President Signs LIFE Amendments Into Law
On December 21, 2000, President Clinton, unable to get his LIFA amendments through Congress, signed the Republican-sponsored LIFE amendments into law.
AILA has an excellent summary of the LIFE Amendments.
The LIFA amendments would have been a boon to immigrants, advancing the registry date to 1986, permanently restoring section 245(I) to the law, and granting parity to hundreds of thousands of Central Americans under NACARA.
The LIFE amendments will do far less. It is important to emphasize that it will not be possible to apply for a “V” visa, a “K” for spouses of U.S. citizens, or for permanent residence under the “late amnesty” amendments until INS issues regulations implementing the LIFE amendments. Because of space limitations, we will analyze only the new “V” and the expanded “K” visa category in this post.
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The LIFE Amendments – V Visas
A. The “V” Visa: Lawful permanent residents who have applied for spouses and children under the family-based 2A category must wait over four and one-half years for them to immigrate to the U.S. If the beneficiaries are born in Mexico, the wait exceeds six years. During this time, the spouses and children are supposed to remain in their home countries waiting for their immigrant visas.
If they remain illegally in the U.S., the spouses are usually subject to the 10-year-bars of inadmissibility when they return to their home countries to apply for immigrant visas. There, they can apply for waivers based on “extreme hardship” to their permanent resident spouses. The waiver process usually results in the spouses being separated for an additional ten months to one year. Forcing spouses and children to remain separated for years at a time makes a mockery of the claim that our country believes in family values.
We believe that treating spouses and children of permanent residents as “immediate relatives” is what is needed to insure family unity.
The goals of the “V” visa are much more limited. The “V” visa is a work visa for spouses and children who have been waiting abroad for a minimum of three years after 2A visa petitions were filed on their behalf. Alternately, if the spouse and children have been waiting in the U.S., legally or illegally, it enables them to change to “V” at the end of the three-year period. These persons will be able to adjust their status under §245(I) upon payment of a fine when their priority dates are current, thereby keeping the family intact during the two to three year period while they await their interviews for adjustment of status.
Importantly, only spouses and children who were petitioned under the 2A category by December 21, 2000 may be eligible for “V” visas. Persons present in the U.S. on that date who were petitioned after December 21, 2000, but on or before April 30, 2001, can establish eligibility not for a “V” visa but for §245(I).
The LIFE Amendments – Expanded K Visa Category
B. In the past the “K” visa was limited to fiancees of U.S. citizens. see
The new law expands the definition of the “K” visa to include spouses and children of U.S. citizens.
In order for a spouse of a U.S. citizen to qualify for a “K” visa, the U.S. citizen must have submitted an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the spouse. The U.S. citizen must then file a “K” petition for the spouse and any children residing abroad. Upon receiving “K” visas abroad, the spouse and children may enter the U.S., begin working, and immediately apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence.
Unlike the “V” visa, there is no limitation upon when the U.S. citizen may petition for his or her spouse and children. Also, spouses and children of U.S.citizens who are present in the U.S. may not change to “K” status.
Like the “V” visa, no “K” visas will be issued to spouses and children of U.S. citizens until after the INS and the State Department issue regulations implementing the new law. This may not occur for several months.
In an upcoming issue, we will analyze LIFE benefits to late amnesty filers (CSS, LULAC and Zambrano) and the new “premium processing fee”. Again, these provisions of law require INS regulations to be issued before they are implemented.