Our (very detailed) K1 Journey

Background: I met my (Serbia, 24F) fiance (US, 25M) while backpacking in Cambodia in August 2019. We went on one date together after which we both had to leave the country as our trip was coming to an end. I went to Laos and he went to Vietnam. We decided to stay in touch with daily text messages and bi-weekly video chats.

We were not in a relationship at all until July 2020 when he moved to Serbia to be with me. We had tentative plans to backpack again that year (probably around South America), but COVID happened, so instead he came to the Balkans, after quitting his job and selling all his belongings back home. Ever since, we have been living together.

Since I see this as a common question, yes, you can file for a K1 even if neither of you are living in your home country. You do not have to be separated- all it takes is changing your life forever and moving abroad. Easy!

As to why we filed a K1 and not a CR1- we were dumb. We didn’t do enough research and thought the K1 would be faster. Oh well. Serbia was not a part of the travel ban as it’s not in the EU, which means the embassy hasn’t been very backed up and we have had good communication with them. On average, it has taken them a day or two to respond.

Timeline:

First week of January 2021

PROPOSAL

We decided to get married. The reason why there’s no specific date is because it was not a surprise “romantic” proposal. It was a serious conversation about our future, together and separately. It turned out those were one of the same, and the result of this long conversation was a mutual “proposal". We decided being married would make our lives easier as our countries are very different and we plan on being together forever anyway.

The US has never been my first option when it comes to countries I would like to live in, but it seemed completely fair since my fiance spent 2 years in my part of the world without seeing his friends and family, with no complaints either.

2021-02-03

FILING PETITION

We filed the petition while volunteering at a hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria on February 2nd, and it arrived at the Lewisville lockbox the next day. The content of our cover letter was as follows:

  1. Cover letter (this page)

  2. G-1145 Notification of Application acceptance (1 page)

  3. Form I-129F (14 pages)

  4. Statement of Circumstances of Meeting (Question 54) (1 page)

  5. Proof of Meeting (3 pages total)

a) passport stamps (2 pages)

b) flight itinerary (1 page)

  1. Proof of Relationship (18 pages total)

a) initial conversation (1 page)

b) call log (7 pages)

c) text messages (1 page)

d) social media posts (4 pages)

e) workaway.com profile (2 pages)

f) visa support letters (3 pages)

  1. Evidence of Intent to marry statement (2 pages)

  2. US citizen’s Proof of citizenship (1 page)

  3. Two (2) Passport sized photos (petitioner, beneficiary)

  4. Personal check/money order/credit card (G-1450) ($535)

2021-03-21

1st NOTICE OF ACTION

Our NOA1 took a while due to the backlogs, but to all of you worrying that this will prolong your case- relax. It’s just a receipt that shows that USCIS has received your payment. Your actual receipt date is the date they received your package. You will also get your case number so you can track your progress online now. How exciting!

2021-09-24

2nd NOTICE OF ACTION

The biggest milestone in the whole process is getting approved by USCIS. It will take forever, so make sure you keep yourself occupied in order to forget about your pending case. This may be more difficult if you’re actually separated from your partner, as I know is mostly the case. Our approval took just under 8 months. At the time of us filing, the processing time for the California Service Center was 6 to 8 months. We were a week away from being able to submit an inquiry, which from what I’ve heard, doesn’t help much.

We used the Lawfully app to track our process, and while it’s not as insightful as Visajourney, it definitely works! My fiance got a notification on his phone the same night we were approved! We would absolutely recommend this app. However, I didn’t blindly trust it and would check our case status on the official USCIS website every couple of weeks.

There is not much you need to do at this stage. USCIS will send your NOA2 in the mail. This document is extremely important to keep as you will need it for your interview and AOS later on. It’s pretty expensive to replace, so do not lose it. It took just under 2 weeks for it to arrive after we saw we’ve been approved on the website.

Both our NOA2 and NOA1 got sent to my fiance’s parents’ address (his official permanent address) even though we put down mine in Serbia as our mailing address, where we were (or were near at the very least), but USCIS doesn’t often send documents abroad, so expect everything to show up at your US address. This was not an issue since his parents had to send us a bunch of other documents, so this all simply got included in the package.

2021-10-12

NVC WELCOME LETTER

A lot of people would call NVC to get their new case number ASAP, but since we were abroad and didn’t have hundreds of international calls, we decided to wait. We would have called a month after the NOA2 date, but luckily didn’t have to because we received the letter by email two and a half weeks later.

This letter will include all of your information related to your case, plus a new case number- this is all you need now as it’s linked to your embassy. The letter will just tell you to go to http://nvc.state.gov/k1 to follow the next steps.

The thing that I couldn’t figure out from there is when you’re supposed to file the DS-160. The correct answer is- immediately. I emailed the embassy asking about Packet 3 and they responded with an email saying they need me to submit a DS-160 first. The email had a slightly annoyed tone, and I’m sure it’s not fun answering dumbass questions all day, but I sincerely didn’t know when I was supposed to do it and went by the logic of filling it out closer to the interview date so my information is as up to date as possible.

2021-10-27

CONSULATE RECEIVES PACKAGE

The NVC sent our petition to the US Embassy in Belgrade on the 26th of October and it shockingly arrived there the next day. Using your new case number, you can track the progress on the CEAC website. All important changes can be seen here.

2021-11-15

PACKET 3 RECEIVED

The instruction packet will contain all useful information about all the documents you’ll need for the interview. Sometimes you get a physical copy in the mail that you need to sign and send back, confirming that you are ready for the interview and have all the documents.

I feel like the embassy forgot to send it to me. My fiance emailed them saying we’re worried it might have gotten lost in the mail, since we didn’t know it’s electronic. They sent it to me the next day.

The Belgrade embassy does it over email. You will receive the document in both Serbian and English, and you will be asked to send an email confirming you are ready for the interview.

2021-11-29

PACKET 3 SENT

We waited a couple of weeks to respond to Packet 3 as we were still abroad. We genuinely expected this process to be much longer, and we had travel plans until the end of November.

As mentioned already, you are supposed to respond to a certain email and get an automated response back, acknowledging they have received it. All you have to do now is wait for further instructions.

2021-11-29

INTERVIEW DATE APPOINTED

To our surprise, we received the interview date the same day I responded to the Packet 3 email. My interview was December 8th, at 9.30 am. Basically, not too much time to prepare. But we were as ready as we could be.

My birth certificate and police check took only 2 days to obtain. I simply couldn’t believe it, as I have heard stories of multiple week waiting periods in other countries. So make sure you have absolutely everything before they can schedule your interview.

2021-12-06

MEDICAL

I scheduled my medical two days before the interview even though the embassy website said the results are same day. They work with a lab that is not always punctual, so I would recommend having an extra day just in case.

There are two approved doctors in Belgrade. I had my exam done with the International Organization for Migration at Skenderbegova 3, as it was closer to our accommodation. However, with the information I have now, I would recommend General Medicine Clinic at Smiljaniceva 22. Regardless of which one you go to, you will have to go to Smiljaniceva 69 to get a chest X Ray. I had to walk 40 minutes one way in order to get this done. But if you do go with my original choice, there is a great cafe called Kofic where you can chill and wait for the results.

The exam itself was very simple. It was mostly just the doctor filling out forms and asking questions. I don’t have any physical conditions and am not taking any medicine, so my exam was quite short.

There was no urine test involved, like there is in many places, but they did take a blood sample. Other than that and the chest X ray, there was a physical examination of the abdomen and limbs and you might be required to get a few shots.

It is very important to have received both doses of the Covid vaccine since it can take up to five weeks to be considered “fully vaccinated”- if you haven’t had your first shot yet, get it now. Other than that, I was asked whether or not I had chickenpox, and I also had to receive the flu and Tdap vaccines. You are required to have received the Tdap (combined tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine in the last 10 years for this medical. My country doesn’t do boosters every 10 years, and my last shot was in 2010.

The whole medical took somewhere around 3 hours, with all the walking back and forth to the radiology clinic. I was done by noon and was told to come back around 3 pm to collect my results. I was given a sealed envelope that went to the embassy and a copy of my immunization records in English.

The exam itself costs 230 dollars, but mine was 280 because of the two extra shots I had to get. They accept payment in both dinar and dollars, but don’t accept cards. Make sure to have cash ready.

2021-12-08

INTERVIEW

I had my interview scheduled at 9.30. Due to Covid, the petitioner is not allowed to attend and you are allowed to go into the building only 5 minutes prior.

There are two security checks when you go in. You are not supposed to have a phone, so I would highly recommend bringing a watch. After security, you will be let into a waiting room.

They give out numbers like at the bank, and your number will show up on the screen, telling you to go to a specific window. There are no separate offices. The overall vibe is the same as at any other government facility. The weirdest thing probably is that you can hear other people’s interviews before your own.

You will be called up to the first desk to submit original documents such as passport, birth certificate, police check, I-134 and supporting documents, photos etc. This is the purely bureaucratic part of the interview.

After that, you will go to another window where they will take your fingerprints, and finally, the third window where you will have the interview.

My interviewer was very pleasant, smiled the entire time and asked very basic questions. Some of the things he asked were in the I-129 petition, so expect to briefly get quizzed on that.

Even though I was speaking in Serbian with everyone up to that point, the interview was in English. He asked how, where and when we met, whether or not I met his parents, when we were planning on getting married, where my fiance was then, what he studied, what he did for a living, and some other basic questions about our relationship.

I was surprised when, after maybe 3 minutes of talking, he told me my visa has been approved! I had prepared an entire binder of evidence, but none of it was needed at all. We’re still glad we over prepared and we will be using a lot of this evidence for adjustment of status later on.

I was told that I will be getting an email with instructions on how to collect my passport within 2 days.

The overall interview felt more like a formality. It’s natural that a lot of people get nervous around these things, but there is absolutely no reason to stress about it. As long as your relationship is genuine and you’re able to follow instructions, it’s the easiest thing ever!

2021-12-10

PASSPORT MAILED BACK

On Friday, I received an email saying my passport is being sent back using the DHL courier. They don’t send it to your home address- you will need to go to a DHL office and pick up the packet using an ID.

The packet will contain your passport with the new visa in it, original documents that you submitted at the interview and a sealed envelope that you will give to the CBP officer at your point of entry.

The delivery time is 3 business days, which means I will have gotten my passport back exactly one week after my interview.

INTERVIEW CHECKLIST & RELEVANT DOCUMENTS

Medical:

  • Your visa interview appointment letter
  • Your passport
  • Four (4) recently taken passport-sized color photographs
  • A copy of your immunization records
  • DS-160 Confirmation Page

Interview:

  • Passports (2x)
  • Old passport
  • DS-160 confirmation page (1 page)
  • Copy of biographic page (1 page)
  • Birth certificates (2x)
  • Copy of birth certificates (2 pages)
  • Police certificate (1 page)
  • Photo 5x5cm (10x)
  • Relationship evidence
  1. Passport stamps (4 pages)
  2. Serbian address registration (1 page)
  3. Pictures & social media (9 pages)
  4. Trip itinerary (3 pages)
  5. Letters (2 pages)
  6. Communication (1 page)
  7. Covid tests (4 pages)
  • Proof of domicile
  1. US Driver’s License (1 page)
  2. Debit Card (1 page)
  3. Affidavit explaining tentative plans (1 page)
  4. Tax Returns (4 pages)
  5. Voter Registration (1 page)
  • I-134 affidavit of support
  1. Signed employer letters on official letterhead
  2. Bank letters on official letterhead, with information about when accounts were open, average deposits etc.
  3. 2020 & 2019 IRS tax transcripts
  4. Sponsor’s proof of citizenship (copy of full biographic page of passport)
  5. Pay stubs ( last 6 months)
  • Medical examination results in a sealed envelope
  • Letter of intent to marry, signed, x2 by both petitioner and beneficiary
  • Copy of I-129F

I-134 AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT

The affidavit is usually brought to the interview, but the embassy may require you to send it beforehand, although that is rare. It may seem like just another form, but you will need a bunch of supporting documents that might take time to get, so start gathering all of them as soon as you receive your NVC case number.

Since my fiance has been living abroad for the last year and a half with me, he doesn’t meet the income requirements to be the sponsor. He is still obligated to file a separate I-134 and we will only include his taxes and bank statement. His dad will be our joint sponsor, and for that, there is a lot more proof needed.

Joint sponsors are pretty common, especially for young people who started traveling right after college and are trying to bring their foreign partner home. Contrary to what many people believe, a joint sponsor is not a red flag. Some people simply have different lifestyles where they don’t need too much money to live and are focused on other things, such as volunteer work. This is why the immigration system allows us to have a third person vouching for us.

For the supporting evidence, we included:

  • Signed employer letters on official letterhead
  • Bank letters on official letterhead, with information about when accounts were open, average deposits etc.
  • 2020 & 2019 IRS tax transcripts
  • Sponsor’s proof of citizenship (copy of full biographic page of passport)
  • Pay stubs ( last 6 months)

PROOF OF DOMICILE

We’re not really sure whether or not we would need this, as my fiance never officially moved abroad, and we have been hopping from country to country every 3 months or so. He has no long term visas in his passport. But better safe than sorry. We compiled a list of 6 documents we will use to prove his ties to the US and intentions of moving back with me.

  • US Driver’s License
  • US Debit Card
  • Affidavit explaining tentative plans
  • Tax Returns
  • Proof of Address
  • Voter Registration

PRICE BREAKDOWN

I-129F Petition fee 535$

Shipping Petition from Sofia, Bulgaria to Texas (UPS) 60$

All Printing approx. 50$

Shipping Documents from the US to Serbia 60$

Birth Certificate 5$

Police Check 10$

Visa fee 265$

Medical 280$

Trip to Belgrade (3 nights at a guesthouse + bus tickets) 120$

Total: approx. 1385$

submitted by /u/mellow_yellow___
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source https://www.reddit.com/r/immigration/comments/rdw19a/our_very_detailed_k1_journey/

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