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Monday, April 16, 2012

I'm married to a US Citizen -- What Happens Next?

Marriage is a wonderful thing -- but how does it effect immigration law? Legal status? LPR (legal permanent resident or lawful permanent resident) and work status (EAD -- employment authorization documentation)?

It is important to remember that immigration is roughly divided into to sections -- innies and outties. Alright, perhaps the simplistic description is misplaced here, but the concept is the same. Are you inside the country, or outside the country? If you are outside the country, the process is I129F, I130, K3 (spouse). If you are inside the country, the process is I130, I485, and if illegal, I601 (waiver/hardship -- tricky here, as there are proposed rules changes with the 601/601A).

What are all these "I" forms, and what do they do?

First, "I" stands for "Immigration" and designates a type of government form related to USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service). You will occasionally also see EOIR forms (Executive Office of Immigration Review -- that's the immigration court), and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) or DS (Department of State) forms. However, for today's discussion, we're only focusing on "I" forms.

The I130 is arguably the most important form of the "spousal" immigration group. It notifies USCIS that a US citizen or LPR (green-card holder)has a family member (in this case, his/her spouse) that is eligible for entry into the US. By itself, the I130 does nothing. However, without the document, nothing else can be done to convert a non-immigrant status to an immigrant (i.e. wants to stay permanently) status.

An I129F is filed to request that a foreign national, currently outside of the United States, be granted a "K" visa. K visas permit finances (K1), family members (K2), and spouses (K3) entry into the United States for a set duration (in the case of a K3, the amount of time is 2 years, and includes permission to file an I765 once in the country to permit work). An actual "K" visa is not a form. It is a stamp/processing placed inside the foreign national's passport indicate the type of entry permitted. The form required is the I129F (F = Fiance, however, it is used for K2/K3 visas, also) filed by the US citizen/LPR. Once approved by USCIS, it is forwarded to the consulate in the area where the fiance/family member/spouse resides, and the fiance/family member/spouse can then contact the consulate to setup and interview and background check. Once they complete the interview and background check, the family member/fiance/spouse's passport is stamped, and they may enter the US under the immigrant visa classification "K".

Next blog will discuss the "in country" (innies!) processing of family members/fiances/spouses.

Have an immigration law question? Ask us! This is something we do everyday. From simple phone discussions to complex immigration court litigation. We're here to help -- and your first call is always free.

Sean R. Hanover, Esq
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