Dubuque woman joins lawsuit against U.S. State Department over K1-Fiancée Visas

Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:02 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - An eastern Iowa woman has joined over 150 others from across the county in a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department.

The lawsuit claims the department is deprioritizing issuing K1- Fiancée visas, even after some COVID-19-related restrictions were lifted. A K1 visa allows someone from outside of the country to enter the United States and then marry a U.S. citizen within 90 days.

“At the heart of immigration, it’s just families wanting to be together,” Mariah Schrack, of Dubuque, who is part of the lawsuit, said.

Schrack is hoping to be reunited with her fiancée, Alex. The pair meet while she was in Rwanda, completing an internship, finishing her master’s degree in public health. Alex was her translator. After a second trip and staying in touch, Alex got to visit Mariah for Christmas in 2019.

“And we actually had an ugly sweater party in which he proposed with all my friends and then in January is when we petitioned for the K1-Fiancée visa," Schrack said.

That process started in January of 2020, in hopes Alex would be back by August. But then COVID-19 hit, causing the U.S. State Department to pause most visas.

“The consulates, a majority of them are still using the excuse of COVID and resources lacking, but in reality, it can be done,” Schrack said.

Schrack said her petition is still on hold, despite other visas able to resume. She met others online like her, waiting for their K1s to be processed. Many of them came together to form a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department, claiming the department is deprioritizing K1s. The lawsuit claims it’s in an effort to limit legal immigration.

“In an internal document, our legal team for this case has found that they (U.S. State Department) told them (consulates) to deprioritize K1 visas to the lowest priority, which they cannot do because it’s a U.S. citizen petitioning,” Schrack said.

Schrack said the wait has been hard.

“I have a five-year-old that has grown attached to him through our video chats and when he has been here to visit. Really not knowing when your family can be together, but knowing you have the legal right as U.S. citizen to marry and that the government is preventing you from having our happy family, while you are trying to do everything the legal way and jumping through the loops and obstacles they put in your path,” Schrack said.

Around the time the lawsuit was announced, the State Department said embassies could begin issuing K1s with high priority. Mariah said there’s still no movement on her petition. She hopes the lawsuit changes that for not only her but others waiting to be united with their families.

“We’ve been following everything, we’ve paid our fees and it’s just one obstacle after the other and unfortunately the Department of State can use COVID to their delays,” Schrack said.

The State Department’s press office was contacted about this story but said it was unable to comment on current litigation.

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