Long-Distance Relationships (popularly known as LDR‘s) are very hard to deal with. Every relationship has love, understanding, trust, honesty and faith in each other as foundations, but LDR‘s require a lot more. Believe me, we’ve been engaged for almost 3 years and we didn’t want to go on living our lives apart from each other. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be apart for more than 3 years. (Let alone, parents, spouses and their children being apart for so many years!) We had to deal with a lot of stress brought about by the timezone differences and the distance. We had to spend a lot of money just to see each other during family holidays. It’s draining emotionally and financially. In the Summer of 2012, he went to live with me for 3 months in the Philippines. As cheesy as it may sound, in our minds and hearts, we were already married, but we wanted it to be official. We thought about getting married that year but decided against it. It was a conscious decision for us though. We wanted to get married but he had to graduate / be close to graduating before we do take that step. We needed to be more financially stable than we were at that time. So we waited a little while longer before we started the I-129F Fiancé(e) Petition process with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are a lot of options for bringing your family to the U.S. Those that are considered family are the spouses, fiancé(e)s, children, sons and daughters, parents or siblings. I won’t be discussing each family-based petition / visa type in detail, but I will provide a short description and their corresponding links to the USCIS.gov and Department of State (DOS) websites below. Again, with this kind of topic, you must search for information straight from the official government websites stated above for US Immigration topics and not just anywhere else on the internet.
For the items below, let’s call the US Citizen as USC and Lawful Permanent Resident as LPR.
Only US Citizens can petition for their fiancé(e)s including their children (which are called K2). USC’s would need to file the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). The visa type to be applied for by the beneficiary after the petition has been approved is a Non-immigrant visa called the K1 Visa. The unmarried child under 21 will apply for a Non-immigrant K2 Visa alongside the K1. These visas requires Adjustment of Status (AOS) after admission to the U.S. K1 Visa holders must marry their USC petitioner within 90 days upon entry to the U.S. and apply for AOS within the same time frame.
Both US Citizens and Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) can petition for their spouses. USC’s and LPR’s would need to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. There are different types of visas that can be applied after this is approved, of course depending on the category.
The Immigrant Visa categories are called IR-1 (married 2 years to a USC or more; awarded with 10-year Green Card) / CR-1 (married for less than 2 years to a USC; awarded with 2-year Green Card and requires the process of Removal of Conditions 90 days before the GC expires).
The other visa category is a Non-immigrant visa called K3. But this requires the I-129F Petition to be filed after the I-130 Acceptance Notice. For K3’s, it is required to undergo Adjustment of Status.
More information on USCIS.gov: Bringing Spouses to Live in the US as Permanent Residents
Children (unmarried and under 21) and Sons & Daughters (married and/or over 21)*
Both US Citizens and Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) can petition for their children / sons & daughters. USC’s and LPR’s would need to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Visa categories for these are:
- IR-2 (Unmarried Child under 21 of a USC)
- IR-3 (Orphan adopted abroad by a USC)
- IR-4 (Orphan to be adopted in the US by a USC)
- F1 (Unmarried sons & daughters of USC and their minor children)
- F2 (minor children, unmarried sons & daughters of LPR’s)
- F3 (Married sons & daughters of US Citizens, their spouses and children)*
Only US Citizens can petition for their parents. USC’s would need to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The visa category for this is called IR-5. Another requirement for this is that the USC petitioning for the parent must at least be 21 years old.
More information on USCIS.gov: Bringing Parents to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents
Only US Citizens can petition for their siblings. USC’s would need to file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and the USC must be at least 21 years old. The visa category for this one is called F4, applicable to Brother and sister of U.S. Citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
More information on USCIS.gov: Bringing Siblings to Live in the United States as Permanent Residents
Keep in mind that these petitions serve as “Go Signals” for your loved ones (beneficiaries) in order to start the Visa Application Process at the local US Embassy/Consulate where they are.
On a related note, on June 26th 2013, The Defense of Marraige Act (DOMA), a law that refuses to recognize same-sex marraiges, was struck down. The US Supreme Court held section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. This also means that same-sex couples can now enjoy the same immigration benefits like heterosexual couples have — Applying for Spouse and Fiancé(e) Visas.
Read the Visa Policy Update from DOS: Next Steps on DOMA – Guidance for Posts, August 2013
Yes. That’s right. Most people think that it’s happily ever after immediately when you get to U.S. soil. There are a lot of processes involved after you move. It all depends on the visa type you have. Also, please note that from here on, I will be posting country-specific links. In my case, the process will be based on the processes we go through in the Philippines. If you wish to check the correct visa process for you, please go to the US Embassy website that has jurisdiction over your country. Also, K1 is a Non-Immigrant Visa but is treated like an Immigrant Visa because you have intent to immigrate to the US with your soon-to-be-spouse. (I know, it’s confusing! Haha.)
Just a summary of the processes I’ve gone through / currently undergoing and processing times:
And only then after Naturalization can you definitely say that you are done with the Immigration process. Oh, not to mention the fees that you’re supposed to pay for each and every step.
For updated processing times involving USCIS, please check: USCIS Processing Time Information
For updated processing fees and forms involving USCIS processes, please check: USCIS Forms and Fees
So there, quite a long introduction to Family-based Immigrant Petitions and Visas, huh? There are a lot of forums online that you can visit and ask questions in if you’re still confused. Just remember to not make them your first choice for gathering information. It’s always best to call USCIS, DOS and your Local US Embassy/Consulate directly.
Also, if you find anything that’s incorrect in my post, I apologize. Please feel free to send me feedback and I will make sure to correct it as soon as possible. Thank you.
*UPDATE (October 25, 2013): Because of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) that was passed in the US Senate on June 27, 2013, Some of the petitions and visa types above may not be available anymore. But .GOV websites still aren’t reflecting the changes so far.
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