K1 visa welcome letters and when you can actually begin the next step in the K1 visa process.
We’ve had a lot of people asking questions ranging from “When will I receive the welcome letter? “When can I get started with the next steps?” “I have received multiple letters, what do they mean?” “Can I get started yet or not?” and “When am I going to have my interview?”
There have been changes with COVID in the process for notifying individuals going through the K1 visa process. For those of you who maybe are just starting your K1 visa journey, let’s go over the basic steps that are involved.
The first step in the K1 visa journey is filing a petition, an I-129F petition, to show that you have a real relationship. Once that petition is approved, your case will be forwarded to the US embassy or consulate in the country where you are residing.
Once that petition is approved, the National Visa Center is involved in that process. Previously, what we saw pre-COVID is that someone’s petition would be approved and we would get an email from the US embassy or consulate within a matter of a few weeks to get started on the next steps.
When COVID happened, the US embassies and consulates had really slowed down. Most of them closed during COVID and then they reopened slowly. There are some US embassies and consulates that are really only processing emergency-based K1 visas like the Philippines.
What has changed with the welcome letter is that there have been a series of three letters. If you don’t get three letters, don’t panic. Immigration is constantly changing things and it just might be different based on your country of origin.
What we are seeing in most of our cases is that after the petition is approved, we receive a letter from the National Visa Center. The letter from the National Visa Center says, “We are holding your petition until the US embassy or consulate lets us know that they have appointments available and then we will forward your application to that US embassy or consulate to be reviewed.”
That’s the first letter. If you receive that letter from the National Visa Center, it’ll let you know they’re holding your case. That’s not the welcome letter. That’s just a notification that your file is in queue, so that doesn’t mean that you should start doing anything with regards to the next steps.
You can look ahead and be prepared to know things like the police clearance where you would need to obtain it. But you want to hold off on getting those items officially until you receive the actual welcome letter because a lot of them have expiration dates.
What we do with our clients is we receive that letter and we just keep track of it, waiting for the case to be transferred.
The second letter we receive is a notification from the National Visa Center that says, “Great news. We’re transferring your file to the US embassy or consulate abroad.” In that letter, it will tell you wait for the US embassy or consulate to provide you with additional instructions.
With that letter, again, you aren’t needing to take any steps yet. It lets you know your file is being transferred. Usually, it will take a few weeks. After we get that transfer notice, then within two to three weeks typically we will receive the official welcome letter.
That is the letter that comes from the US embassy or consulate letting you know, “We have received your petition. You are welcome to move forward with preparing the next set of application forms.” There’s a mini affidavit of support, one of the parts in getting your certified records, your police clearance, scheduling your medical exam.
When you get that letter letting from the US embassy or consulate letting you know, “We have your petition. We’re ready. Go ahead, get started.” That is when you would start scheduling your medical exam and doing those other things to get ready for your interview.
With regards to timing, those were just some of the estimates with regards to when you get the transfer notice. You’ll receive that follow-up notice from the embassy within a few weeks. However with regards to when you personally will receive your welcome letter, it really depends.
It will depend on the country where you are living, the country where your case will be processed. Some US embassies will quickly move through those three letters. We’ll have clients where we just get letter after letter after letter within a period of about two months and we get to get started right away in having an interview.
There are other countries where it’ll be a very long time before individuals receive the welcome letter. In general, timing will really just depend.