The K-3 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen spouse of a United States (U.S.) citizen. This visa category is intended to shorten the physical separation between the foreign-citizen and U.S. citizen spouses by having the option to obtain a nonimmigrant K-3 visa overseas and enter the United States to await approval of the immigrant visa petition.
K-3 visa recipients subsequently apply to adjust status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) upon approval of the petition.
Because the spouse of a U.S. citizen applying for a nonimmigrant K-3 visa must have an immigrant visa petition filed on his or her behalf by his or her U.S. citizen spouse and pending approval, a K-3 applicant must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.
It should be noted that under U.S. immigration law, a foreign citizen who marries a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. must apply for the K-3 visa in the country where the marriage took place.
Eligible children of K-3 visa applicants receive K-4 visas. Both K-3 and the K-4 visas allow their recipients to stay in the U.S. while immigrant visa petitions are pending approval by USCIS.
How does U.S. immigration law define a spouse?
- A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife.
- Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.
- Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs.
- In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.
- Same-sex marriages are now recognized by immigration law for the purpose of immigrating to the U.S.
K-3 Visa Eligibility Requirements
- The visa beneficiary must be the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen. (Please note that spouses of green card holders are not eligible for a K-3 visa).
- The visa beneficiary must be currently residing outside the United States.
- The U.S. citizen must meet certain income requirements. This will be determined by the current adjusted HHS poverty guidelines.
- The U.S. citizen must have submitted an I-130 petition to sponsor the foreign spouse and the petition must be pending with the USCIS. In other words, the petitioner (the U.S. citizen) must have received a receipt notice from the USCIS, but the petition must not have been approved yet.
- If the foreign spouse has children (biological or adopted) who will also come to the U.S. on a K-1 visa, the children must be under the age of 21 and unmarried.
How to Process the K-3 Visa
There are three major steps involved in getting a K-3 visa. The U.S. citizen will begin the process by filing an I-130 form. While that is pending, he or she will also submit an I-129F petition. Once the I-129F form is approved, the foreign spouse will complete the process through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country. Each of these stages is explained below:
The U.S. citizen sponsor must first file I-130 form, otherwise known as Petition for Alien Relative, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that serves the area where the U.S. citizen lives.
The I-130 form is used to establish that there is a valid marriage between the U.S. citizen and foreign spouse for the purpose of permanent immigrant visa application. Due to the common fraudulent methods associated with marriage-based green card sponsorship, the USCIS will require the petitioner to prove beyond doubt that their marriage is bona fide, and not fraudulently entered into for the purpose of getting a green card.
Several personal questions will be answered in the application form. There must also be relevant strong supporting documents as proof of genuine marriage. See the documents checklist for the I-130.
After submitting the I-130, the USCIS will send a receipt number indicating that they have received the application. However, because immigrant visas can take a long time to process and it’s often not ideal to stay apart from family for the whole processing period, the K-3 nonimmigrant visa will allow applicants to live in the U.S. during that pending time.
Having completed the above requirements, the U.S. citizen spouse would then need to file an I-129F. Though this form is known as the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), it is also used for K-3 spousal visas.
While the I-129F is for the nonimmigrant visa application process, it has many things in common with the I-130 form in that they are both used to establish a bona fide marriage relationship. Therefore, the U.S. citizen will need to submit the form along with supporting documents similar to the ones submitted with the I-130 form. They are as follows:
- The U.S. citizen’s proof of citizenship (e.g. passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate).
- If either the foreign spouse or U.S. citizen have been previously married, proof of termination of the previous marriage must be submitted. This could be a copy of the divorce decree, marriage annulment, or death certificate.
- The foreign spouse’s passport
- Marriage certificate. If it was issued in a language other than English, it must be submitted in a certified English translation.
- I-979 Form, Receipt of Notice for I-130 petition
- Passport size photographs of both the U.S. citizen and foreign spouse
- Departure/Arrival Record (I-94 form) if the foreign spouse has even been to the U.S.
The average time to receive the receipt of notice is around 30 days. Depending on the workload at the USCIS service center in charge of the petition, the I-129F form processing time ranges between six to nine months. After USCIS approves the petitions, they will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The beneficiary (foreign spouse) will also get the correspondence that the I-129F form has been approved. Once, he or she has been notified, the next thing is to proceed with the consular processing, as explained below.
How Consular Processing Works for K-3 Visa
If the NVC receives the approved I-129F petition before it receives the I-130 petition, the NVC will process the I-129F petition. NVC will then send the I-129F petition to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the marriage took place.
- If the marriage took place in the United States, the NVC would send the petition to the U.S. embassy or consulate that issues visas in the foreign-citizen spouses country of nationality.
- If the marriage took place in a country that does not have a U.S. embassy, or the embassy or consulate does not issue visas, the NVC will send the petition to the U.S. embassy or consulate that normally processes visas for citizens of that country.
The U.S. embassy or consulate where the foreign-citizen spouse will apply will provide him/her with specific instructions, including, where to go for the required medical examination. The foreign citizen spouse will then be called for an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate to determine if he/she is eligible to receive the K-3 visa.
Consular Processing Steps
Submit the DS-160 Application
The foreign spouse will need to first create a user account on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate processing the visa. Once that is done, he or she will then download the DS-160 application form, fill it out, and submit it electronically to the Department of State.
Upon the completion of the application form, the web portal will generate a confirmation page with a barcode. This confirmation page must be printed as the barcode on it will be needed to book and attend the visa interview at the embassy later.
Pay Visa Processing Fee and Schedule Appointments
The foreign spouse will need to use one of the acceptable payment options on the website to make the K-3 visa processing fee payment. The DS-160 application also requires a pre-scheduled one-on-one interview at the embassy or consulate in your home country. Additionally, an immigration medical exam will be required. The medical exam is conducted by one of the civil physicians approved by the embassy or consulate and must be completed before the visa interview date.
K-3 Consular Processing Documents
Supporting documents for K-3 consular processing may vary depending on the embassy or consulate. However, the following are the common items you will need to complete the application:
- Original birth certificate
- DS-160 form submission confirmation
- Foreign passport of the visa applicant
- Results of the immigration medical certificates
- Two (2) colored passport-sized photographs (must meet these requirements)
- Affidavit of Support (I-134 form), if required
- Evidence of termination of previous marriage(s), if applicable
- Completed Nonimmigrant Visa Application DS-156 and Supplement DS-156k Forms.
- Filled Biographical DS-230 Form
- Background check clearance
Attend the Visa Interview
Once the above steps have been completed accordingly, the embassy will notify the foreign spouse of the interview appointment. The notification will contain the date, location, and time of the interview as well as the required items to bring along. If all goes well and the foreign spouse receives K-3 visa approval after the interview, he or she may then travel to the United States.
Green Card Application
Now that the foreign spouse is in the United States, the last leg of the application can be completed by filing an I-485 form, also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The form can be submitted along with the I-795 and I-131 forms. These two forms are used to request for an employment authorization document (EAD) and travel permit, respectively.
The I-795 and I-131 forms are processed within nine months while the green card petition may still be pending. These will serve as the immigrant’s work permit and travel permit to allow them to work lawfully in the United States and to travel and reenter the country while the green card is pending.
Receiving a Social Security Number
In order to receive your social security number, K-3/K-4 visa holders have to obtain employment authorization documents (EADs) prior. To receive this authorization complete Form I-765 along with an I-485 Adjustment of Status petition.
When you’re ready to do so, take your marriage certificate to the social security office in order to receive your card with the correct last name. A K-3 visa lawyer can walk you through the process step-by-step.
Benefits of K-3 Visa
There are three distinct advantages of securing a K-3 visa over other visa petitions. The first benefit is that the waiting period is typically shorter in relation to other marriage petitions. The second benefit is you are able to file for a work permit which is a significant factor for many immigrants. Also, you can bring children under the age of 21 along with you to the United States of a K-4 dependent visa.
K-3 Visa Frequently Asked Questions
Take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions our K-3 visa lawyer receives.
Q. What are the main requirements for a K-3 visa?
The main requirements to be eligible for a K-3 visa are that you be legally married to a citizen, have the I-130 petition filed by your spouse (U.S. citizen) on your behalf, and are seeking to enter the country while waiting for a green card petition to be processed. If you believe you meet these three criteria, contact a qualified K-3 visa lawyer or attorney.
Q. What is the K-3 visa processing time?
K-3 visa processing time varies from case to case, although on average, USCIS takes 3-5 months to process plus an additional 2-3 months at the consulate.
Q. What is the maximum duration you can stay on a K-3 visa?
K-3 spouses can stay up to 2 years initially or until I-130 has been approved and they can apply for green cards. If for whatever reason USCIS has not approved the I-130 yet, then you are permitted to file extensions.
Q. Can you study or work on a K-3 visa?
You are permitted to study and work on a K-3 visa by applying for an employment authorization document (EAD) visa Form I-765.
How A K-3 Visa Lawyer Can Help
The K-3 visa attorneys at our office will be happy to assist you with navigating the process of obtaining a K-3 visa for your foreign citizen fiancé(e). We will prepare and file all the necessary forms with supporting documentation and guide you every step of the way. To get in touch with our office, you can schedule a consultation by filling out this contact form.