Last updated on October 3rd, 2017
Petitioners, Beneficiaries, and Other Important Immigration Terms
The fiancé visa application process is not an easy one, and the distinct language used by the USCIS does not make the process any easier. If you become familiar with these terms and acronyms before getting started, the process will go much smoother.
To get started, let’s look at some of the important acronyms and abbreviations that will pop up frequently along your application process:
USCIS – United States Citizen and Immigration Services. This is the government agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees immigration matters. All immigration forms and related fees are sent to the USCIS.
I-94 – This is a document that contains the expiration date for someone’s legal, authorized stay in the United States. It is issued to lawful immigrants upon entry to the United States and stapled in their passport. I-94s are also issued upon departure from the United States.
I-129F – This is the title of the petition for a fiancé visa. The I-129F form is the application the petitioner must complete and turn in to the USCIS in order to sponsor their fiancé to come to the United States.
The I-129F requires the petitioner to choose which type of visa they are applying for for their fiancé. The following are the relevant types of visas:
K-1 visa – This is the standard visa for alien fiancés who have been authorized to come to the United States through their I-129F petition.
K-2 visa – This visa is for children of K-1 visa holders. The children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 to be eligible for this visa.
K-3 visa – This visa is for immigrants who are already married to the petitioner and wish to emigrate to the United States through the fiancé process. Once a K-3 visa is granted, the beneficiary can enter the United States and apply to adjust their status.
K-4 visa – This visa is for the children of K-3 visa holders.
Defining Your Relationship for USCIS
Next, let’s look at the words “petitioner” and “beneficiary”. These words appear frequently on the I-129F form for fiancé visa.
In the fiancé visa context, a petitioner is a United States citizen who files a I-129F visa petition for their alien fiancé to immigrate to the United States.
The beneficiary is the person who the petitioner sponsored, the person who is trying to enter the United States. In other words, the beneficiary is the immigrant.
Harry, a U.S. citizen, visits Guatemala on a school trip and meets Sally. Sally is a Guatemalan citizen. Harry and Sally fall in love and decide to marry. Before Harry returns to the United States, Harry and Sally agree that Sally will move to the United States and the couple will marry there. Upon return to the United States, Harry files a fiancé visa petition through the USCIS.
In this example, Harry is the petitioner and Sally is the beneficiary.
The following are some other important terms to be familiar with during the visa application process:
A lawful resident is someone who has permission to live in the United States. All U.S. citizens are lawful residents of the United States and permanent residents who reside in the United States with a valid green card or visa are lawful residents.
In the above example, Harry is a lawful resident of the United States because he is a U.S. citizen. If Sally’s fiancé visa is approved through the USCIS, Sally will be a lawful resident of the United States upon entry to the country.
The I-129F uses the term “alien fiancé” to describe the beneficiary. In this context, alien does not mean a creature living on planet Mars. An alien is someone who was born outside of the United States and has not obtained citizenship. The term alien encompasses undocumented immigrants, green card holders and permanent residents.
An alien fiancé is someone living outside of the United States and is engaged to marry the petitioner. The beneficiary of an I-129F petition is an alien fiancé.
In the example above, Sally is the alien fiancé.
Another phrase that will likely pop up during your immigration process is green card. Green card is not an official term but it is a slang word used to describe the green-colored card given to permanent residents
The official USCIS term for the term green card is I-551 or Alien Registration Receipt Card. Though not technically accurate, the term green card is also sometimes used to describe the work permit given to migrant workers.
The Language of U.S. Immigration
This list of definitions is not exhaustive, but it may be helpful to keep this list handy while filling out USCIS documents. Misinterpreting a word can cause further delays in your application process so it is important to fully understand the USCIS lingo during your journey through the visa application process.