The K-3 spouse visa is one of the US visas for spouses offered by the United States. It is designed to solve a common visa problem that might arise if you marry a non-US citizen abroad. The appropriate procedure is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of the spouse of a US citizen.
During the time Form I-130 is processing, however, you could end up being forced to choose between the following two unpalatable alternatives:
- Wait overseas until the USCIS approves Form I-130 and your spouse is granted an immigrant visa. Waiting overseas, however, could cause you great inconvenience.
- Travel to the United States alone, to await approval of the immigrant visa petition so that you can be reunited with your spouse. This period of separation between the foreign spouse and the US citizen spouse could put great strain on the relationship.
What the K-3 Spouse Visa Does
The K-3 spouse visa petition is not an immigrant visa petition k3, it is a nonimmigrant visa application. It does, however, shorten the separation of spouses. It does this by allowing a non-US spouse to enter the US in spouse visa K-3 status during the time that the I-130 filed by the US citizen spouse is still pending. This allows the couple to wait in the US for approval of the I-130.
The children of K-3 visa spouses can receive K-4 visas, allowing K-3 visa recipients to reunite their entire families.
K-3 Visa Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible to receive a K-3 spouse visa, the following requirements apply:
- The beneficiary must be legally married to a US citizen US citizens can sponsor a K-3 spouse, but US permanent residents cannot. This preference for US citizens has been the object of controversy.
- The K3 spouse visa beneficiary must live abroad and hold a valid passport.
- The US citizen spouse must file Form I-130 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Form I-130 must be pending with the USCIS. The US citizen spouse can prove that the USCIS accepted Form I-130 by producing an I-797 Receipt Notice issued by the USCIS.
- Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé e must have been submitted to the USCIS and forwarded to the US embassy or consulate abroad where the K-3 beneficiary spouse lives.
- The US citizen spouse must produce a tax return showing that his gross income is equal to or higher than 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, to prove the ability to support the nonimmigrant visa beneficiary spouse. Otherwise, a joint sponsor must file an “affidavit of support” to make up the difference.
How to File a K3 Visa Petition
The procedure for filing a K-3 spouse visa petition consists of several discrete steps:
Step 1: Complete and submit Form I-130, including supporting documentation
Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is used by the USCIS to determine whether it recognizes the marriage that is the basis of a K-3 spouse visa petition. Supporting documentation to be supplied by the visa applicant includes:
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship
- Form G-325A (2) — one for each spouse.
- Copy of the foreign spouse’s passport.
- Birth certificate of the K-3 visa beneficiary spouse.
- Marriage certificate.
- Wedding photos, etc.
- Photos of both spouses.
- Proof that any prior marriage was terminated.
If the USCIS determines that your application is complete, it will issue Form I-797 (Notice of Action), which proves that the I-130 petition is pending.
Step 2: Complete and submit Form I-129F, including supporting documentation
Don’t be confused — although Form I-129F is labeled “Petition for Alien Fiance(e)”, it can also be used by K-3 applicants, even though the visa applicant must be married to a US citizen to remain eligible for the K-3 spouse visa.
Supporting documentation that must be submitted to file Form I-129F include a marriage certificate, a copy of the beneficiary’s foreign passport, evidence of the petitioning spouse’s US citizenship, passport photos, copy of the Receipt Notice for Form I-130 (to prove the existence of a pending Form I-130) and copy of any Form I-94 if the K-3 visa beneficiary spouse has ever been to the US.
Step 3: Complete Form DS-160, including supporting documentation
This form must be completed by the foreign spouse beneficiary. As soon as the USCIS issues a Receipt Notice (Form I-797) for Form I-129F, the beneficiary can log on to the Department of State website at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/ds-160-online-nonimmigrant-visa-application.html and download Form DS-160. The beneficiary can submit it online, at which point a confirmation page will be generated. This document should be retained and brought to the visa interview.
Step 4: Pay the filing fee
The $265 filing fee for the K-3 spouse visa can be paid online.
Step 5: Assemble supporting documents in preparation for the interview.
The K-3 spouse visa beneficiary will be notified by mail of which documents he or she will need to bring to the interview. This documentation will include the DS-160 confirmation page, Biographical Form DS-230, and (perhaps) Form I-134 to prove that the US spouse meets the income requirements for the K-3 spouse visa.
Previously submitted documents may be required. The beneficiary should bring his or her original passport (not just a copy) so that a K-3 spouse visa can be stamped onto it.
Step 6: Submit to a Medical Examination
The beneficiary must schedule and submit to a medical examination conducted by a USCIS-approved civil surgeon.
Step 7: Attend the interview
Your interview will be held at the nearest US embassy or consulate. The main issue will likely be to confirm the legitimacy of your marital relationship. You might receive your visa stamp on the spot or after a delay of a few days.
Step 8: Pick up your passport with the visa stamped inside
The foreign spouse may now enter the United States. Unfortunately, it is still possible for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to deny the visa holder entry to the United States at their discretion.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I apply for a social security number while in K-3 status?
Yes, you can. See the website of the Social Security Administration.
Who is eligible for a K-4 visa?
Only children who meet all of the following criteria are eligible to receive a K-4 visa.
- One of the applicant’s parents must be a US citizen;
- One of the applicant’s parents must have a K-3 application pending;
- The applicant must be under the age of 21;
- The applicant must be unmarried;
- The applicant cannot have committed any previous immigration violations; and
- The applicant must intend to immigrate to the U.S.
What is the processing time for K-3/K-4 visas?
The K-3 spouse visa processing time is generally anywhere from 5 to 9 months. Don’t count on this estimate, however — circumstances are changing rapidly due to the Covid-19 crisis as well as the current administration’s apparent hostility to immigration.
Can K-3 spouse visa holders work or go to school in the United States?
Yes. The visa that the foreign spouse and children receive will be a nonimmigrant visa that allows visa holders to enroll in school immediately upon arrival to the United States. To work, however, the visa holder must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This takes about four months. Approval of EAD applications is routine for K-3 and K-4 visa beneficiaries, however.
How do I obtain a green card after I get to the US?
You will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence to apply to adjust status to a permanent resident. The I-485 adjustment of status application processing time is about 9 to 11 months. Don’t worry 0- even though the K-3 visa is classified as a nonimmigrant visa, it is not at all unusual when K-3 visa recipients subsequently apply to adjust status to permanent resident — this is normal and expected.
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