Immigration attorney Elizabeth Van Arkel regularly assists couples with K-1 visas – the nonimmigrant visa used by couples who are engaged and one of them is a US citizen. Here, Elizabeth continues a series of articles analyzing the most difficult legal questions some couples face in her favorite reality TV series, “90 Day Fiancé,” and the latest spinoff series, “Before the 90 Days.”
Before digging deep into the immigration issues from “Before the 90 Days” Season 6, which in true TLC style has been filled with fireworks of emotions, should we talk about Gino? (Sung to the tune of “We don’t talk about Bruno…!”)
To my surprise, the subject of this season, Gino Palazzolo, is no stranger to the K-1 visa process, often referred to as a fiancé visa or a spousal visa. His ex-wife is Brazilian, and he applied and brought her over in the K-1 visa process. To petition a new fiancé to the US, Gino has to be legally divorced from his former spouse.
There is no limit to how many times a US citizen can apply for a fiancé visa or spousal visa. Of course, each application needs to be based on a legitimate bona fide relationship with the person and cannot be based on fraud and/or only to obtain a green card for the immigrant. One big limitation on the US citizen petitioning their fiancé is that they cannot have committed certain serious crimes. This is because the US wants to ensure that the immigrant will not come to the United States and potentially enter into an abusive situation.
As Jasmine is from Panama, Gino needs to file immigration paperwork to bring her to the US. They are engaged to be married and have elected to go through the K-1 visa process for fiancés. Without the paperwork filed and approved, it would be extremely difficult for Jasmine to come in and out of the United States to visit Gino as Customs and Border Patrol officers may think that Jasmine has the intention to live permanently in the United States and would likely not let her in on a visitor visa. Without a showing of strong ties to her home country and proof that she is truly only here as a visitor, they may determine that Jasmine has “immigrant intent” and is not allowed on a visitor visa.
During Season 6, we learn that Gino applied for his fiancé Jasmine’s K-1 visa and it’s been pending for 12 months. Jasmine has grown frustrated that the process is taking so long. However, a cursory glance at processing times at all of the service centers shows that the average processing time for K-1 visas is 10.5-16.5 months.
Jasmine wants Gino to hire an immigration lawyer for her so that their case can be expedited. If only immigration attorneys had a magic wand where they could have each of their cases expedited. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down case processing times as well as visa interview appointments at consulates across the world.
However, if a case is stuck with no explanation, an immigration attorney may be able to assist through inquiries to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), assist in Congressional involvement, or even file a Writ of Mandamus in federal court.
Even once the I-129F (the form filed to start the K-1 visa process) is approved by USCIS, the case must then transfer to the National Visa Center where a series of documents are uploaded to confirm that a visa interview may be scheduled at the consulate in their home country. This can add another 2-3 months to the already long process and could be even longer depending on the waiting times for visa interviews in their country. When the K-1 visa is approved, they can travel to the US to be with their US citizen fiancé. They then have 90 days to get married…hence the name of the original show.
All that being said, my sleuthing has at least hinted that Jasmine is in Michigan with Gino. Woo hoo! They made it and their K-1 visa has been approved! Whether the relationship will last…only time will tell!