Tashfeen Malik came to the United States in July 2014 on a K-1 visa, known casually as a “fiance visa,” and, now, a little more than a year later, she is dead after allegedly helping her husband slaughter 14 people in San Bernardino, California, this week.
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Little is known about Malik, 29. A Muslim-born Pakistani native, Malik entered the country legally by using one of a handful of visas that require background checks and security screenings.
In order to get a seal of approval from the U.S. government on their relationship, Malik and her then-boyfriend, Syed Rizwan Farooq, a U.S. citizen, had to prove they were in love and planning to marry within 90 days. They met the standard, and passed the screening process.
But doing so has now raised questions about immigration procedures.
What Is a 'Fiance' Visa?
The visa is for U.S. citizens who plan to marry non-U.S. citizens. After the visa is issued, the marriage ceremony must take place on U.S. soil within 90 days, otherwise the non-citizen will be deported back to their home country, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The application process requires an I-129 form, which asks lots of basic information and also requires the couple to provide identifying documents, including birth certificates and proof of U.S. citizenship. The couple also has to divulge information on previous run-ins with the law, and prior convictions. The Citizenship and Immigration Services then reviews both domestic and international criminal databases to gather information, while also relying on other federal agencies to back them up.
Federal officials maintain they have a very effective, rigorous screening process in place for people from countries with links to jihadist movement.
The entire review process can take anywhere from five to eight months, after which the files get handed over to the U.S. State Department for another thorough look at the couple’s personal histories.
Once the couple clears this hurdle, the fiance-in-question is called in for an in-person interview with U.S. embassy staff in their residing country. Questions like “How did you two meet?” are asked, though this process varies from country to country.
Finally, if they’ve made it through these steps, the visa is granted. Travel tickets are purchased. The couple gets married.
Malik and Farooq married the month after her arrival and she eventually became a lawful permanent resident.
The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to a request for comment.
Who Is Concerned About Visa Program?
“In our struggle against terrorism, we are dealing with an enemy that has shown it is not only capable of bypassing U.S. screening, but of recruiting and radicalizing Muslim migrants after their entry to the United States,” Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in a letter Thursday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Their letter requests information not only of the two perpetrators, but also their parents’ immigration histories. It also echoes the lawmakers’ August request for the immigration records of 72 terror suspects.
The Obama Administration has not yet released these records.
The letter comes just days before Congress looks to pass a broad spending agreement that will fund, among other things, immigration programs and national security.