WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an unprecedented move, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that pet dogs and cats may now accompany its owners as part of immigration benefits under the family unity law.
Under a special visa classification, appropriately named the K-9 preference, an applicant who has been approved for permanent residency (or a ‘green card’) may apply for immigration benefits for their household pet (dog or cat), to accompany the applicant and family as they immigrate from their country of origin, to their final destination in the United States.
USCIS Commissioner John Sangley said that there have been numerous cases in the past where individuals or families who have been granted the privilege to live permanently in the United States, had to leave their family pet behind, causing separation distress and anxiety in both the owners and animal. Sangley added that pets are considered part of the American family, and the move by the US government to change it’s policies to lean towards keeping the family unit intact – with pets included – is in line with this new policy.
The K-9 visa is treated as part of the application of the primary applicant and should be filed within two weeks of the applicant’s approval for permanent residency.
So far, there have been 21 approved applications since the new policy went in effect the first of January this year.
So far, only dogs and cats qualify for this benefit. As of writing of this article, it is still unclear whether pet fish or hamsters will be added in the future.