Today, over 150 United States Citizens and their foreign national intended spouses sued the Department of State for continued refusal to process K-1 fiancée visas. The K-1 visa allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. and marry their petitioning fiancé(e). Although the I-129F petitions have been approved by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has refused to adjudicate or issue K visas, or reissue K visas that expired due to beneficiaries’ inability to travel during the pandemic. These cases are languishing at various stages of DOS processing, with no end in sight.
On March 20, 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, DOS ordered all embassies and consulates worldwide to suspend routine visa services, though “mission-critical” and emergency visa services were still provided. No definitive explanation was given as to which visas are considered “mission-critical,” but later guidance included spouses of U.S. citizens. At no time did DOS provide any reasoned explanation as to why fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, whom DOS understands to be functionally equivalent to the visa category of spouses of U.S. citizens, were not included as mission-critical. The process by which DOS has determined which visa services are considered mission-critical remains opaque.
Then, on July 8, 2020, when DOS announced that routine visa processing would resume to varying degrees at posts starting on July 15, 2020, posts were directed to treat K visa applicants as a low priority, only eligible for processing once a post enters “Phase Three” of DOS’s reopening plan termed “Diplomacy Strong.” Again, no explanation was given as to why fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens was given such low priority. Finally, DOS has issued guidance providing a “national interest exception” that allows foreign citizens, including business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students, from many countries subject to the travel restrictions to apply for and obtain visas, and subsequently enter the U.S. While these national interest exceptions allow foreign citizens to apply for and obtain a wide variety of nonimmigrant visas, fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens have no such opportunity.
By this arbitrary de-prioritization of fiancées of U.S. citizens, the Department of States has separated families, caused severe economic hardship to both U.S. citizens and fiancées abroad and has disrupted the lives of thousands of individuals seeking to be with their loved ones.
“Our wedding was supposed to have been 5 months ago this week. The arbitrary refusal to reissue my fiancé’s visa has been extraordinarily painful and damaging to us,” said Daniel Milligan, lead Plaintiff.
“At the core of the U.S. immigration history is a long-standing tradition of family unity,” says Jeff Joseph, lead counsel on the case and Senior Partner at Joseph & Hall P.C. “The arbitrary actions of the Department of State are having real impacts on U.S. citizens and their families. If we can make exceptions and process visas for agricultural workers, students, and other visa categories, we can certainly process visas for the intended husbands and wives of U.S. citizens. This is one more attempt of this administration to simply erase legal immigration. These families are following the rules. The government should too.”
Co-counsel, Greg Siskind of Siskind and Susser stated, “The couples in this suit, along with many others across the world, have been more than patient as the US government has imposed one obstacle after another. They remain separated despite their following all the rules even though consulates globally are issuing visas every day. They have finally said “enough is enough.”
“We cannot continue as a country to tell our own citizens that they cannot marry the person they love and live within the United States,” said Chuck Kuck of Kuck and Baxter, co-counsel on the case. “The actions of the Department of State in refusing to expeditiously reunite fiancés and their US citizen, soon-to-be spouse, is not only unconscionable, its illegal.”
For all Press inquiries:
Jeff Joseph, lead counsel for Plaintiffs (720) 273-4647, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Kuck, co-counsel (404) 949-8154, email@example.com
Greg Siskind, co-counsel (901) 682-6455 firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtney Watkins, Plaintiff representative (310) 601-6489 email@example.com
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