Certain American citizens (USCs) and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may sponsor close relatives for immigration to the United States. Family-based immigration involves a two- or three-step procedure. In some cases, the steps are consolidated. However, there are always two decisions – one on the “petition” to see if the relationship qualifies under the law; and the other – the relative’s personal eligibility to immigrate. Here is a basic discussion of the rules and procedures for family-based visas, starting with temporary visas followed by immigrant visas.
Family-sponsored temporary visas
Fiancé visas (K-1)
A K-1 is a temporary visa available only to the fiancé of a U.S. citizen. A K-1 petition is filed with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the USC’s residence. The petition is usually decided in five to seven months. The K-1 petition is approved and documents are then sent to the designated American consulate. The foreign national fiancé is then invited to the consulate for an interview and, hopefully, issuance of the K-1 visa. The fiancé must come to the U.S. within six months. The parties must marry within 90 days. Then the foreign national obtains a temporary work permit and applies for permanent resident status (adjustment of status) with USCIS.
For a K-1, the sponsor must have physically met the foreign national fiancé within the preceding two years and prove it. Usually a photograph and other documents are required. Many consuls quickly process fiancé petitions. Others view them as a high fraud situation and investigate looking for other marriages and past visa fraud.
Lawler & Lawler processes fiancé visas quickly. We also intervene with the consul to try to expedite fiancé visas when there is a good reason to do so.
Temporary visa after marriage to a U.S. citizen (K-3)
This is a relatively new visa class. A K-3 visa permits the foreign national spouse of a USC to immigrate quickly by first obtaining a temporary visa similar to a K-1 fiancé visa. The parties may marry in the U.S. or overseas. A temporary visa petition and an immediate relative petition are filed to secure this visa.
Once the temporary visa petition is approved and forwarded to the American Consulate, the foreign national applies for the K-3 visa. Once issued the foreign national can come to the U.S., apply for a work permit and then take steps to acquire permanent residence either through the USCIS or the American Consulate.
In some cases the processing of a K-3 is faster than an immigrant visa.
The V visa is a temporary visa allowing certain prospective immigrants to enter the U.S. while waiting for a second preference visa (discussed further below) to become available.
V-1 visas are for the foreign national spouse of a permanent resident who is the principal beneficiary of a family-based petition which was filed prior to December 21, 2000.
V-2 visas are for the child of a permanent resident who is the principal beneficiary of a family-based visa petition that was filed prior to December 21, 2001. If the child turns 21 before a priority date becomes current, the child may remain in the U.S.
V-3 visas are for the children of a V-1 or V-2 visa holder.