Public policy in the United States is to keep families together, and the rules of immigration are designed to encourage this to a great extent. Generally, the spouse of a person who is in the United States legally may stay in the country for as long as the spouse is permitted to stay. The spouse of a US citizen may apply for a green card upon marriage. Prior to marriage, a citizen’s fiancé may apply for a K-1 visa which is valid for 90 days before the wedding. A K-1 applicant’s children may also stay in the country under the K-2 designation.
Just about every type of non-immigrant visa has a counterpart for the individual’s spouse. An F-2 visa is designated for the spouse and children of an F-1 student visa holder. An H-4 visa is for the family of a person in the United States on an H-1B, H-2B, or H-3 foreign worker visa. Religious workers who enter the country on an R-1 visa can obtain permission for their dependent spouses and children to enter through the R-2 visa. The commonality among all these is that these visas are designed for non-immigrants who expect to stay in the United States for an extended period of time. These spousal visas do not exist for those who are traveling for a short-term stay. Both spouses must apply separately for B-2 tourist visas.
Simply because a spouse or dependent child is permitted into the country prior does not mean that the spouse or child can participate in every activity the spouse partakes of. Many temporary non-immigrant visas, for example, permit an individual to work. An O-1 visa holder is allowed into the country specifically to perform a specialized task for which he or she has extraordinary ability. The O-1 visa holder’s spouse may enter the country under an O-3 visa, but may not seek employment. This places a financial burden on the O-1 visa holder and makes it impractical for his or her spouse and children to come to the United States. Depending on the specific type of visa, other restrictions may exist on an applicant’s ability to travel or engage in a course of study. Only an experienced immigration attorney can confirm the restrictions on each specific visa.