So you began a relationship with a Thai person, fell in love, and now desire to marry in the United States. Congratulations! An I-129F is your first step into making it possible to marry a Thai citizen within your country. By filling out this form you are petitioning the U.S. government to allow your fiance to enter the country on a K-1 visa for the purpose of marrying. It can be a time of great excitement, but also stress. USCIS approved my I-129F petition after 5 ½ months. The I-129F petition alone is now averaging a processing time of 5 ½ months to 7 months. The good news is that in the future this processing time may shrink. New 2018 laws in the immigration system have been ongoing and aim to cut down on the number of fraudulent petitions.
I handed my petition over to USCIS before any of the new laws, therefore my experience will slightly differ from your own. In my case, I was able to assemble the I-129F packet alone. New petitioners need to now have an immigration attorney. The law has also changed in regards to RFE’s, or Request for Evidence. Previously, USCIS would send a RFE requesting more information. These can add months onto the processing time. The USCIS officer assigned to your case now has discretion to flat out deny your case if there is insufficient evidence or to send you a RFE if they want more evidence. The key is to never give them a reason to deny your petition. Do perfectly the first time, and you need not worry.
We start with learning the requirements for being able to petition the government with an I-129F. First to note is that you must be a U.S. citizen. Include a photocopy of this documentation with the packet you create. Both your fiance and self must be legally able to marry as well. You will need proof of divorce, annulment, or death if previously married to another person. Also included with this will be statements regarding your intent to marry one another. An in-person meeting must have occurred within the last 2 years of the petition. Proof of this may be plane tickets, copies of passport stamps, photos of you together, receipts, etc. Currently, the filing fee for an I-129F is $535 presentable by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check.
Only meeting each other in person is not enough evidence to prove you are in a bona fide relationship. Also included in your packet will be evidence that the relationship is ongoing. This includes everything from phone records and screenshots of texts and video calls to letters from family members. Dates are very important. Screenshots need to have the date visible on the phone. Any correspondence between each other by way of mail is also a terrific way to show dates. You are aiming to show that the relationship has been ongoing for a length of time. Just meeting a Thai person on vacation and coming back to the states and petitioning for a visa will be a hard sell. All the information that needs to be included may seem like a lot, but serious relationships will not have much trouble providing these things.
The type of visa you are petitioning for is a ‘fiance’ visa, thus it makes sense to include proof of the upcoming wedding. At the bare minimum this should include a photo of the engagement/wedding ring and the receipt received at purchase. Obviously, you cannot provide receipts for the venues, official, catering, etc. at this time. These type of things need to wait until you know when your fiance will be allowed to enter the U.S. on a visa. However, if you have already bought any decorations or like items include receipts for such. With my own petition, I simply included photos of the ring, photos of my fiance with the ring, and the receipt.
Next, let’s cover some other items to include in the packet you will be sending. You will fill out another government form named a G-325A Biographic Information. As the name of the form implies, you fill in biographic information about the both of you. You will include two passport style photos of the fiance and self. Finding places to take these photos are easy to find both here and in Thailand. You will fill out your own information on the I-129F which is easy enough, but also will fill out your fiance’s info. The fiance is named the ‘beneficiary’ throughout the form. You will need current address, employer, past 5 years of addresses and employers, and any children information (even if they are not coming to the U.S.). It is very important you have your fiance’s name and address in the Thai alphabet too.
The best tip I can give you is to gather all of your fiance’s documents while in Thailand. This will save both time and money. If not, the fiance will need to later send you everything through the mail. Have the fiance type and sign a dated statement of intent to marry you. This statement can be as simple as stating the name and that it is their wish to marry you and are free to do so. Make photocopies of birth certificates, divorce certificates, and anything else mentioned previously. Of course, if you decided to marry after visiting each other in person, then the items need to be sent through mail. Mail including only documents takes about two weeks to arrive from Thailand to the United States. Faster shipping options can be purchased but are rather expensive.
Perhaps the best thing that can be done when putting the packet together is organizing everything well. Go buy a big binder, clear protective folders, and colored labels. You need to type a cover letter and a precise table of contents. Include what is in each section as well as the number of items. Presenting everything well organized will make it easier for the officer assigned to your case. Again, I prepared everything for my I-129F packet alone. You will be working with an attorney. Listen to the attorney and follow their advice. By putting together everything organized, you make the attorney’s job easier. They may tell you a certain way to list what where on your table of contents. Then again, they may just do it all for you.
Best of luck with your I-129F petition! Check and double check that you have everything. Present the packet nicely. Heed any advice given by your attorney. After your packet is sent to USCIS it will seem like an eternity for you to receive the letter saying it has been approved and forwarded to the National Visa Center. The best thing you can do is have the packet put together perfectly so that you are not denied or receive an RFE. Hopefully, you are already staying in Thailand or can go visit again as the process is lengthy. After approval, the petition will go to the National Visa Center and then to Thailand. Fortunately, the process after the USCIS approval is nowhere near as long. Best wishes to you both!