K1 Port of Entry: What To Expect When You Enter The US For The First Time
Until now you’ve probably been waiting a long time for your K1 visa stamp in your passport. Well, now that day is finally here. Getting ready for the K1 port of entry (POE) process can be a little scary. Not only are you moving to a new country but you really don’t know what to expect on your way there. Let me tell you, I was a nervous wreck during me K1 port of entry process too.
So, what exactly is the K1 Port of Entry?
It’s a term that basically means the method of entering the United States. This can be by air, land, or sea. But when it comes to immigration, it’s also used to describe what happens when you try to use your K1 visa. Most immigrant visas are only good for 1 entry. The K1 visa is special because it is considered a nonimmigrant visa and it’s also good for 1 entry.
My K1 Port Of Entry Story:
I decided to drive across the Canada/US border into New York because I wanted to bring my car with me. It felt like a road trip but I knew my life will change forever.
When I got to the border, I was asked to park my car and wait inside. The wait was about 15 minutes before I was called to the window of a man that worked for Customs and Border Protection. He was very nice and asked for my passport right away. He took my fingerprints and photograph and reviewed the K1 visa stamp and asked who my fiance was. I told him my fiance’s full name.
He then asked me where I was moving to. I answered by giving the full address. He explained the requirements of the K1 visa reminding me that I have 90 days to get married and then adjust status. He took the medical exam envelope that said “DO NOT OPEN” and stamped my passport with an I-94 which had the date of expiration. Interestingly.He didn’t review any of my evidence or documents.
I dropped my car off to have it transported while I comfortably flew to my destination.
Although my port of entry happened by land, the process is similar if you are flying into one of the many U.S. airports.
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K1 Port Of Entry Process and What To Bring With You
Once your flight lands, you should remember to get in the line for visitors (even if your U.S. citizen fiance is traveling with you). You are still considered a nonimmigrant until you adjust status with form I-485.
Bring your entire I-129F petition and K1 visa application with you. The last thing you want is to be asked for something that you didn’t bring with you. The CBP officer will likely take your fingerprints and ask you to provide the sealed medical envelope from the civil surgeon. You may need to wait up to an hour for them to complete the process so make sure that if you have a connecting flight you leave plenty of time for layover.
After the CBP officer reviews your passport and documents, they’ll stamp the visa with an I-94 that is good for 90 days. This is the main requirement for the K1 visa so make sure you get married within 90 days.
Some K1 holders choose to get married quickly at the courthouse so they can quickly apply for a green card. This is a great option but if you’ve been dreaming of a bigger wedding, you can wait until the very last day of your 90 day lawful status to get hitched. As long as you are wed by the time the K1 visa expires, you have fulfilled the requirement.
Of course, the sooner you apply for the I-485, the faster you will receive your work permit and green card. So don’t delay marriage because you want to see what living with your fiance is like. The K1 visa is not intended to be used as a “getting to know you” option.
One-Way Ticket or Round Trip When Using A K1 Visa
When I was buying my ticket, it was round trip. Why? Because it was actually cheaper. Strange right?
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose a round trip flight or a one-way ticket so pick what would cost less to save some money. If you are worried that a one-way ticket will cause difficulty during inspection with CBP, rest assured. They already know you intend to immigrate to the U.S. and as long as all looks good and you answer their questions, you will be granted entry.
Can CBP Deny Entry Into The US If I Have A K1 Visa?
Yes, absolutely! Having a K1 visa doesn’t guarantee entry into the U.S.. Ultimately, it’s up to the CBP officer to make a decision on whether you should be allowed into the country. It doesn’t really matter that the US consulate abroad gave your a visa, that has no baring on if CBP will allow you in.
Don’t worry though. Unless you say something like “I’m going to blow up Trump tower”, it’s unlikely that you will be turned away.
Seriously, don’t say anything bad about President Trump or use any forbidden words like “9/11”, “terrorism” and “I’m Muslim”…. just kidding! 🙂 All joking aside, just answer their questions honestly with as little words as possible. We don’t want you to ramble on and get yourself in trouble, right?
Can You Travel Outside The US Before Getting A Green Card?
Thinking of leaving the U.S. already? You just got here!
There are many K1 visa holders that want to plan a trip back home as soon as possible. But, it will be a few months before this is possible. Since the K1 visa is not a multiple entry visa, you can’t just leave and come back with it.
After you marry your sweetheart, you should apply for advanced parole with form I-131. This form is free and can be included with form I-485 (conditional residency) and I-765 (employment authorization). The advanced parole is usually approved within 2 months of submitting it along with the employment authorization document (EAD).
If there is some emergency where you must leave the U.S. before you have the advanced parole approved, you will need to apply for a CR1 visa to get back into the country. Why? Because you had no legal status when you left the country and now you are married. The U.S. spouse will need to start all over and petition for you with form I-130, petition for alien relative.
So, to avoid wasting more time and money just sit tight until you get the advanced parole before booking an international flight. In my case, I received the Advanced Parole document after 3 months when I submitted the I-485. I’m not saying you will get yours this quickly, but it will give you a general idea of how long you could be waiting.
What Questions Will CBP Ask You During Port Of Entry?
Most CBP officers are not real talkers. They rarely start small talk but if you find one that is more human and will spark up a conversation with you, count yourself lucky. They are trained to asked certain questions that will give them what they are looking for.
What are they looking for? Fraud and misrepresentation.
They want to make sure that you are truly eligible for the visa and that you didn’t lie to get it. You should know the details of your case completely because they will ask just about anything. Of course, they won’t have all details about your case on their computer, but they will review your documents quickly and ask questions relating to what you submitted.
If you’ve ever entered the U.S. before, you likely have an “immigration record” file that is connected to your Alien Number (A-number). This is similar to a social security number that is used to identify an immigrant between different immigration agencies.
Possible Questions Asked At Port Of Entry:
- What is your fiance’s name?
- What address will you be moving to?
- When will you get married?
- Do you plan on adjusting your status?
- Do you have any communicable diseases?
- Have you ever been denied entry?
These questions are designed to see whether you will lie to them or if your answers don’t match what they have in the system. Just be honest, you’ve already passed the hardest part of this process and are at the finish line.
Final Thoughts On K1 Port Of Entry Process
I’m sure you are extremely happy at the thought of finally moving to the U.S. Although you are sad to leave your family and friends behind, you’re excited at the chance for a brighter future with your fiance. This is exactly how I felt at the time. Now that I’ve been in America for years, I don’t regret my decision one bit.
You’re life will completely change, especially if you are coming from a country that isn’t “westernized”. You may need to learn the English language, learn to drive, get a job, and wrap your head around the healthcare system. Overall, you’ll have a lot of learning to do.
One other thing that I’ll warn you guys about is the time you will be unemployed. While waiting for my green card, I was unemployed for 5 months and it was driving me crazy. All I wanted to do was be productive and find a job. I had no friends and nothing to do but waste time. I eventually started to volunteer at a library which helped pass the time I was alone.
Consider finding a hobby or volunteer somewhere to help you make some new friends and pass the time while you wait for your work permit or green card.
How was your K1 port of entry process? Did you find it easy or hard? Did you like the U.S. now that it’s your home? Let me know in the comments below.
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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.