Last updated on October 3rd, 2017
Can My Fiancé Get a Visa If I Have a Criminal Record?
It’s impossible to give a blanket yes or no answer to this question.
By submitting a Petition for Alien Fiance (Form I-129F) you can help your non-citizen fiancé come to the United States before your marriage. Filling out your petition you will be asked if you have ever been convicted or court martialed for certain crimes. If the answer to those questions is “Yes,” it may prevent the government from granting your petition for a K-1 visa for your fiancé.
In some cases your criminal history won’t be a problem. In other cases, your criminal history will make petitioning for your fiancé all but impossible.
If you want to bring your fiancé to the United States on a K-1 visa, but you have a criminal record, you should definitely consult an attorney. By following appropriate procedures, and with a lawyer’s help, you may still be able to bring your fiancé to the United States in spite of your record.
Your Criminal History and the I-129F Petition
Remember it’s very important for you to be honest on your petition. If you have been convicted of any violent crimes such as sexual assault, domestic violence, or substance abuse, you must include that information with your petition. The crimes you’re required to report are listed in Part 3 of the I-129F form.
K-1 visas are made available to foreign citizens so they can come to the United States to marry their American fiancé. Entry into the United States for marriage is a privilege and careful steps must be taken to ensure that visa privileges are not abused by drug traffickers and other criminals. In addition to guarding against organized illegal activity, the law is also designed to protect foreign citizens from being abused or taken advantage of by U.S. citizens.
If you have a criminal conviction on your record (or if you have been convicted of a crime and your record has since been sealed) you will need to check the appropriate boxes in the section of your I-129F form labeled “Part 3. Other Information.” Please keep in mind that even if you were told your records were sealed or otherwise cleared, you are still required to provide information about the convictions. Also remember that if this applies to you, you should consult an attorney for help submitting the Petition for Alien Fiancé.
Explain Your Record
In addition to checking the appropriate boxes in Part 3, you must include a separate sheet of paper with information related to the crimes you were convicted of. Pieces of information you should provide include the crime, date of conviction, and sentence imposed.
Part 3 also gives you a limited opportunity to provide an explanation for why you committed the crime on your record. If you were acting in self-defense, trying to avoid being hurt by another person, or your crime was a violation of a protective order issued for your own safety, you can check the appropriate box and the chances of having your petition granted may improve.
There are a variety of factors which could influence whether or not your fiancé is granted a visa. Your fiancé will likely be notified of your criminal history, you may be required to provide more details and documents from court, and you should be prepared to discuss these issues with a government agent at some point during your fiancé’s visa application process.
Properly explaining your criminal record in the best light possible may require a lawyer’s help.
I’m Not Really a Criminal, Why Does the Government Care if I’ve Made a Few Mistakes?
Having a criminal record could identify you as an unreliable fiancé or spouse for your loved one. Even if your crimes were non-violent or happened long ago, statistically speaking a person with a criminal history is at greater risk of having issues with law enforcement in the future.
For example, if you were to go to jail while your fiancé is in the United States, he or she could face multiple problems. It may become difficult for you to support your fiancé financially and he or she might even struggle to take part in everyday life in a foreign culture. This is not to say that having a criminal record leads the government to assume you will be arrested again, but from an administrative perspective it certainly increases the risk.
Another important concern with regards to allowing past-offenders to bring a foreign fiancé into the United States is the nations desire to avoid domestic violence and abuse. People around the world see the United States as a land of opportunity. Many assume that marrying an American would guarantee them a bright future with a loving family. With those optimistic expectations, some foreign citizens might look past safety and security concerns that would otherwise protect them from violence and abuse.
If a foreign citizen comes to the United States and finds themselves in an abusive relationship, he or she may not be aware of how our culture treats such violence. By coming to America without understanding our society, some subject themselves to cruel treatment without knowing their rights or how to contact authorities to put an end to it.
Overall, a criminal record – however non-violent and un-justified you may think your conviction was – identifies you as a risk. If your criminal behavior was negligible or does not pose a concern against allowing you to bring a fiancé to the United States, your fiancé visa petition may not be affected. But it is very important that you are honest with yourself and the government regarding your criminal history. If this is an area that concerns you, you should consult an attorney prior to petitioning for your alien fiancé.