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What's the Difference Between a K1 and K3 Visa in 2023

Posted on December 8, 2022
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By Heather Beliles, M. Ed.

A K1 visa is a visa for a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen, while a K3 visa is a visa for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. But what's the difference between a K1 and K3 visa?

The main difference between the two visas is that a K1 visa requires the couple to marry within 90 days of the foreign national's entry into the United States, while there is no such requirement for a K3 visa since they are already a spouse of a U.S citizen. In this article, we will list the requirements and procedures, similarities, and differences between both visas. 

What is a K1 Visa? 

The K-1 visa is known as a fiancé visa. This visa is for a fiancé(e) of a U.S citizen. The visa allows for the engaged foreign partner to travel to the United States with the intention of marrying their U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of their arrival. 

The marriage must be done bona fide meaning you will need to prove that you will marry in good faith and not for fraudulent or immigration purposes. 

Who is Eligible for a K1 Visa

To be eligible for the K1 visa you must be:

  • A U.S. Citizen
  • Both you and your fiancé(e) plan to marry each other within 90 days of your fiancé(e)'s arrival in the U.S. 
  • You are both legally free to marry. Any past marriages are required to be legally terminated either by divorce, death, or annulment.
  • You and your fiancé(e) must have met in person at least once within a 2-year period before the application was filed. If you were unable to meet this requirement, you can file a waiver noting why you were not able to meet in person. Reasons can include religious, cultural, or social practice; and/ or if you couldn't visit because of other extreme circumstances.
  • Prove that the relationship is valid and has been from the beginning of the relationship. 
  • You are required to meet the adjusted gross income of at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If your income falls below this amount, you will need to file a supplemental Form I-864 or Form I-864A along with your application.

How Can I Apply for a K1 Visa? 

You, as the U.S citizen sponsor, will file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) to USCIS for your Fiancé(e). You will need to include additional documentation proving the relationship and identification of each recipient. Ensure that you read through all the requirements correctly before you submit your application. Any missing documents may result in delays or you may even be denied. 

After you file, the application will be checked for eligibility by USCIS. Then the application will be sent to the DOS National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. If approved, they will send the application over to the closest U.S. embassy where your Fiancé(e) lives. 

Your fiancé(e) will be required to apply for a K-1 visa Form DS-160 at that location's Embassy or consulate. 

The K1 visa fees are as follows: 

  • USCIS filing fee: $535
  • Form DS-160: $265 
  • Medical exam fee: Varies  

Interview for the K1 Visa? 

Your fiancé(e) will attend an interview where he/she will be asked a series of questions relating to their relationship, background, and future plans for the marriage. It’s important your fiancé(e) knows what to bring to the interview and to be honest anytime during the questioning. 

If the U.S. embassy or consular believes that the relationship is valid and there is no suspicion of foul play, they will grant the request for a K1 visa. Once granted, it is valid for up to six months and can only be used once at any U.S. port of entry. 

After you marry, your fiancé(e) can apply for an Adjustment of Status (a green card) by filling out Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence, or Adjust Status. This will include additional fees.  

What is a K3 Visa? 

The K3 visa allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. temporarily while waiting for their permanent residency (a green card). Generally, most couples marry  abroad and are seeking to settle in the U.S.

Before you decide to apply for the K3 visa, look at faster and better alternatives. The K3 visa takes longer and can be a complicated process. 

Who is Eligible for a K3 Visa

In order to qualify for a K-3 visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The spouse must be the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen. (Spouses with U.S. green card holders do not qualify.)
  • Your foreign spouse must currently live outside of the United States.
  • The U.S citizen spouse must have filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of their spouse; and is awaiting a decision from USCIS.
  • U.S. citizen spouses must meet certain income requirements. The most recent tax return must show an adjusted gross income of at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you are unable to meet this requirement, you must file an "affidavit of support."
  • Biological or adopted children (of the foreign spouse) who will also travel to the United States (on a K-4 visa) must be unmarried and under 21 years old. 

How Can I Apply for a K3 Visa? 

To apply for a K3 visa you will need to file two petitions in the country in which you married. 

You will also need to submit additional documents along with the completed and signed form.

Attach the following documents with your application: 

  • A valid passport 
  • A medical examination and proof of vaccines 
  • A marriage certificate (certified and translated into English)
  • A birth certificate 
  • Any criminal or court records 
  • Financial Proof that you can support yourself and your family once you move to the U.S 

The K3 visa fees are as follows:

  • USCIS filing fee: $535
  • Application fee: $325
  • Medical exam fee: Varies 

Before you begin the application, ask your immigration attorney if this is the best option for you. For more information on applying for a K3 visa visit the USCIS website. 

Interview for the K3 Visa? 

The interview will take place after Form I-129 has been approved by USCIS. You will be required to attend in person at the nearest U.S Embassy or Consulate. An officer will review your application and ask you a series of questions related to your application, relationship and marriage. Generally, you will hear back whether your request has been approved that day or by the end of the following day. 

What Do the K1 And K3 Visas Have in Common?

The K1 and K3 visas have many things in common. Here is the list. 

  • Both are non-immigrant visas 
  • Both use Form I-129F for the visa application 
  • Both are steps toward living in the United States 
  • Both may lead to becoming lawful permanent residents (obtaining a green card). 
  • Both are used to bring loved ones including spouses and their children to the United States. 
  • Both K1 and K3 visa holders may receive a conditional green card at first (they will need to apply to have it removed). 

What Difference Between a K1 and K3 Visa?

Now let’s look at the difference between K1 and K3 visas. 

  • The K1 visa is for couples who have not yet wedded and plan to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the U.S. versus the K3 is for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. 
  • The K1 visa does not require an immigrant petition (Form I-130) the K3 does. 
  • The K1 visa is only valid for one entry into the United States versus the K3 where a visa holder can travel and work (with proper documentation). 
  • Children of K1 visa holders can also modify their status without filing Form I-130 but children of K3 must file a separate Form I-130. 
  • K1 visas will need to change their status to obtain a green card (once forms are granted) versus K3 visa holders can choose between an adjustment of status or consular processing. 
  •  The K1 can cost anywhere around $2,025 or more and the K3 can cost anywhere around $1,200. Visit USCIS for filing fees.  

How to Choose Between a K1 and K3 Visa

Choosing between a K1 and K3 really depends on your situation with your partner. It can take up to 9 months for the K3 visa process to complete, which is the same amount of time it would take to obtain a marriage green card, so many people avoid taking this route. Other options also include the spousal visa under the IRI or CR1 categories. Nevertheless, before you make a decision, contact an immigration attorney, they will direct you toward the best option for you.

Difference Between a K1 and K3 Visa FAQs

Is the K3 Visa Easier than K1?

Not necessarily, however many prefer the K1 fiancé Visa over the K3 Marriage Visa. The K1 visa is less expensive, faster and easier to obtain. 

What is the Difference Between the K1 and K3 Visas? 

The main difference between the K1 and K3 visas is that a K1 visa is for a foreign partner (who is not yet married to a U.S citizen) and a K3 visa is for a spouse (already married) to a U.S citizen. 

How Long Does it Take to Get a K3 Visa approved?

A K3 visa is a lengthy process. First, you will need to get Forms I-130 and I-129F approved. Then you will need to submit Form DS-160 and attend a scheduled interview. Generally, the process can take anywhere from six to nine months or more (depending on any delays in any part of the application). 

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