If you are an immigrant who is married to a U.S. citizen, green card holder or visa holder, you may be wondering when you can visit your spouse in the United States. Being separated from your spouse is never easy. We are always working with our clients to find a solution that will minimize any time you have to spent separated from your partner.
The process for visiting your spouse in the U.S. can vary depending on your specific situation, but this article will provide a general overview of the process and some things to keep in mind.
How To Visit Your Spouse In The U.S
How you can visit your spouse in the U.S. will depend on a couple factors: how your spouse is in the U.S. (are they a citizen, green card holder or visa holder) and your current status.
We’ve outlined a few scenarios for you here:
Your Spouse is a U.S. Citizen
If you are married to your partner and your spouse is a U.S. citizen, you are considered their immediate relative and are eligible for a green card. In order to become a lawful permanent resident from outside of the U.S. your U.S. citizen partner will need to fill out Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative, and submit it to USCIS.
From there, you can choose to go through consular processing or apply for a K-3 visa. Consular Processing is where you apply for a green card from outside of the U.S. and then you are able to enter the U.S. once it is approved. A K-3 visa will allow you to enter the U.S. while the Form I-130 is processing and then adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident once it is approved. You may also apply to enter with your children, which requires additional K-4 visas.
Speak to an immigration attorney that can help you decide which option is better for your case. Sometimes the processing time for the K-3 visa is long enough that it is better to just go through consular processing.
If you are outside of the U.S. and engaged to a U.S. citizen, you can obtain a K-1 visa that will allow you to enter the U.S. to get married within 90 days. After you are married, you can stay in the U.S. and adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident.
Your Spouse is a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder)
If you are married to your partner and your spouse is a green card holder, you are considered their immediate relative and are eligible for a green card. In order to become a lawful permanent resident from outside of the U.S., your permanent resident partner will need to fill out Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative, and submit it to USCIS. From there, you can go through consular processing. Green card holders are unable to sponsor their spouses for K-3 visas.
Your Spouse is on a Nonimmigrant Visa
Many temporary visas will allow the visa holder to bring their spouse with them to the U.S. on a dependent visa. Each visa varies on if they allow family members to join their spouse in the U.S. and if the spouse is able to work or study while they are in the U.S.
For example, temporary workers on the H-1B visa are able to bring their immediate family members with them to the U.S. through an H-4 visa. H-4 visa holders are able to study while in the U.S. and can apply for employment authorization to be able to work.
E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, O-1 and TN visas are just a few of the visas that allow the visa holder to bring their immediate family members with them to the U.S.
It’s important to note that if your spouse is in the U.S. on a B-1 visa (a business visa), you are not eligible for a dependent visa, which is used for you to relocate. You should apply for a B-2 visa, which is a short-term visitor visa for visiting with family, and for vacations. The B-2 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa, which means it does not allow you to have permanent residency in the United States. To obtain a B-2 visa you should file Form DS-160, which is the visa application for nonimmigrants
Can You Apply For a Tourist Visa While You Wait for An Application To Be Approved?
If you have a pending visa or Form I-30 petition, it can be difficult, but not impossible, to obtain a B-2 tourist visa to visit your spouse. A tourist visa is a nonimmigrant visa, for temporary use, with no work rights. An immigration officer could think you’re trying to bypass consular processing, attempt to stay in the U.S. past the allowed date or even attempt to work in the U.S.
In order to have a tourist visa granted and to be admitted to the U.S., you have to prove that this is a temporary visit and you have full intentions of returning to the U.S. You can do this by providing evidence of a return flight ticket, employment or educational commitments in your home country, you have the financial means to support yourself during your trip, your lease or mortgage in your home country, etc. A lawyer can best advise if you could obtain a tourist visa and what evidence you should provide.
Visiting Your Spouse in the U.S. Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can I Stay During My Visit?
A tourist visa is valid for six months, or 180 days, and as long as you can still prove the visit is temporary, you may be able to return home and re-enter multiple times, as needed.
The K-3 visa allows for a two-year stay but can be renewed in two year increments. It is unlikely that you will need to renew your K-3 visa as your green card application should be processed by then.
Can I Work or Study During My U.S. Visit?
A tourist visa holder is not allowed to work or to attend school, even part-time. However, a K-3 visa holder can work and attend school, either part-time or full-time. Dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders’ work and study rights will depend on the visa. Please contact an immigration attorney for more information.
Can I Extend My U.S. Visit?
As a visiting spouse who has a nonimmigrant B-2 visa, you may decide to extend your stay in the U.S. for a period of up to six months. (Your total stay on a B visa may add to one year). However, you must file Form I-539 before your B visa expires, and wait for approval. If you aren’t approved before the expiration date of your original visa, you should make plans to leave the U.S. and then apply for re-entry. Remember, the border agent has the ability to deny you entry even if you have a valid tourist visa. You must be able to prove your visit is short and temporary.
If you hold a K-3 visa you may also extend your stay, in two year increments. You can apply for an extension of stay by filing Form I-539. However, you must file this form four months (120 days) before your current authorized stay expires.
What Documentation Do I Need to Support My Visa Application?
The documentation requirements for the two visa categories are different. The documents required for a B visa include but are not limited to:
- A passport that is valid for six months past the date of return
- Form DS-160 Application
- A recent digital photo
- Documentation of your past previous trips (if any) to the United States
Optional documents that are strongly recommended include:
- An official document stating the purpose of your trip
- A document that shows your intent to return home (including permanent employment, job offer, or date of school enrollment)
- Evidence of your ability to support yourself financially while in the United States
- Evidence of strong ongoing ties to your home country (business or home ownership, or family ties)
The purpose of the additional documentation is to provide strong supporting evidence of your desire and intent to return to your home country, and to leave the United States before your temporary visa expires.
Some of the most common reasons USCIS officials deny a spouse visitation on a tourist visa are:
- The presence of other family members living in the U.S.
- Your personal immigration history, including a past failure to leave the United States by the expiration date of your visa
The documents you need to provide to get a K-3 visa are different. Here are the minimum required documents:
- A valid passport
- A Form DS-160 application
- A receipt for the application
- Your Form I-130 application
- Marriage certificate to your spouse
- Birth certificate
- Any divorce or death certificates for previous spouses
- Police certificates
- Evidence of financial support
- Evidence of your relationship with your spouse
- Medical examination
- A passport photos (if you’re unable to upload it as part of the online application process)
Which Visa Is Better for a Foreign Spouse?
It depends on the nature of your visit and your long-term intent. On average, it may take approximately 19 months to process your K-3 visa. This is shorter than the processing time for a green card visa, which may take two years, or more.
What If You Are Unable To Obtain a Visa To Visit Your Spouse?
Working with an immigration attorney will help make sure you’ve explored every option to see your spouse. Unfortunately, there are times when you might not be able to obtain a visa to visit your spouse in the U.S. Depending on your situation, a lawyer may advise your spouse to change their status to one that allows them to bring dependents with them.
If that is not an option for your spouse and your spouse isn’t a U.S. citizen or green card holder, a lawyer can help your spouse obtain approval to leave the U.S. to visit you in your home country or you can choose to meet each other in another country.
Every case is different. That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you find the best solution for you.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Getting a Visa to Visit Your Spouse in the U.S.?
If you’re interested in getting a visa to visit your spouse in the United States, an attorney can help you decide which visa is best for your needs, and help you through the application process. Your lawyer can also help you with any other immigration-related issues you may have.
Call us today to schedule your consultation with a caring, experienced immigration attorney who can give you the help you need.
About Davis & Associates:
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in Houston & North Texas including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and surrounding areas. Their attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. Attorney Garry L. Davis is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
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Address: 17750 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75252
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Phone: (832) 742-0066