If you have married a U.S. citizen, but you are a foreign citizen living abroad, you may be eligible to apply for a K-3 nonimmigrant visa. The K-3 visa was designed with the idea that it would shorten the time that the couple is physically separated while they await an approval on their Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. In this post, we will discuss what is a K-3 Visa and compare it to some other options for immigrating to the US with your spouse.

K-3 Visa VS Form I-130

It should be noted, however, that in recent years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun processing the Form I-130 at a much faster rate. It now takes about as long to process the Form I-130 as it does to process a K-3 visa. As a result, K-3 visas are considered by many to be outdated and they are rarely used. It is usually recommended to either wait for the Form I-130 to be approved or explore other avenues of immigration. Since processing times may change in the future, however, it is worth understanding the process of obtaining a K-3 visa along with its benefits and limitations.

Who Is Eligible For A K-3 Visa?

There are certain eligibility requirements to apply for a K-3 visa: 

  • The applicant must be married to a U.S. citizen.
  • The applicant must be living outside the United States. 
  • The U.S. citizen spouse must already have filed a Form I-130.
  • Children of the foreign citizen spouse may also be eligible for a K-4 visa. They must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.   

Check out this post to learn more about who is eligible for the K-3 Visa.

How To Apply For A K-3 Visa

As noted above, the first step in applying for the K-3 visa is for the U.S. citizen spouse to submit a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. After this, they can then file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). You should include all required documentation, including a marriage certificate, the U.S. citizen spouse’s proof of citizenship, foreign citizen spouse’s passport, etc. The form will have instructions detailing what documents to provide and how to fill out the form. You can submit the Form I-129F and the Form I-130 together, or you can submit the Form I-129F after you have submitted the Form I-130. You should not submit the Form I-129F before submitting the Form I-130. If the foreign citizen spouse has children that will be accompanying them to the United States, they will be able to apply a K-4 visa. They can be listed on the same Form I-129F as the foreign spouse and will not need separate forms. After sending these packets to USCIS, you will receive a receipt notice from USCIS that they have received the forms and are processing them.  

Typically, what follows is that USCIS will approve the Form I-130 before or at the same time as they approve the Form I-129F, and your K-3 case will be closed. You will no longer need a K-3 visa. The National Visa Center (NVC) will then contact you and your spouse with instructions for filing the IR-1 (or CR-1) immigrant visa, which will allow you to enter the United States as a lawful permanent or conditional resident. Because this is the most likely scenario, many people believe that applying for a K-3 visa is an unnecessary step. However, in the event that USCIS does approve the I-129F before the Form I-130, there will be some additional steps in obtaining a K-3 visa.

If USCIS approves the Form I-129F before approving the Form I-130, they will send the petition to the Department of State. The foreign citizen spouse should then submit a DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application to the Department of State, after which they will then receive instructions from the NVC concerning their required medical examination and visa interview appointment. The foreign citizen spouse should bring all documentation and fees that are required to the interview, including documentation proving that they are not likely to become a public charge in the United States. The U.S. citizen spouse may be asked to submit a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support as evidence of their financial support.   

The K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa Approval Process

As the foreign citizen spouse, if you are granted a K-3 visa, you may then be allowed to travel to the U.S. Port-of Entry. This visa does not guarantee admission into the U.S., however. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will be the final step in granting you permission to enter the U.S.

Once you are admitted in the United States, you are automatically authorized to seek employment. You may file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to obtain an Employment Authorization Card (EAD). You will also be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If approved, you will receive a Green Card. If you have been married for at least two years, your Green Card will be valid for ten years. If, however, you have been married to your spouse for less than two years, you will be given a conditional Green Card, valid for two years. You must then file a Form-I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence within the 90-day period before your Green Card expires.   

This article explains the difference between the K-1 and K-3 Visa.

FAQs For The K-3 Visa

Are there any benefits to applying for a K-3 visa?

At this time, the K-3 visa is not usually recommended since the processing time for I-130s is generally the same; however, processing times may change in the future. Some people feel like it is worth trying to file for a K-3 visa anyway in the event it might be approved before their I-130. 

Can my K-3 visa be terminated?

Yes. If your Forms I-130 or I-485 are denied for any reason, or if your marriage ends through divorce or annulment before you are able to become a lawful permanent resident, your K-3 visa will be terminated. You will then be subject to removal from the United States. 

How long is the processing time for a K-3 visa?

Approximately 6-9 months, which is about as long as it takes to process the Form I-130.

Conclusion: what is The K-3 Visa?

In conclusion, the K-3 nonimmigrant visa serves as a pathway for foreign citizen spouses of U.S. citizens to enter the United States, though its relevance has diminished with the accelerated processing of the Form I-130. While eligibility for a K-3 visa requires marriage to a U.S. citizen, residing outside the U.S., and an already filed Form I-130, the often simultaneous approval of Form I-130 and Form I-129F leads many to bypass the K-3 visa. The process involves submitting necessary documentation and forms, with the potential outcome of shifting to an IR-1 or CR-1 immigrant visa. Despite its decreasing utilization, understanding the K-3 visa process remains important, particularly in cases where the Form I-129F is approved before the Form I-130. The visa grants entry into the U.S. and allows for employment authorization and eventual permanent residency, highlighting its role in the complex journey of family-based immigration to the United States.

If you have any questions about the K-3 visa, please contact an attorney at Shoreline Immigration to explore your options.