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Good News for Green Card Holder's Spouse

On February 24, 1999, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 840 to the US House of Representatives, and it was then referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. H.R. 840 is a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit the admission to the United States of nonimmigrant students (F visas) and visitors (B visas) who are the spouses and children of United States permanent resident aliens.

In the December 1, 1998 issue of Lighthouse, I pointed out in my article the immigration nightmare spouses and children of green card holders face when they get married. Unlike a marriage to a US citizen, spouses and children of legal permanent residents must wait approximately 5 years AFTER their green card holder spouse files for their green card before they are able to get a green card. During that time it is very difficult for most of them to remain in the United States legally. To make matters worse, Congress added a severe new consequence in 1996 for aliens who overstay their time on or after April 1, 1997. Most aliens who overstay their authorized time by 180 days or more will have to wait an additional 3 years before they get their green cards. The punishment is increased to 10 years if the total periods of overstay is 365 days or longer.

In addition, under the current law, spouses and children of green card sponsors who are waiting for green cards usually have a very difficult time obtaining tourist and student visas since those visas require nonimmigrant intent, or the intent to return back to one's home country after a short visit. Since the intent of these people is to live in the US with their newlywed spouse, the US Embassy finds it legally difficult to grant them visas that require nonimmigrant intent. Furthermore, the INS at the airport will often deny admission to the US of such aliens if they are attempting to enter with a student or tourist visa. Aliens who lie about their intent ("I am visiting America for a few weeks to see Disneyland") rather than telling the truth ("I am coming to live with my husband") could be charged with US Immigration fraud, which adds to the nightmare.

The irony is that most of the employment visas (H-1B, E, L) have a concept of dual intent, which permits both permanent and temporary intent at the same time. H.R. 840 is simply trying to extend this concept to F and B visa applications by spouses and children of legal permanent residents who are waiting for green cards.

I encourage people to contact their Congressman and express support for H.R.840. To find out the name of your Congressman and to send an e-mail letter visit the US House of Representatives website at www.house.gov/writerep. For a complete copy of H.R. 840 visit the "What's New" section of this website.