our parents/nanny/au pair come with us to the U.S.?
Each must qualify for an immigrant visa in their own right.
Can I download all the forms from the internet?
You can download the I-130 or I-129F Petition forms and I-864 from the USCIS website.
The Immigrant Visa Application form DS-260 can only be completed on line on the State Department CEAC website, after visa fees have been paid, and full instructions have been received from National Visa Center (NVC).
Obtain a New Zealand Police clearance certificate for U.S. Immigration from the New Zealand Police Vetting Service.
The requestor can deliver the required items in person, or send the request to the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland, via email, regular mail or courier post. Requests can be accepted by email as long as all attachments are included. Clearances may be requested by a DHS office, consular office or by the intending immigrant applicant.
All requests must include:
A copy of the completed N.Z. clearance request (PDF 185 kb), to include:
- The post case number or A#
- A photocopy of the applicant’s passport biographic page
- The NVC barcode sheet (if the clearance is to be returned to the NVC.)
- If requested by DHS or post, an email address to which the clearance should be returned.
As standard operating procedure, if a request is sent by an applicant, vetted clearances will be forwarded to the NVC unless different instructions are provided. If a request is sent by a DHS office or a consular post, the vetted certificates will be returned to the respective DHS office or post by email.
• Certified Copies Are Not Available to Applicant
• Exceptions: None
• New Zealand documents submitted as part of the U.S. visa process should be less than one year old at the time they are provided.
NEW ZEALAND POLICE DO NOT DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THE PUBLIC FOR THESE REQUESTS
We have been advised that USCIS has approved the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, what happens next?
The Petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. NVC will contact you with further instructions on how to pursue your immigrant visa application.
After an immigrant petition filed in the United States is approved by USCIS, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. NVC plays an important role in the next steps of the immigrant visa process by providing instructions to petitioners, sponsors, and visa applicants; reviewing required Affidavit of Support forms from sponsors; and receiving fees, application forms, and other required documents from visa applicants.
NOTE: For numerically limited family preference petitions, NVC contacts the petitioner once the petition’s priority date is about to become current. Learn more about the National Visa Center (NVC) and processing at the NVC.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Applicant document processing information is listed on this site.
NOTE: The following link Country Reciprocity Schedule advises applicants how to obtain Police Clearances. Just enter the country in the drop down menu. N.Z. residents/former residents must obtain the clearance from the N.Z. Ministry of Justice, as per above link. Residents/former residents of Australia must obtain a “fingerprint” clearance from Australian Federal Police.
All categories of family preference immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant’s priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant’s priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.
Can I request information on both the fiance(e) and spouse options to help me decide which is best for me?
You can obtain instructions for the spouse or fiancee of a U.S. citizen, wishing to immigrate to the United States, from the Dept. of State website: www.travel.state.gov The processes are similar in that most of the required supporting documents are the same, and both the I-130 or the I-129F Petitions must be filed with, and approved by, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Therefore your U.S. spouse/fiancée must obtain the Immediate Relative I-130 petition or the Fiancee Petition I-129F with instructions, directly from the U. S. Immigration Service at www.uscis.gov.
If we are not leaving for another year, can I order the information now to see what is involved?
To start the immigrant visa process for an alien spouse to immigrate to the U.S., as the first step, the U.S. citizen spouse/sponsor must file the I-130 petition with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service: download form from www.uscis.gov . The adjudication/approval process may take many months, and you therefore may wish to file the petition now. Once it is approved it will be sent on to the National Visa Center for processing of the actual immigrant visa application, which will take a further few months. The NVC will then schedule the appointment with the Consulate General, advise the applicant, and send the case to Auckland about 4 weeks prior to the appointment. The Consulate can then work with you if you wish to alter the appointment. The visa application should be pursued within one year from receipt at Post if possible.
I am a U.S. permanent resident. I have been (or will be) out of the U.S. for more than 12 months. How can I extend my Green Card?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to extend the 12-month limit. You must return to the U.S. within 12 months of your last U.S. departure. If you don’t, you will be deemed to have abandoned your U.S. resident status. It is possible to apply to have your residency reinstated, though this process is costly and requires showing that the absence was due to compelling reasons beyond your control. Statistically, very few cases succeed. For more information, please email us at AucklandIV@state.gov.