New Visa Allows Family Members to Join their Spouses

On December 21, 2000, the president signed into law the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act). The LIFE Act unites families by addressing the problem created by the long backlog of immigrant visa applications for spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents (family 2nd preference), who are currently having to wait many years for a visa to become available to them. Currently, many of these people are precluded from visiting their spouse or parent in the United States on account of an administrative interpretation that the filing of their immigrant petition casts doubt on the bona fides of their applications for visitors visas, indicating instead they are intending immigrants.

The LIFE Act remedies this by introducing a new temporary “V” visa under which these spouses (and their children) can come to the United States and apply for adjustment of status in the United States, if their immigrant visa petitions have been pending for more than three years. In order to qualify for the V visa, the spouse or child must have already had an I-130 petition filed on their behalf on or before the enactment of the law. Individuals already in the United States may also change their status to the new V category, even if they are in the United States unlawfully. Another benefit for those in “V” status is eligibility for work authorization in the United States. Family members who were in the United States in unauthorized status at some prior point will not be prevented from obtaining a V visa. The reinstatement of 245(i) allows V visa holders to be eligible for adjusting their status to legal permanent residents.

The LIFE act also creates a new temporary status for spouses of U.S. citizens awaiting an immigrant visa. The K visa, normally reserved for fiancées of U.S. citizens, has been expanded to include spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. This expansion allows the spouses of a U.S. citizens to enter the United States and obtain work authorization while waiting for their permanent residency petitions to be approved. Eligibility is limited to those individuals for whom an immigrant visa petition has previously been filed, are outside the U.S., whose K visa petition was filed in the United States, and have a valid non-immigrant visa issued at the consulate where the marriage occurred (for those married to U.S. citizens). K status will now be available to future green card applicants.

If you, a family member or someone you know appears to be eligible for any of the new provisions above, you should seek reputable and qualified legal counsel immediately.