There are specific visas available to married individuals. Spousal visas permit foreigners who are married to U.S citizens or LPRs to live in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. Spousal IR-1 / CR-1 visas are immigrant visas, which grant permanent resident status to spouses of either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, while K-3 visas are non-immigrant visas that permit foreigners to reside in the U.S. temporarily while their spousal visas are pending. Note that K-3 visas are available only to foreign spouses of U.S. citizens and not of LPRs.
Be aware that foreigners are not eligible for spousal visas in any of the following circumstances:
- the couple were not physically together at their marriage ceremony;
- the foreign spouse married in order to avoid immigration laws;
- the American spouse got their green card through a previous marriage; or
- the marriage took place while the foreign spouse was subject to removal from the U.S.
Foreign spouses who have been married for less than 2 years may get spousal visas on a conditional basis, after which they may apply for a permanent green card via Form I-751. Otherwise, the foreign spouse could lose legal status and face deportation.
As part of the visa petition process, the foreign spouse must be prepared to produce the following documents:
- a completed original of Form G-325A;
- the civil marriage certificate;
- passport-style photos of the sponsor and spouse;
- evidence of name changes (if applicable).
If the couple has children, the sponsor should file I-130 forms with for each of their foreign spouse’s children. While the foreigner’s spousal visa is pending, the children may be able to come to the U.S. earlier on a K-4 visa, depending on the situation.
U.S. citizens in California may also sponsor their foreign fiancé(e)s on a fiancé/ fiancée visa, also called K-1 visas. Keep in mind that K-1 visas provide couples only 90 days to get married after the foreigner comes to the U.S. Following the wedding, the alien fiancé(e) may adjust their status to a legal permanent resident by applying for a green card via an I-485 form.
To obtain a K-1 visa, the couple must meet the following 3 criteria:
- the U.S citizen and the visa applicant must have been legally permitted to wed when they submitted the K-1 visa petition (and remained eligible to marry since);
- the marriage must be legal according to the relevant state law (in California, a valid marriage is between 2 consensual adults 18 years or older or with parental consent and a court order);
- the couple must have met in person within the prior 2 years, unless their culture requires that they not meet prior to the wedding.
Typically, the non-citizen fiancé(e) needs to bring the following documentation to their visa petition interview:
- evidence of engagement with the U.S. citizen;
- medical reports;
- applicable fees.
VAWA Self Petitions
Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), individuals may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) if they are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by a:
- U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
- U.S. citizen parent;
- U.S. citizen son or daughter;
- lawful permanent resident spouse or former spouse; or
- lawful permanent resident parent.
A person may self-petition under VAWA by filing a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360) without their abusive family member’s knowledge or consent. If the self-petition is approved, the petitioner will be eligible to apply to become a lawful permanent resident.
Note that in order to be eligible for a green card as a VAWA self-petitioner, the self-petitioner must:
- properly file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
- be physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing;
- be eligible to receive an immigrant visa.
Contact the Law Offices of Joyce Komanapalli Jones
Family immigrant visas can involve complex and lengthy legal processes, whether you seek to sponsor an immediate or more distant family member. Attorney Joyce Komanapalli Jones is an experienced and understanding family visa attorney who can take a look at your unique situation and help you work on your petition for your spouse, child, parent, or other foreign family member (including yourself, in the case of self-petitions).