Because of the long waiting times for family-based green cards, many U.S. citizens want to have their families with them in the U.S. during the process. A family visa lawyer can help get your foreign relatives into the U.S. with nonimmigrant status while they wait for their green cards.
What Are the Nonimmigrant Family Visa Types?
The only available nonimmigrant family visa is the K visa classification. There are four main categories that vary based on how the family member is related to you, the U.S. citizen sponsor:
- The K-1 visa is designed for the fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens. Your fiancé(e) only qualifies if you plan to marry him or her within 90 days of his or her entry into the U.S. and the two of you have met in the two years preceding the petition.
- The K-2 visa is for the children of your fiancé(e) to come into the U.S. while they wait to have their status adjusted and obtain green cards.
- K-3 visas are reserved for the foreign spouses of U.S. citizens. This category can only be obtained if you, the citizen sponsor, have already filed an I-130 petition and are awaiting a decision.
- Lastly, the K-4 visa is designated for the unmarried children of your qualified K-3 spouse. If the K-4 applicant is your step-child, then the marriage between you and your spouse must have taken place before the child turned 18.
All K visa holders can apply for employment authorization so that they can work in the U.S. while their I-130 is pending. However, failing to marry within 90 days will void the K-1 and K-2 visas while divorce or annulment will void the K-3 and K-4 visas. The foreign national must then leave the U.S. or be considered “out of status”.
The Family Visa Application Process Overview
K-1 and K-2
The general process for receiving a nonimmigrant visa in the first two categories is:
- File an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) on behalf of the visa applicant and wait for approval.
- Have your fiancé(e) go to the designated U.S. Consulate or Embassy to apply for the visa and go through an interview. This step is necessary for the Department of State (DOS) to determine if your relationship is fraudulent.
- If everything goes well, your K-1 fiancé(e) will be issued a visa and can enter the U.S. through a port of entry. Once the marriage has taken place, he or she can immediately apply for an adjustment of status for both themselves and their K-2 dependents.
K-3 and K-4
For foreign spouses and their dependents, the process varies slightly because two different kinds of petitions are required:
- In order for a K-3 applicant to be qualified, the DOS must have already received an I-130 form filed on your spouse’s behalf. You do not need to submit a separate petition for a K-4 dependent.
- Then you can file an I-129F petition and wait for it to be approved.
- Once you receive approval, your spouse and his or her children can then go to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to go through an interview similar to that of the K-1 visa.
- If the visa is issued, then the K-3 and K-4 holders can travel to a U.S. port of entry. Once the I-130 is approved and the priority date is current, a visa number will be available for your spouse to apply for an adjustment of status.
Family Visa Interview
Many people that go through the family visa process have concerns about the interview that the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse must participate in before receiving their visas. As stated above, these interviews are simply put into place to verify the relationship between the foreign national and the U.S. citizen sponsor.
Here are some sample family visa interview questions:
- How did you and your fiancé(e)/spouse first meet?
- How long have you known your fiancé(e)/spouse?
- What does your fiancé(e)/spouse do for a living?
- Who are the family members of your fiancé(e)/spouse?
In general, if your relationship is legitimate, then the interview should not be an obstacle. Work alongside a family visa lawyer and review basic information with your fiancé(e)/spouse before the interview.
How Can I Change My Status?
After entering the U.S. through a nonimmigrant family visa, your relative can file for an adjustment of status to make the switch to a Lawful Permanent Resident by obtaining a green card.
To do this, you must file an I-130 petition on the behalf of your spouse or each dependent. Once that is approved, your family member must then wait for his or her priority date to become current with the DOS visa bulletin.
When that happens, your spouse or dependent can file for an adjustment of status by submitting an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.
It is important to note that K-1 visa holders must get married before they can file for an adjustment of status. If your fiancé(e) has overstayed, then getting married and filing the petition will allow him or her to be considered “in status” during the processing time.
Can I Get an Extension?
The K-1 and K-2 visas are valid for a one-time entry of 90 days after you enter the U.S. You have until that time to get married and file a petition for status adjustment. Once your green card is being processed, you will be permitted to stay in the U.S. until your petition is approved.
Because K-3 and K-4 visas are valid for two years, you can apply for an extension by submitting an I-539 form at least 120 prior to the expiration of those two years. This can be done indefinitely or until the spouse or dependents receive their green cards.
How A Family Visa Lawyer Can Help
When you want your family to be with you in the U.S. while they work toward lawful permanent residency, you need an expert family visa lawyer on your side. By analyzing your situation and using their vast experience, our immigration attorneys can help make sure that your family stays united throughout the immigration process.