Due to processing delays and quota backlogs, husbands, wives and children of permanent residents often wait five to six years abroad to get their immigrant visas. On December 21, 2002, Congress passed the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act (LIFE) with the intention of bringing families together. While many wait in their country, separated from spouses and parents, many others are in the U.S. without lawful status and unable to work.
LIFE, among other provisions, created a new V visa that allows certain spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents to live and work in the United States while their immigrant cases are awaiting adjudication.
Qualifications: The V visa is available to the spouse and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents. The applicant must have been waiting for permanent residence three or more years from the time USCIS received a second preference petition (Form I-130) filed on his behalf. USCIS must have received the applicant’s petition (Form I-130) on or before December 21, 2000.
Benefits: A V visa holder can legally reside and work in the United States. while waiting for the review of his permanent residency application. The immigrant applicants who are waiting abroad will be able to visit the U.S. as nonimmigrants.
Procedure: V visa applicants outside the U.S. can apply for their V visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. Applicants in the U.S., even those that are here unlawfully, may change their status without returning home.
Unlawful presence and inadmissibility: V visa applicants are NOT inadmissible for having been unlawfully present in the U.S. more than 180 days.