[South Korea] My 6-month K1 Visa Journey in 2021!

Hello everyone, my fiancé and I finished our visa interview earlier today and thought it would be helpful to document the entire process from start to finish for those curious about the K1 visa process in 2021. Please note: this visa timeline documents the process for a South Korean beneficiary, which is one of the countries that has seen faster processing times than most other countries. The process may be different in your country.

Our Situation

I am a U.S. citizen born in America, but I currently live in South Korea. I moved to Korea a few years ago and met my fiancé after a year of living here. My fiancé is a South Korean citizen. I am currently unemployed, but have been working at a Company X for two years before it shut down in March 2021. My fiancé is unemployed and his work history is lacking. We did not use a lawyer in any of the process. Just a bajillion hours of research. 😊

K-1 Visa General Timeline

  • Feb 06 - Began preparing materials for our K-1 visa
  • Feb 23 - Mailed our I-129F petition to USCIS via FedEx Korea
  • Feb 25 - USCIS received our petition
  • Apr 28 - Notice of Action, Petition Approval, received via mail (NOA 1)
  • May 17 - Completed DS-160 Form
  • Jun 22 - Notice of Action, NVC sent K-1 Visa petition to the U.S. Embassy in Korea, received via e-mail (NOA 2)
  • Jul 01 - Visa Interview Instruction Packet, received via e-mail
  • Jul 28 - Medical Examination appointment
  • Aug 03 - Received medical exam results in a white taped A4 envelope
  • Aug 10 - Visa interview

I-129F Petition & NOA1

We began preparing for the I-129F petition on February 6. In the end, we submitted 78 pages with the following contents:

  1. G-1450 Authorization for Credit Card Transactions ($535 Dollar amount, 1 page)
  2. Cover Letter (1 page)
  3. G-1145 Notification of Application Acceptance (1 page)
  4. Form I-129F (13 pages)
  5. Statement of Circumstances of Meeting (Question 54) (1 page)
  6. Proof of Meeting (12 pages, cover page) (hotel receipts and pictures together)
  7. Proof of Relationship (39 pages, cover page) (phone logs, pictures of dates and living together, translated text messages)
  8. Evidence of intent to marry statement and proof (6 pages, signed by both)
  9. US citizen’s Proof of Citizenship (1 page)
  10. Copy of Beneficiary’s Passport (1 page)
  11. Two (2) Passport sized photos (petition, beneficiary)

I personally translated all text messages and receipts that included Korean, signed and dated each translation stating I was capable of translations. Nothing was notarized. You can see an example page from our petition showing an original text message, my translated copy, and my "Certification of Translation" attached to the translation here: https://i.imgur.com/CaOth4y.png

Our goal when gathering evidence was to show that we have consistently stayed in contact since being together and physically met with each other (i.e. hotel receipts, dates where we're together in the photograph, friend gatherings). Since we live together, I tried to include text messages/images that proved our living arrangement (i.e. messages stating "grab something from the grocery!" or "did you do laundry yet?", pictures of my fiancé cooking meals). Our phone logs show that we've called each other basically every day since we started dating. Of course, when we moved in together, we didn't call each other as much.

We did not use a binder (I think this is discouraged), nor did we have any stickies or staples. I just had a huge clip to make sure everything would stay together during transit. We plopped the petition into the FedEx express envelope on the morning of February 23rd and off it went!

I listed a family member for the US mailing address. They received NOA1 in the mail in early May and sent me the following photo: https://i.imgur.com/py3J9Qy.png. It stated that the petition was received on February 25, 2021. The notice date is April 28. The petition expiration date is August 27.

NOA2 & Visa Interview Prep

There were some e-mail issues (all emails from NVC and USCIS were sent to spam and I never check spam...), so although NOA2 was e-mailed to me on June 22, I didn't know until late-July. I made a series of calls over the span of a few weeks to USCIS, NVC, and the US embassy trying to figure out the status of our petition. It was a very frustrating time, mostly because I believed that the e-mails were not being received on our end. Anyways, it got all handled (used a different e-mail), and we proceeded with the instructions provided by the instruction packet.

Here is everything we had to obtain before the interview:

  • Two (2) US-sized Passport Photos (5cm * 5cm)
  • Six (6) Korean-sized Passport Photos
  • DS-160 confirmation page (you can download the confirmation page after you've filled out the DS-160 form and submitted online at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/)
  • Citibank Visa Fee Receipt $265 (you must print out the instruction page for the MRV and show it to the Citibank representative before paying the visa fee. The payment takes about a day to process in the backend.)
  • Interview Appointment Confirmation (this is the page you can download after you make your appointment on https://ustraveldocs.com/kr/kr-niv-appointmentschedule.asp. You MUST have paid your visa fee at Citibank before you can make your appointment.)
  • Birth Certificate and Translation (for Koreans, this means your "Basic Certificate (Detailed)" and "Family Relations Certificate (Detailed)", which can be obtained in-person at your local Gu or Dong office. English Translation template for the certificate is available online.)
  • Marriage Certificate/Divorce Decree and Translation (can be obtained in-person at your local Gu or Dong office. English Translation template for the certificate is available online.)
  • Police Certificate (for Koreans, you can request it at your local police station; these already come translated)
  • Copy of Immunization Records (can be obtained online). Note: If your fiancé served in the military, there may be a chance that some of his vaccinations during his service was not recorded onto his immunization records. Call the military to confirm, and if they haven't done so, ask them to update the immunization records to show what vaccinations were given.
  • Medical Examination Results (mailed to you or can be picked up; takes about a week to receive via mail since appointment date)
  • Form I-134, Affidavit of Support (filled out by the US sponsor)
    • [Required] US Federal Income Tax Return 2020 (if applicable)
    • [Required] Relevant W-2 Forms (if applicable)
    • [Required] Letter from all US banks stating account balances and account opened date
    • [Required] Letter from current employer stating type of employment (contract, permanent, etc.), salary amount, and length of employment
    • Extra proof of income: *These are extra documents I included in my affidavit because I did not have a job and did not currently live in the US. You need to establish proof of income and proof of U.S. domicile*.*
      • 7 months' worth of paystubs until unemployment (to show reliable work history)
      • 2020 year-end credit card statements (proof of US domicile)
      • Stocks & Bonds Portfolio Statement (proof of US domicile)
      • Life insurance policies (proof of US domicile & income)

*All certificates (birth, marriage, police) and immunization records were retrieved on the same day we went to our local Gu / Dong office. We just waited in line, provided proof of identification, and told the officers which documents we needed with official stamps.

Medical Examination

We scheduled our medical examination for July 28, 2021. The process took about 1.5 hours. My fiancé had 3 shots I believe, and did a series of tests like X-rays, urine test, blood tests, height/weight measurements, etc. We received our results via mail a week later on August 3. There MUST be someone who can sign for the package; it cannot be dropped off in the mailbox.

To schedule the medical examination, you have to choose one of the approved hospitals that can conduct the K-1 Visa medical examination. There are a few locations in South Korea, but the Seoul National University Hospital is the cheapest (~$350), whereas the Gangnam hospital is the most expensive (~$480). The other hospitals have fees in-between (~$400). I called all the hospitals to retrieve these quotes.

In order to schedule an interview at any of these locations, you need the following information prepared:

  • DS-160 confirmation #
  • Beneficiary's Passport #
  • Interview date\* (You cannot schedule a medical examination without a confirmed interview date and time.)
  • Current address
  • Intended US address

They require the following items in-person during the appointment:

  • Six (6) Korean-sized Passport Photos (with beneficiary's name written on the back)
  • Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation Letter
  • Copy of Immunization Records
  • Passport
  • Fees ($300 ~ $500)

Form I-134, Affidavit of Support

I believe this is a more lenient version of the I-864 form (filled out for a green card), which does not require evidence unless asked. I, however, wanted to include evidence because I do not have a job but have a substantial amount of liquid assets and bank account balances to subsidize my lack of employment.

Situation: I am currently unemployed. I have been unemployed since March 2021, but have a stable work history (2 years at Company X making decent income) and a lot of "assets," as defined by the US government. In all, I hold 6-figures' worth of liquid assets through checkings/savings, portfolio stocks & bonds, personal property, life insurance cash surrender value (not all life insurance plans have cash surrender values). Also, I accepted a U.S. job offer in February 2021 and the future employer is willing to wait for my arrival in the states before I begin my job. I was offered a 6-figure salary.

IMPORTANT: The I-134 requests TWO COPIES of your bank letter(s) and your current employer letter, both of which are required in your affidavit. Call your bank and employer in advance to retrieve these letters!

Documents Included in Affidavit:

  • Form I-134 (8 pages)
  • Proof of Income (36 pages, cover page)
    • U.S. Federal Income Tax Return 2020 (21 pages)
    • Letter from [U.S. BANKS] (confirming account balances and account open date) (2 copies, 2 pages)
    • U.S. Employer Letter, signed (job offer letter stating length of employment, type of employment, and salary) (2 copies, 4 pages)
    • Paystubs from August 2020 to February 2021 (7 pages)
    • U.S. Currency Account Balance at [KOREAN BANK] (1 page)
    • Bitcoin Portfolio Balance, July 2021 (1 page)
  • Proof of Domicile in the U.S. (16 pages, cover page)
    • 2020 Year-End Credit Card Statements at [U.S. BANKS] (5 pages)
    • International Wire Transfers from [KOREAN BANK] to [U.S. BANKS] (5 pages)
    • June 2021 Portfolio Statement from American Brokerage Service (3 pages)
    • Life Insurance Policies and Cash Values (3 pages)
      • Not all life insurance policies have a "cash surrender value." This is the cash value if you want to "cash out" of your life insurance policy for some quick money. This is only available for "Whole Life Insurance" policies. If you have life insurance, ask your provider if this is the type of policy you are on.
    • Copy of Sponsor’s U.S. Passport (1 page)

*Note: Because I do not have a job, but had a signed offer letter from an employer, I used that letter in lieu of a "current employer" letter.

The Visa Interview

Finally!! The visa interview. My fiancé and I went together to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

Appointment: August 10, 2021 @ 7:45am (South Korea)

General process and rough timeline:

  • [5:45AM] Arrived at the premises and waited at a local café (my fiancé and I practiced some potential questions, mostly about both of our unemployed statuses, our biggest worry)
  • [7:10AM] Got in line at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. We were one of the first people there, a few individuals before us.
  • [7:20AM] People were being checked into the U.S. Embassy. When it was our turn, I was asked if I was joining. I initially said no, but they were confirming identities. The receptionist was expecting both my fiancé (beneficiary) and me (U.S. petitioner/sponsor)! I went to the reception desk thinking that I'd just cheer on my fiancé as he went inside, but they suddenly asked "Who is [U.S. petitioner name]?" and I said it was me and they said "you should go inside too."
  • [7:25AM] We went to the 2nd floor to submit the preliminary documents (appointment confirmation letter and US passport photos) and was admitted to the next floor to wait for our appointment.
  • [7:35AM] During the waiting time, we were given a checklist of documents to prepare in a specific order (i.e. passport, medical exam, birth certificate, etc.)
  • [7:50AM] We were called to one of the counters at 7:50am, where the employee double-checked all documents we were submitting. We submitted the following items:
    • 53 pages - I-134 plus supporting documents
    • 80 pages - a copy of our I-129F petition
    • 10 pages - documents of our preliminary wedding plans
    • 25 pages - extra copies of all documents that I thought would be nice to have just in case (did not submit, I just had these in case something went wrong)
    • Everything except the extra copies and I-129F petition (they already had a copy) was submitted and approved. They also needed the ORIGINAL Citibank receipt that was used to pay for the visa application. Also, I was asked if I (U.S. petitioner) currently resided in South Korea and I said yes, and as she was skimming and confirming documents, she pointed out to my employer's offer letter and said "Is this an offer letter?" I said yes, and she nodded her head.
    • We were told to wait again until the interview officer was ready for us.
  • [8:15AM] We were called up to the counters again to meet with the interview officer. The process was simple:
    • My fiancé was told to raise his right hand and swear that everything stated in the documents was true and that going forth anything said during the interview is true. They then scanned his fingerprints.
    • Our interview officer was extremely kind, thoughtful, and super sweet. My fiancé gets very nervous at interviews and it was pretty obvious, he even blurted out "oh my gosh, I'm so nervous!" And the officer said "Hey, it's okay. Don't worry! It'll be alright." It was very touching!
    • Officer asked questions in a mix of English and Korean (reason stated below), and my fiancé responded in mostly Korean (his English isn't the best at the moment), with me occasionally helping translate a few words he might not have understood. He was asked very few questions:
      • How did we meet?
      • When did your relationship start?
      • Have you met any of your fiancée's family? Has your fiancé met any of your family?
      • [Question for U.S. Petitioner] How do you two communicate?
      • Before the interview officially started, it was obvious my fiancé's English wasn't the best, so the interview officer asked us how we communicated. I said "Konglish" (a mix of Korean and English), but actually for us, it's like 98% Korean and 2% English words sprinkled in our conversations. Our officer said "Okay, then I will use Konglish too!" oops, lol. Probably should have said Korean - my fiancé was struggling a little.
      • [Question for U.S. Petitioner] You're currently working in South Korea?
      • I explained that I stopped working in March 2021, but received a job offer back in America and am going to start my new employment as soon as I arrive in the U.S.
    • The interview took probably 5 minutes tops. It was in front of the entire waiting area (with all the counters), so I'm pretty sure most of the people waiting heard our interview lol. Also, I was really taken aback that it was out in public, and the interview was extremely short, and I (U.S. Petitioner) was asked questions directly!
    • After the interview concluded, our officer said our visa application was approved and to expect the visa to be mailed to us within a week. She then handed back our wedding plan packet (10 pages) and said "Have fun!"
  • [8:25AM] We left the premises, and when we retrieved our electronics from the security room, the guards were shocked and said "Wow, they must have started really early today."

The End

And now here I am writing this post. We'll be waiting for my fiancé's visa to arrive and in the meantime, we'll be packing, selling things, booking flights, etc.! We're extremely excited to move forward. I think we were lucky in that everything went generally smoothly (minus the e-mail hiccups) in less than 6 months. 😊

I'm happy to answer any questions about our journey if I can (South Korea K-1 Visa)! Please note that the K-1 visa application process varies by country and some of my steps may not apply to you!

Thanks~

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source https://www.reddit.com/r/immigration/comments/p1naef/south_korea_my_6month_k1_visa_journey_in_2021/

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