A “V visa” is a visa that was created by the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (“LIFE Act”), which was passed in 2000. The V visa category was created with the goal of reuniting families who either have been or could be separated for long stretches of time while the immigration process drags on.

Specifically, the LIFE Act contains provisions that apply to the spouse and children of a lawful permanent resident to prevent lengthy separations. A V visa allows the spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. to live and work in the country on a temporary basis. A V visa allows them to do this until they become eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status or some other type of visa.

Of course, a lawful permanent resident, also referred to as a green-card holder, has a right to live and work permanently in the U.S.. Green-card holders also have many additional privileges, such as the right to apply to the U.S. federal government for financial aid to fund their education and the right to start a business. Thus, the V visa allows the spouse and children of a person with permanent resident status to live with them in the U.S. rather than wait outside the U.S.

However, it is important to note that due to the eligibility requirements for a V visa, not many V visas are issued any longer. This is because many of the prospective candidates have since become eligible to apply directly for immigrant visas. Nonetheless, the V visa is still an option under current U.S. immigration law, and those who satisfy the eligibility criteria may apply for it.

Who Is Eligible for a V Visa?

As mentioned above, the main purpose of a V visa is to keep families from being separated while some family members are waiting to join a permanent resident in the U.S.. Specifically, the spouse or children of a lawful permanent resident may apply for a V visa. Approval of an application requires that the applicant satisfy all of the necessary criteria, which are as follows:

  • The parent or spouse who is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of their child or spouse on or before December 21, 2000, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • The lawful permanent resident must file a petition for each family member who wishes to obtain a V visa;
  • A V visa may be obtained only for a child who is both unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • A spouse seeking a V vias must also complete and file Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for a Spouse Beneficiary;
  • The priority date of the petition must be at least 3 years old. In other words, the immigrant spouse or child must have been waiting to receive an update on their immigration status for at least 3 years;
  • The priority date cannot be current either. A candidate can learn if their petition is current by checking the dates listed on the monthly Visa Bulletin, which is available on the website of the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs or by calling the contact number listed on the website;
  • An applicant must neither have had an immigrant visa interview nor be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview;
  • A petition must not already have been submitted for processing at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate;
  • Finally, the applicant must meet all other requirements for eligibility as an immigrant, e.g. has not committed any crimes that would make them ineligible for a visa.

In general, most petitions for a V visa are currently submitted for the parent of a child who is considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States and is 21 years of age or older. However, these petitions may still be filed for any person who qualifies under the criteria set forth above. Additionally, assuming all requirements are met, a V visa may be obtained for an immigrant spouse or child who is residing outside of the country or in the U.S.

Regardless of the relationship between the petitioner and the applicant, the majority of V visa holders will eventually need to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident. This can be done by filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, Form I-485, with the USCIS. Form I-485 is also the form that an immigrant submits to apply for a green card.

How Do I Apply for a V Visa?

A family member who is considered to be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. can initiate this process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS. Again, if the petition is submitted on behalf of a spouse, the petitioner must also have their spouse complete and submit Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for a Spouse Beneficiary.

In addition, if the applicant spouse and child are already living in the United States, then the petitioner should submit both of the following forms:

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

Or, if a nonimmigrant spouse or child is located outside of the United States, then they will need to obtain a V visa from a U.S. consulate or Embassy in the country in which they reside.

Can a V Visa Holder Obtain Employment and Travel Outside the United States?

A V visa holder is authorized to work in the U.S. and travel outside of the U.S.. However, they must obtain an Employment Authorization Document first, which permits visitors to temporarily work in the U.S.. As for travel requirements, a V visa holder must respect the following conditions:

  • If a V visa holder obtained their visa abroad, then they may travel outside of the U.S., so long as their V visa has not expired and they still remain eligible.
  • On the other hand, if they acquired their V visa while they were already living in the U.S., then they will need to visit a consular office abroad before returning to the U.S.

V visa holders would be wise to confirm travel requirements by visiting the USCIS website or by consulting with an immigration lawyer before they travel outside the U.S..

Should I Consult a Lawyer?

The USCIS offers many different types of visas to immigrants in the U.S.. This can be confusing since each of them has separate requirements and not everyone may be eligible to obtain a specific kind of visa. If you are unsure of which visa you qualify for or need help with a visa form, then it may be in your best interest to consult a local immigration attorney for further legal advice.

An experienced immigration attorney will already be familiar with the rules and procedures for obtaining a visa. Your attorney may know of visa options of which you are not aware. Your attorney can help you select the type of visa that is best suited to your situation. Your attorney can also assist you in filling out the necessary paperwork, or online forms, and can answer any questions you may have about nonimmigrant or immigrant visas.

Also, if there is a problem with your visa form or if you need to apply for an adjustment of your immigration status, your attorney can help with these tasks as well. Consulting an immigration attorney can help you feel more confident about your choice of options. Working with an attorney can also help you feel more confident that your application has the best chance of success.