San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s ability to bring a Pakistani wife to the country through an online relationship exposes loopholes in the U.S. immigration system terrorist organizations can capitalize on.
Farook and Tashfeen Malik met on a dating website and maintained an online relationship prior to Malik coming to the U.S. in July, 2014. Malik, a Pakistani citizen, entered the country on a K-1 visa, commonly known as a fiance visa.
Numbers from the U.S. Department of State show the K-1 visa has a much higher admittance rate than practically any other type of visa.
David North, a fellow at The Center for Immigration Studies, warned about the outstanding acceptance rate years ago, and says it keeps climbing with very few cases being rejected.
“It is highly unlikely not to obtain a K-1 visa no matter what the procedure is,” North tells The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The State Department is much more likely to say no to practically and kind of visa that comes before them.”
Data on admittance rates for each visa category from the State Department show the K-1 visa only had 118 rejections out of 36,425 applications in 2014. This ratio of 1:308 can be compared to the most popular categories of the B-1 tourist and business visa (1:6.5) and the F-1 student visa (1:5.7). Even visa categories that apply to diplomats gaining entry to the U.S., such as the A-1 (1:74), have approval ratings far below the K-1.
“That suggests to me either that all these brides and grooms are really pure, or that the system is less vigorous,” North tells TheDCNF.
The only categories that had higher approval ratings in 2010 were the NATO-1 to 7 which are issued to NATO officials. Even this visa category is now behind the K-1 with about 293 approvals for every rejection last year.
The eligibility requirements for obtaining a K-1 visa are also much more relaxed compared to other visa categories. A checklist on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website gives the following requirements for eligibility:
- You (the petitioner) are a U.S. citizen.
- You intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States.
- You and your fiancé(e) are both free to marry and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.
- You met each other, in person, at least once within 2 years of filing your petition.
Even if the couple fails to meet the last criteria of having met in person, they can still file a waiver if they qualify for at least one of two exception.
1. If the requirement to meet would violate strict and long-established customs of your or your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice.
2. If you prove that the requirement to meet would result in extreme hardship to you.
An advantage K-1 applicants face is they are endorsed by a U.S. citizen, which may instill trust in the person handling the case.
“The image of somebody that is about to married to a U.S. citizen is a pretty high image,” he says.