A V visa is a specific type of visa category that is reserved for nonimmigrants. The V visa was created by the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (“LIFE Act”), which was passed in December of 2000. V visas are intended to reunite families who either were or could be separated for long stretches of time during the immigration process.

Specifically, the LIFE Act contained certain provisions that applied to the children and spouses of United States lawful permanent residents in order to prevent such separations from happening. Simply put, a V visa allows the child or spouse of an individual who is considered to be a lawful permanent resident of the States to live and work in the country on a temporary basis. This is allowed until they themselves are allowed to apply for lawful permanent resident status, or some other type of visa.

Alternatively, a lawful permanent resident who is commonly referred to as a green card holder, has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Green card holders also have many additional rights, such as the right to apply for educational financial aid and the right to start a business of their own. As such, the V visa allows the children or spouses of those who already have this status to live with them, instead of living outside of the country until they are eligible.

It is imperative to note that because of the requirements for obtaining a V visa, most V visas are no longer issued. This is because many of the prospective candidates have since become eligible to apply directly for an immigrant visa. However, the category still exists under current U.S. immigration laws. Because of this, those who fulfill the requisite criteria will be considered eligible to apply for a V visa.

What Is A Spouse Visa?

A spousal visa is one that allows the spouse of a United States citizen to come to the United States themselves. Spouse or spousal visas are considered to be a type of V visa, or a nonimmigrant visa which allows the spouse of a lawful U.S. permanent resident to live and work in the States until they are eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status themselves.

As a United States citizen, there are two options for bringing your foreign spouse to the States:

  • Immigrant Visa For The Spouse Of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1): This specific type of visa requires the petitioner to submit an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, which is Form I-130; or
  • Nonimmigrant Visa For Spouse (K-3): A nonimmigrant visa for spouse, or K-3, must be filed in the country in which the couple were married. Once the visa process is complete and the spouse is issued their visa, they can come to the United States in order to await processing of their immigrant visa case. For this specific type of visa, the spouse (along with their U.S. citizen sponsor) must submit two petitions:
    • Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, and
    • Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F.

An accompanying spouse visa is a specific type of visa that is issued to the spouse of an individual who has already received a valid visa, for the purpose of traveling to the United States. An accompanying spouse visa is intended to reduce the amount of time of physical separation.

An example of this would be how a student who has been granted a F-1 visa may bring their spouse into the United States under the F-2 visa classification. Once the student has finished their studies, they must leave the States, and so must their spouse.

The fiancé(e) of an American citizen is also eligible to marry and live in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé (K-1) . In order to become eligible, they must submit an I-129F fiancé(e) petition. It is important to note that the requirements for obtaining this specific type of visa can be quite strict. This is due to the occurrence of immigration and marriage fraud, and immigration law and the officials who enforce such laws can be considerably rigid. Immigration and marriage fraud will be further discussed below.

How Do I Apply For A V Visa?

A family member who is considered to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States can initiate this process by filing the form that was mentioned in the above section, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). To reiterate, if the petition is for an immigrant spouse, the petitioner must also file and have their spouse complete Form I-130A, which is Supplemental Information for a Spouse Beneficiary.

Additionally, if the prospective candidates are already living in the United States, the petitioner will need to file both of the following forms:

  • Form I 539: This is an Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status; and
  • Form I-693: Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.

Alternatively, if a nonimmigrant spouse or child is located outside of the United States, they will need to obtain a V visa from a U.S. consulate.

A V visa holder is allowed to obtain employment and travel outside of the United States. However, they must obtain an Employment Authorization Document first, which permits visitors to temporarily work in the United States. In terms of traveling requirements, a V visa holder must abide by the following conditions:

  • If the V visa holder obtained their visa abroad, they may travel outside of the country, so long as their V visa has not expired and they still remain eligible; or
  • If they acquired their V visa while already living in the United States, they will need to visit a consular office abroad before returning to the States.

What Should I Know About Spouse Visa Fraud?

Using a spouse or fiancé visa as a way to illegally reside in the country is considered to be a serious crime. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will scrutinize applications for a spouse or fiancé visa and will carefully interview the couple in an effort to reduce fiance visa fraud.

Marriage immigration would be considered illegal when the marriage is based on fraud. Marriage fraud refers to a situation in which one person enters into a fraudulent marriage specifically with the intent to deceive immigration officials. This type of marriage may also be referred to as a sham marriage.

Some examples of what may constitute marriage immigration violations include:

  • Falsifying marriage documents;
  • Intentionally providing false information to immigration officials with the intent to deceive;
  • Setting up a fraudulent living arrangement in order to meet marriage immigration requirements; and
  • Entering into a marriage of convenience.

A marriage of convenience is a marriage in which two people marry for reasons other than being in love with each other. Although a marriage of convenience is technically legal, those involved must still follow all requirements for a legal marriage. An example of this would be having a valid marriage license, and being of legal age to enter into a marriage.

However, when a marriage is entered into with the intent to commit fraud, it is considered to be illegal. An example of this would be marrying solely so one spouse may gain U.S. citizenship.
In terms of legal consequences for a marriage immigration violation, it is classified as a felony crime. Examples of punishments include:

  • Deportation;
  • Loss of current immigration status;
  • A lifetime ban on obtaining United States citizenship;
  • Fines and/or prison sentencing for the citizen involved in the sham marriage; and/or
  • An annulled marriage.

Do I Need An Attorney For Help With A Spouse Visa?

If you have any questions regarding immigration or spousal visas, you should consult with an immigration lawyer. An experienced and local immigration attorney can help you understand the immigration process and which visa you or your spouse should apply for. Additionally, your lawyer will also be able to represent you in court, should any legal issues arise.