When we talk about the K-1 process, there is a lot of focus placed on paperwork and bureaucracy, naturally. Without these two things, there is no K-1 visa and the bright future together that you're hoping for feels like an impossible dream. But more than any thoughts about immigration lawyers or assembling your application packet, I hope you will remember to take time for your relationship itself.
I am a researcher (by nature, not by profession), and I don't go more than a few hours without looking up information about something that I'm curious about. In a weird way, the K-1 process was a dream for me because there was so much information to consume. Every day I could read new stories on VisaJourney and search out new, obscure situations that I was afraid could happen to us.
Did any of these things help move our application along? Not even a tiny little bit. Did any of them make my relationship stronger? Well, you try having a conversation with your partner while they're wading through 20 internet browser tabs about their latest obsession.
Learn from my mistakes, and please, PLEASE remember why you're doing this in the first place. I know the idea of keeping your "why" in mind is something people talk about a lot in business — put the customer first, or hold the impact that you're hoping for in the forefront of your mind so that when things are tough you remember why you do what you do.
But the K-1 process is no different, and I would argue that the "why" here is much more crucial to its ultimate success anyway. Not only do you need to have an actual relationship with someone in order to apply for a K-1 visa, but you need to maintain that relationship if you want to ultimately marry them and build a life together.
Do you find yourselves talking about visas and paperwork every time you talk? Try talking about something else — heck, how about something fun, even? Remember Pavlov's experiment with his dog and a bell? He rang the bell and fed the dog at the same time, until the sound of the bell alone made his dog drool with no food in sight. Do you want a similar association to be made between your face (or your voice on the phone) and visa-related stress? Talk about movies, the news, your day at work, or tell your partner a cheesy joke you read, and don't let your presence become associated with stress and frustration by association.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Share responsibility for your K-1 process! If you're working on it alone (or your partner is) and then it is not successful, how angry will you be at your partner for not helping you (or vice versa)? Even if one of you has strengths in this area, share some ownership of the process. This is great practice for married life anyway, unless you're operating under the illusion that marriage isn't a partnership.
If you're feeling very high-strung about the entire process and find it hard to stomach this advice to relax and go on a date, I'll give you some homework. If you feel like you need to be doing something to move the process along, then you can see this time as further building up your evidence of an ongoing relationship. At various points in the process, you need to show evidence that you and your partner are communicating and spending time together. Do something fun, and at the same time build up that file that you can take to your interview with you. Take a short flight somewhere for a weekend getaway, if you've got the resources, and save your boarding passes for evidence. Chat about things on WhatsApp for a couple hours a day, and keep those chat transcripts for secondary evidence. Take photos together, then spend time together picking out your favorites for more secondary evidence to add to your file. Keep gathering the documents you need while enjoying your time together, and before you know it, the waiting game will be finished and you'll head to your interview with a file full of happy memories.