LIFE ACT AND AMENDMENTS
On December 21, 2000 the President signed into law significant new immigration legislation, effective April 1, 2001. The Legal Immigration and Family Equity (LIFE) Act and amendments have effectively created new categories of nonimmigrant visas, including three V Visas, the K-3 Visa and the K-4 Visa. Extremely helpful for second preference beneficiaries and spouses of U.S. citizens, these visas will help ease the immigration process for thousands of individuals, and reunite families separated for long periods of time during the process of immigration.
The new categories will allow the issuance of nonimmigrant visas to spouses, children and, in some cases, grandchildren of both lawful permanent resident aliens and spouses of U.S. citizens. Beneficiaries may apply for admission to the U.S. as nonimmigrants and then remain in the U.S. until the visa petition is approved or denied. If the petition is approved, beneficiaries may continue to remain in the U.S. until the application for adjustment of status is approved or denied, or may seek an immigrant visa at a consular office abroad.
These new categories specifically relate to spouses and children for whom an immigrant visa or adjustment of status is not available even though the petition has been filed. This unavailability may be due to lengthy processing delays or the absence of available visa numbers due to annual visa limitations.
The new V category is open to spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of legal permanent residents (LPRs) who have filed petitions for second preference (F2A) status with the INS on their behalf. These petitions must have been filed on or before December 21, 2000.
Unmarried children under the age of 21 of those beneficiaries may also be eligible for this classification.
Spouses who qualify for this status will be classified as V1; children will be classified as V2; and derivative children of either spouses or children will be classified as V3. In order to be classified as V3, applicants must show that they are the children of V1 or V2 status individuals. All applicants must be eligible for visa issuance under all other applicable immigration laws.
Because V Visas are only available for petitions filed on or before December 21, 2000, the category will eventually fade either in three years or when there are no more eligible candidates.
Applicants must show that they have been waiting at least three years for action by the INS on their petition. If the INS has approved the petition, applicants must demonstrate they have not received a visa number due to worldwide numerical limitations, or that their adjustment of status or immigrant visa is still pending.
The National Visa Center will send a special notice to all applicants who filed petitions on or before December 21, 2000 when the priority date is at least three years old (as long as the INS has a petition record in its files at the National Visa Center). The informative letter will outline the required documents and will instruct applicants to contact a visa issuing post. The letter will also contain relevant contact information.
V Visas will only be processed at current IV-issuing posts. Applicants must apply at the consular post designated in their I-130 petition. Posts will only process applicants who are residents of their consular districts or who are residents of their IV centralized region.
Because the V Visa functions as a substitute for an immigrant visa, much of the process is similar to that of obtaining an immigrant visa. Applicants may be asked to provide local documents establishing family relations and, in some cases, testimonials to establish the truth of these relationships. Applicants may also be asked to present evidence to establish that their health and criminal backgrounds meet standards sufficient to protect the American public.
K-3 and K-4 Visas
The new K visas are open to spouses of U.S. citizens who are the beneficiaries of an immigrant visa petition (I-130). The spouses' unmarried children under the age of 21 are also eligible. Unlike the V category, there are no laws enabling visa issuance for grandchildren of the spouse or the petitioner.
Spouses who qualify for this status will be classified as K3. In order to obtain K3 classification, the nonimmigrant visa petition must have been filed in the U.S. by the U.S. citizen spouse. Applicants must demonstrate that their marriage to a U.S. citizen is valid, that they are the beneficiaries of an I-130 immigrant visa petition filed with the INS, and that they wish to enter the U.S. to await approval of the I-130 petition or the availability of an immigrant visa.
If the petition has been approved, beneficiaries may wish to process their immigrant visas rather than the K3 visa. When the beneficiary applies for the nonimmigrant K3 visa the consular officer will ask whether they wish to find out if the approved petition has been received from INS. If so, the applicant may then have the petition forwarded to the processing consular so that the applicant may file an immigrant visa application. The application should be filed at the consular post designated by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services to process immigrant visa applications for nationals of the country in which the K3 processing post is located.
Children of spouses who qualify for this status will be classified as K4. In order to obtain K4 classification, the candidate must establish that he/she is the child of an alien entitled to K3 classification.
If the marriage of the beneficiary to the U.S. citizen took place abroad, the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. If the country does not have a consular post, the beneficiary must apply at the consular post designated by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services to accept immigrant visa applications from nationals of that country. If the marriage took place in the U.S. the applications must be filed in the country of residence of the alien spouse.
Because the K3 and K4 Visas function as substitutes for immigrant visas, much of the process is similar to that of obtaining an immigrant visa. Applicants may be asked to provide local documents establishing family relations and, in some cases, testimonials to establish the truth of these relationships. Applicants may also be asked to present evidence to establish that their health and criminal backgrounds meet standards sufficient to protect the American public.