EP36: Writing The Perfect I-129F Letter of Intent to Marry
When submitting the I-129F petition to USCIS, one of the biggest requirements is the letter of intent to marry. This letter doesn’t have to be difficult to write but you should know all the elements that need to be included.
In this podcast episode, I discuss all the critical things that you need to include in your letter of intent to marry and what happens if you forget to submit one.
After many years of helping couples figure out the K1 visa process, it still amazes me how many and completely terrified about the process.
But then I look back at my own K1 visa and completely understand!
The Fear Of Making A Mistake On Your I-129F Petition
The unknown details can be scary and not a lot of couples have dedicated months or years to studying this process (nor should they!).
So, if you are reading this post or listening to the podcast, I want to reassure you that you can do this!
You do not need a lawyer to file your K1 visa.
Save your money and learn how to do it yourself. That’s exactly what I did and it has paid off so much. I’m now living in the US with my American husband, US-born son and another on the way.
You can have the “American Dream” as well without paying an expensive attorney. Keep reading (or listening) to this podcast episode to find out how…
Related Podcast: EP25: Types of evidence to include with your I-129F petition
What Is A Letter Of Intent To Marry?
You can think of the letter of intent to marry as a promissory note to USCIS.
“I promise that if you approve my K1 visa I will travel to the US to marry my petitioner… not try to find work…. or treat the visa as a way to visit the US…. I hereby promise“
You can see an example of the letter of intent to marry below. It’s brief and to the point which is what you want your letter to be as well.
This letter is absolutely required for your I-129F petition to be approved so be sure that you complete it and include it.
What’s Included In A Letter of Intent?
Now that we know what the letter of intent to marry looks like, what exactly should be included?
The following are the most important details you’ll want to include in the letter of intent. Of course, you can add additional information or attach evidence but this is optional.
- You’ll want to have two separate letters of intent for both you and your fiance. Each letter should have your full names.
USCIS address (filing address in Dallas, TX)
- Be sure to include the USCIS filing address (lockbox) that you will be sending it to.
- The date that you are signing the document should be included.
A statement you intend to marry within 90 days
- This is the main reason you are writing this letter! This is to let USCIS know that you truly do intend to get married in the US after receiving the K1 visa,
- Finally, you would sign the letter of intent to marry. I recommend signing with “wet ink” but some couples have been able to send photocopied letters of their signatures. There is a small chance of an RFE for this so it’s up to you which way to send it.
How To Write A Letter Of Intent To Marry?
The good news is that if have no interest in writing your letter of intent to marry from scratch, you can download a sample here.
For those of you who would prefer to do this yourself, here are some tips for writing a good letter of intent document.
- Keep it short, really short
- This letter should not be longer than one page. Trust me, you do not want to write a novel because the adjudicator may not read it all. If they do they may get a bit irritated that you didn’t get to the point right away.
- Don’t go into too much detail
- For everything else related to US immigration – details are good. But, when it comes to the letter of intent to marry you should only include what is necessary.
- Be clear that you will get married within 90 days
- Do not forget this line! You must write that you intend to marry within 90 days of entering the US… (or else something bad will happen! 😅)
- You can include evidence
- Some couples decide to provide proof that they will get married such as venue reservations or receipt for flowers or the wedding dress. This is completely optional though but it won’t hurt to include it.
- If your letter is longer than 1 page, include a cover letter
- I do not recommend writing a letter of intent longer than one page but I know some of you will do it anyway. If you do write a 2-page or more letter be sure to include a cover letter that shows what is included.
Should You Write Your Own Or Use A Sample?
Personally, I’d rather use a template and then tweak it a bit.
It’s really up to you what you decide to do but most couples will use the sample letter of intent to marry that I provide and just edit the names and date.
If you decide to write your own letter, try to stick with the tips I gave in the previous section. USCIS adjudicators are busy people and they do not want to be reading a 20-page explanation letter of why you intend to get married.
The quicker you get to the point, the faster they can complete processing of your I-129F petition… and who doesn’t want that?
Does A Letter Of Intent Need To Be Notarized?
This is a question I get frequently…
The answer is no. You do not need to have the letter of intent notarized.
This letter is not really binding and can’t be used against you in court or anything. It’s just a confirmation that you know the requirements of the K1 visa.
If you fail to get married within 90-days, you really can’t claim that you didn’t know that was a requirement because you signed your letter confirming this!
Save your money and don’t pay a notary public for this service. Simple write or download a sample letter and sign your names in ink.
Your foreign fiance will need to mail it to you after they’ve signed their copy though. You will not be able to use a copy of it that was emailed and printed (bummer, I know!)
If You Forget To Submit The Letter Of Intent To Marry?
First, I want to say DO NOT FORGET to include the letter of intent with your I-129F petition.
Ok, don’t say that I didn’t warn you now… 😉
If it’s too late and you’ve already submitted the I-129F petition without the letter of intent to marry – here’s what you can look forward to!
- USCIS will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE)
- Thankfully, USCIS will not outright deny your petition. Instead, they will issue an RFE requesting the letter be sent to them before a decision can be made on your case.
- You will have 30 days to respond
- It’s really important that you check your mail frequently so that you don’t miss a request from USCIS. Be sure that you keep your address updated with them at all times. You only have about 30 days to respond to this type of RFE.
- This can delay the processing of your I-129F by up to 60 days
- Unfortunately, receiving an RFE for the letter of intent to marry means a serious delay in your approval. The delay can be as long as 60 days!
Related Podcast: EP34: Can you expedite your I-129F petition for faster approval?
Failing To Marry Within 90 Days Of Entering US On K1 Visa
Ok, so you’ve already sent in your letter of intent to marry and have been approved for the K1 visa.
You pack your bags and fly (or drive) to the United States to begin your new life with your fiance (the love of your life!)
But then things don’t go as planned…
Either your relationship goes south, you changed your mind or you met someone else that is an even better match for you.
What the heck will happen to you if you fail to marry within the 90-day requirement for the K1 visa?
The K1 holder will fall out-of-status
- Yup, it’s true! You only have valid legal residence in the US while your K1 visa is valid. This means that you can only stay legally for 90 days unless you get married. If you don’t get married, you are required to leave before the K1 visa expires.
Accrue unlawful presence time inside the US
- If you decide to stay in the US you are basically staying as an illegal alien (resident). This means that every day that you stay you are accruing unlawful presence time inside the US which will affect your chances of getting a visa in the future.
If you leave the US before 6 months…
- The good news is that there is a penalty if you leave within 6 months of your K1 visa expiring. You may still be asked at a future immigration interview but you won’t risk being barred entry.
If you leave the US between 6 months and 1 year…
- The problem with staying in the US longer than 6 months is that you begin to accrue unlawful presence time and this can affect your chances of being allowed into the country again if you leave or are deported. If you do leave, you will trigger a 3-year bar from entry.
If you leave after 1 year = 10-year bar
- It’s a similar situation as above if you stay in the US 1 year or more after your K1 visa expires. You accrue unlawful presence time during your stay that can result in a 10-year bar from entry into the US once you leave or are deported.
According to a VOX artcile, if the 1996 law that created the 3 and 10 year bar wasn’t enacted there would be 5.3 million less illegal residents in the United States! That is about half the current population. The 1996 law has made it much more difficult for people who overstayed visas to adjust status legally.
Marrying A Different US Citizen Than The Petitioner
This may sound really strange but I get several emails a month asking if it’s OK to marry someone other than the petitioner after entering on the K1 visa.
The answer is pretty simple…. no, you must marry the original petitioner.
Okay, I won’t say that you are forced to marry anyone but if you want to legally stay in the US you need to marry the person who petitioned for you.
Of course, you are free to not get married at all but the catch is that you’ll need to leave the US and have someone else petition for you.
Unfortunately, you have no legal way of staying in the US if you don’t marry the original petitioner. Your other option would be to leave the US and have your new spouse petition for you using form I-130 while you are abroad.
Related Post: K1 visa marry someone else other than petitioner?
Final Thoughts On The Letter Of Intent To Marry
The letter of intent to marry doesn’t have to be hard to write (or written at all!). Download this awesome sample I created for you to save you time and hassle.
Remember, the important thing is that you submit your letter of intent to marry with your I-129F petition. I’ve heard from couples who have forgottent this letter and one of two things happened:
- They recieved and RFE requesting the letter of intent (one from each fiance)
- They received a denial notice
Best case scenario would be that you don’t forget to submit it but the next best thing is receiving an RFE so you can fix the mistake.
If USCIS does send you a denial notice, your option is to reapply (yes, this means paying the filing fee again!) and incude the letters.
Before submitting your I-129F petition to USCIS, get the help you need to make sure everything you are sending is correct! Join the Migrant Academy today (and get lifetime membership) and get access to the K1 visa course, online visa case tracker, community of other couples and a huge resource library with sample letters, documents and checklists!
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Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.